Sun-pictures and shadow-play: untangling the web of gendered metaphors in Lady Elizabeth Eastlake's 'Photography'

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In one of the first histories of photography, published in April 1857, Lady Elizabeth Easdake defmes key aspects of the medium's identity with recourse to an intriguing array of often contradictory gendered metaphors.1 The sun and its light, the active agents in photography, gain an undeniably masculine dimension in Easdake's ‘Photography’. Although Easdake acknowledges Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot as the inventors of their respective photographic processes, she privileges the sun as the distincdy masculine creative force behind both forms of photography: On the prepared plate ofDaguerre and on the sensitive paper of Fox Talbot the great luminary concentrates his gaze for a few earnest minutes; with the albumen-sheathed glass he takes his time more leisurely still; but at the delicate film of collodion — which hangs before him fmer than any fairy's robe, and potent only with invisible spells — he literally does no more than wink his eye, tracing in that moment, with a detail and precision beyond all human power, the glory of the heavens, the wonders of the deep, the fall, not of the avalanche, but of the apple, the most fleeting smile of the babe, and the most vehement action of the man.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalWord & Image
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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