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Title: The Economics of Sight: Early Photography and Commodity Capitalism, 1839-1867
Authors: Dechet, AJ
Advisors: Jennings, Michael W.
Contributors: German Department
Subjects: Art history
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Economics of Sight makes an original contribution to cultural criticism, visual culture studies, and the history of photography by deepening and broadening the understanding of the role that photography played in the emergence of commodity capitalism in the middle of the nineteenth century. More specifically, The Economics of Sight argues that visuality changed between 1839 (when Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot both announced that they had invented photography) and 1867 (when Karl Marx published the first volume of Capital) as a consequence of the growing influence of both the photograph and the commodity in socioeconomic life. Where we look, what we look at, what we see when we look, what we talk about when we look, how we talk about it, what we feel about it, and how we express those feelings, even how we behave as a consequence of what we see – all of this changed as a result of the invention and popularization of photography and the increasing availability of industrially produced consumer goods.Based on readings of the photography of Talbot, Maxime Du Camp, Maison Bonfils, Alois Löcherer, and André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, the three sections of this dissertation consider three aspects of life that were transformed. The sections move through the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s, from advertising to landscapes to portraiture, examining the economics of speculation, spectatorship, and resemblance respectively. The repeated use of the term “economics” signifies the production, distribution, and consumption of these facets of sight; that is, their re-making and monetization as part of the reorganization of life under commodity capitalism. Although the relation of photography to capitalism has been treated elsewhere, The Economics of Sight shows how the structural similarities between photography and the commodity were exploited to redefine perceptions of space and time. As a consequence, the nature of experience changed; indeed, photography, working alongside the commodity, demanded a new epistemological and ontological orientation to the world. This study has implications for how we understand the production of visuality under capitalism, which started in the nineteenth century and continues to this day.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:German

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