Sommario Culture 2001


1 Quoted in Najder (1983, 128).

2 As Willis maintains, "Photography has certain; it is mobile, diverse, and ubiquitous, compared to the more fixed form of film" (Willis: 1995, 77).

3 This aspect - soon taken at face-value when Oliver Wendell Holmes (1859) presented his first camera as a mirror with memory, and Henry Fox Talbot defined photography as a message without a code - links photography to science and to a presumed scientific rendering of reality. At the same time, and in the same period, the mimetic potential of photography was harshly satirized on a French daily paper, Le Chavarin, on 30 August 1839. Elaborating on the desperately long time of exposure needed to secure portraits by Daguerre's technique, the article's author wrote: "You want to make a portrait of your wife. You can fix her head in a temporary iron collar to get the indispensable immobility. You point the lens of your camera at her face, and when you take the portrait it does not represent your wife; it is her parrot, or watering pot, or worse" (Newhall: 1982, 28).

4 This peculiar Conradian way of relating to Modernism is articulated in Erdinast-Vulcan (1991, 9-21).

5 SS, from here onwards.

6 Quoted in Newhall (1982, 25).

7 This attitude was certainly reinforced and authorized by two parallel events: on the one hand, the wide emotional reaction developing around the practice of posthumous portraits; on the other, the elaborated scene usually built to function as the background of actors' portraits.

8 Erdinast-Vulcan chooses the same perspective and borrows Bakhtin's terminology in her analysis of Conrad's short fiction. "The Other has become, in Bakhtin's terms again, a 'usurping double', forcing the narrator to articulate a position in conflict with the communal ethos to which he is committed by vocation. The fabricated mirror-relationship born out of the psychic need for self-objectification now becomes a question of what Bakhtin would call 'axiological authority'" (Erdinast-Vulcan: 1999, 43)

9 His quest is to consist - as Erdinast-Vulcan maintains - in a fundamental acceptance of doubleness. His attitude to feeling a stranger even to himself prepares him to assume total responsibility, to the point of complete identification with some "other". This results in an attempt at reversing the role of Cain, the prototype of modern man, in that Conrad's protagonists declare themselves as their brother's keepers in recognition of an alternative ethical code (see Erdinast-Vulcan: 1991, 6).

10 The quotation is drawn from Nadar's testimony in a lawsuit (translated from Prinet & Dilasser: 1859 and quoted in Newhall (1982, 66).

11 As for anthropological photography see Maxwell (1999, 1-14). The same text elaborates on the role of road shows and exhibitions in the spreading of photography (Maxwell: 1999, 15-38).

12 Quite meaningful is the debate developing around Fading Away (Henry Peach Robinson, 1858), a portrait apparently representing a young girl's death and actually obtained through a method called "combination printing", a sort of proto-photomontage. On that occasion, the public was shocked by the subject and then it was outraged by the discovery that the picture did not represent anything "real".

13 Quoted in Newhall (1982, 34).

14 They were not so far from reality - maintains Benjamin though the magic they were referring to was simply their awareness of being placed in front of a technical device able to produce in a very short timespan a faithful and truthful image of the surrounding world, just like nature (Benjamin: 1966, 63). David Hill was a well-known paint

er in Edinburgh, working mostly on single and group portraits. Sitters usually posited outdoors. The strong shadows cast by the direct sunlight were softened by reflecting light into them with a concave mirror; the exposures were often minutes long.
15 Quoted in Frizot (1994, 61).

16 The impact of this assumption on literary imagination is elaborated in Lutz Marsh (1995, 159-173).

17 Quoted in Benjamin (1966, 67).

18 As Erdinast-Vulcan maintains, "The narrative moves in a cinematic fashion from the panoramic (the view of the land) to the scenic (the ship and her crew), and finally closes up on the perceiving individual" (Erdinast-Vulcan: 1999, 38).

19 A few years before, another writer (and Conrad's friend) had provided - through another disembodied (because never physically described) narrator - a curiously similar profile of the main character of his story. In that case, the narrative focus ed not on the appearance of the character but on his disappearance: "I seemed to see a ghostly, indistinct figure sitting in a whirling mass of black and brass for a moment - a figure so transparent that the bench behind, with its sheets of drawings, was absolutely distinct; but the phantasm vanished as I rubbed my eyes"( Wells: 1991, 113).
20 Quoted in Barker & White (1991, 2).

21 The quotation is drawn from Fox Talbot's "The Process of Calotype Photogenic Drawing", a lecture to the Royal Society delivered on June 10, 1841 (Newhall: 1980, 34).

22 After manufacturing paper negatives, George Eastman made also a universal holder for a 24-exposure roll of sensitized paper. The invention was perfected in 1888: the camera christened The Kodak, for everyday use (Frizot: 1994, 238).

23 The gum print was invented in the late 1850s, but only used extensively from 1895 onwards. Paper was coated with potassium bichromate and gum arabic (a substance which hardens on exposure to light). The chosen colour pigment was also incorporated in the coating. After the sensitized paper had been exposed under the negative, it was washed to get rid of those areas of gum and pigment which had not been affected by the light. The finished image was formed by the pigment which remained in the hardened gum (Lucie-Smith: 1975, 70).

24 The ozotype was introduce in 1899, this was an improvement on the Carbon Print because it did not entail lateral reversal of the image. Paper coated with bichromated gelatine containing manganous salts was exposed to give a faint image. Pressed into contact with a sheet of gelatine impregnated with pigment, this was then immersed in an acid solution. The acid penetrated and hardened the overlying areas of pigmented gelatine, the tissue was peeled off, and the image transferred from the gelatine to a fresh sheet of paper (Lucie Smith: 1975, 70).

25 The most famous advertising slogan used in this field which can give a flavour of the shared feeling about this kind of photographic practise is: "Secure shadow 'ere the substance fade/Let nature imitate what nature made" (Newhall: 1982, 32).

26 The final separation of the real and the symbolic makes the two aspects of photography clash: commonly perceived as totally mimetic, photography as an art - on the contrary - claims the legitimacy of taking distance from reality, thus reinforcing the gap between what is real - and therefore reduced to a catalogue of empirically observable phenomena - and meaning - fatally linked to the realm of the symbolic (Erdinast-Vulcan: 1999, 14).

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