Darwin's Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution

Darwin's Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution

by Phillip Prodger
     
 

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Darwin's Camera tells the extraordinary story of how Charles Darwin changed the way pictures are seen and made. In his illustrated masterpiece, Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1871), Darwin introduced the idea of using photographs to illustrate a scientific theory--his was the first photographically illustrated science book ever

Overview

Darwin's Camera tells the extraordinary story of how Charles Darwin changed the way pictures are seen and made. In his illustrated masterpiece, Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1871), Darwin introduced the idea of using photographs to illustrate a scientific theory--his was the first photographically illustrated science book ever published. Using photographs to depict fleeting expressions of emotion--laughter, crying, anger, and so on--as they flit across a person's face, he managed to produce dramatic images at a time when photography was famously slow and awkward. The book describes how Darwin struggled to get the pictures he needed, scouring the galleries, bookshops, and photographic studios of London, looking for pictures to satisfy his demand for expressive imagery. He finally settled on one the giants of photographic history, the eccentric art photographer Oscar Rejlander, to make his pictures. It was a peculiar choice. Darwin was known for his meticulous science, while Rejlander was notorious for altering and manipulating photographs. Their remarkable collaboration is one of the astonishing revelations in Darwin's Camera. Darwin never studied art formally, but he was always interested in art and often drew on art knowledge as his work unfolded. He mingled with the artists on the voyage of HMS Beagle, he visited art museums to examine figures and animals in paintings, associated with artists, and read art history books. He befriended the celebrated animal painters Joseph Wolf and Briton Riviere, and accepted the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner as a trusted guide. He corresponded with legendary photographers Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, and G.-B. Duchenne de Boulogne, as well as many lesser lights. Darwin's Camera provides the first examination ever of these relationships and their effect on Darwin's work, and how Darwin, in turn, shaped the history of art.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Phillip Prodger...does a magnificent job of tracing and explaining Darwin's illustrations, giving great detail about the sources of the pictures and their background, indeed the general background of the whole business of picture taking when Darwin was putting together his work."--Michael Ruse, Reports of the National Center for Science Education

"Darwin's Camera breaks new ground in the history of photography, Victorian visual culture, and Darwin studies. Prodger offers an empirically rich study that sheds light on Darwin's innovative use of the new medium of photograhpy, both as evidence and illustration for his groundbreaking theories....Valuable to historians of science and art, as well as to students of photography and the emerging field of the history of emotions."--Jennifer Tucker, Victorian Studies

"An important book of serious scholarship...based on excellent research and detailed readings of Darwin's works, and it offers a detailed account of how one scientist negotiated the potential of photographs which will stand for many years."--Elizabeth Edwards, etudes photographiques

"Darwin's Camera is well written and nicely produced. Prodger...takes on a novel topic and ultimately says as much about creative thinking, experimental work, and an imaginative mind as he does about Darwin."--Amy Ione, Leonardo

"Prodger aims to establish Darwin as far more visually educated than he has often been argued to be ... By drawing attention to the unstable status of scientific photography in the 1870s, his book is a reminder that far too many have dismissed the possible scientific value of Darwin's work on anachronistic grounds."--Sadiah Qureshi, caa.reviews

"Darwin's Camera is an engagingly literate survey of the intersection between evolutionary theory and photographic technology at a time of accelerated development for both."--Ted Scheinman, Washington City Paper

"Prodger narrates a fascinating exposition of the dawn of scientific photography."--Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works

"Once again Phillip Prodger has explored photography's childhood and found there a network of hitherto unexamined meanings and connections that enrich our knowledge not only of the medium but of science, technology, and culture at large. Darwin's Camera rethinks both the father of evolutionary theory and the evolution of the medium Darwin adapted to his needs. Fascinating, lucid, and beautifully researched, the book is a major contribution to the history of photography in context."--Rebecca Solnit, author of River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West

"In this lucid, nuanced account, Prodger introduces visual and literary documents with archaeological precision to unearth Darwin's groundbreaking use of photography in his work. This book is a terrific read and an essential volume for any library that specializes in nineteenth-century art and scholarship."--Julian Cox, Curator of Photography, High Museum of Art

"This illuminating book full of amazing insights into Darwin and the development and use of photography, is clearly written with engaging charm. Not just for the specialist, it will engage anyone concerned with history, photography, science in general and Darwin in particular, and the use of illustration in book production."--Paul Ekman, co-author (with Dalai Lama) of Emotional Awareness

"Phillip Prodger brings his deep knowledge of the history of photography to reveal Darwin's innovative use of the medium as both evidence and illustration for his ground-breaking theories. This is a scholarly and entertaining account of how Darwin played a surprising role in shaping the visual culture of his time." --Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs, Victoria and Albert Museum

"Offering a fascinating examination of the process Darwin employed in collecting photographs to illustrate his study of The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Prodger elegantly interweaves two complex narratives. Replete with a multitude of telling anecdotes, Darwin's Camera is an important contribution both to the history of science and to the history of photography."--Bernard Barryte, Curator of European Art, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University

"A revealing new book."--Ewen Callaway, New Scientist

"It's hard to find a new angle on Charles Darwin, but Darwin's Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution does just that."--New York Times

"Darwin's Camera is a detailed study of [Darwin's] use of photography. But mainly it's just fun to flip through and look at the wacky people."--National Public Radio

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199882168
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
10/22/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
9 MB

Meet the Author

Philip Prodger is Curator of Photography at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and the author of E. O. Hopp?'s Amerika: Modernist Photographs from the 1920s; Time Stands Still: Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement (OUP 2003) and co-editor of Impressionist Camera: Pictorial Photography in Europe, 1888-1918.

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