The Photographic Experience, 1839-1914: Images and Attitudes

The Photographic Experience, 1839-1914: Images and Attitudes

by Heinz K. Henisch

Eighteen thirty-nine was the miraculous year in which the two principal inventors of photography—Daguerre in France and Fox Talbot in Great Britain—made their discoveries known to an eager and receptive public. News of the process flashed around the globe, and in no time enthusiastic pioneers from Auckland to Zanzibar were trying the new invention.


Eighteen thirty-nine was the miraculous year in which the two principal inventors of photography—Daguerre in France and Fox Talbot in Great Britain—made their discoveries known to an eager and receptive public. News of the process flashed around the globe, and in no time enthusiastic pioneers from Auckland to Zanzibar were trying the new invention. Photography took root and flourished. It has since been used in a thousand ways and has changed our modes of perception in many more.

The Photographic Experience deals with episodes and issues relating to the spread and practice of photography from its beginnings to World War I. Bridget and Heinz Henisch concern themselves with the reception accorded to the new art by professionals, amateurs, and the general public. They examine reactions to the new invention in the press, literature, poetry, music, and fashion; the response of intellectuals and painters; and the beliefs held by prominent photographers concerning the nature of the medium and its mission. With a wide array of images—many never before published—they illustrate the photograph's use as a record of public and private moments in life.

Photography became so quickly and thoroughly interwoven with the fabric of society and human experience, that its history comprises much more than the story of photographic art and its creators. The authors examine photographic ephemera and humor, photography and the law, the photographic studio experience, photography and travel, photography and journalism with special attention to advertising and war, the role of photography in politics, photographically illustrated books, the practice of overpainting, photography in the hands of the scholar, and the presentation and use of photographs in their social milieu.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The Photographic Experience is far removed from histories of photography that are concerned with the photograph as a masterpiece or the photographer as a genius. Indeed, one of the Henisches’ great strengths lies in their fascination with photography in all its manifestations, whether exalted, humble, or even ridiculous. They have produced a book that is likely to remain unique in its freshness of approach and liveliness of presentation.”

—Graham Smith, University of Michigan

“This book makes an eminently useful and impressive contribution to the field of photographic history. It takes a socio-cultural, contextual approach to the subject rather than studying a few well-known masterworks, and in the process makes much new information available. It is also an art book which works well on two levels: it provides both a scholarly text and fascinating, diverse picture materials. I consider the picture research that has gone into the book as important as the library research.”

—Ulrich Keller, University of California, Santa Barbara

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The social impact of 19th-century photography as amusement, popular science, advertising, journalism, art form and personal memento is documented in this massive volume which will be of interest primarily to scholars. Heinz Henisch, a professor of the history of photography at Penn State, and Bridget Henisch, the author of Fast and Feast , have assembled an astonishing amount of archival material to record the ingenious and often humorous uses to which the medium has been put: photo-montages to create a family tree or class reunion; a double-exposure showing a man in the gesture of toasting his own health; and elaborate portrait-studio background sets comprising snowfalls, palatial interiors and dulcet gardens. Each of the 500 illustrations is intriguing in its own right--including the cartoons bemoaning or poking fun at photography itself. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Heinz Henisch (history of photography, Pennsylvania State Univ.) is the founding editor of History of Photography ; his wife is a medievalist who shares his interest. Their monumental undertaking, the culmination of some 30 years of collecting and research, fills a conspicuous void in the field. They examine manifestations of early photography in everyday life that have never been properly explored, and they do so in a coherent, witty, informed, and highly readable prose style. The historical narrative delineates the reception given to the new invention of photography, its rapid spread throughout the world, and its earliest applications. Literary treatments of photographers and photography, travel views, photography and humor, and the use of photographic evidence in the courtroom are topics generously supported by hundreds of high-quality illustrations, many hitherto unpublished. Satisfying to the most exacting scholar and a delight for lay readers, this book deserves a place in every photography, photohistory, cultural history, and Victorian studies collection. It will surely be one of the best books of 1994.-- Kathleen Collins, New York Transit Museum Archives, Brooklyn
Gretchen Garner
Surprisingly, given their distinction as academic photo-historians, the Henisches have not given us another heavy tome of master photographs, or even, for that matter, of "artistic photography." They have instead compiled a delightful volume jam-packed with information about the everyday images made by their favorite photographer, Anonymous. Concentrating not on the great practitioners or aesthetic theories, but on the quirky and the curious, the "present book," they say, "is emphatically about raisins, not about dough." If there is any thematic unity here it stems from the idea that many of the contemporary uses of photography--for advertising, matchmaking, tourism, celebrity, and war reportage--were nineteenth-century uses, too. For the reader already familiar with the official, main-course art histories of photography, this book offers a rich banquet made up of tasty relishes and side dishes. Recommended for art, photography, and popular-culture collections.

Product Details

Penn State University Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 1.34(d)

Meet the Author

Heinz K. Henisch is Research Professor of the History of Photography at the Pennsylvania State University, the Founding Editor of History of Photography, and a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.

Bridget A. Henisch is author of Fast and Feast (Penn State, 1976).

Both have published widely on photo-historical themes.

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