International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015

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43 Institutional geographies of the photograph: Aesthetics, circulation and affect (1)
Convenor(s) Elizabeth Haines (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Emily Hayes (University of Exeter / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), UK)
Chair(s) James Ryan (University of Exeter, UK)
Timetable Tuesday 07 July 2015, Timeslot 1 (09:15 - 11:00)
Room RGS-IBG Drayson Room
Session abstract This session investigates the geographies of photographic production and consumption of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Over the last thirty years the role of the photograph in empire and exploration has seen fascinating scholarship (Edwards 1992; Ryan 1997). The contributors draw on this, and more recent studies of the material and social effects of photography (Edwards 2004; Tucker 2005; Ryan 2005; Wilder 2009) to look at how society and sciences have been configured (and re-configured) as the photograph was embraced to document and design the world. The presentations investigate how photographic forms bridged diverse social bodies. Institutions from engineering companies, to learned societies, to early tourist firms, found common ground in the use of the camera to develop global imagery. In this period photography also linked the small-scale (domestic or artisanal) to the industrial in unique ways. Innovation in technologies of photographic display, such as the use of stereoscopic and magic lantern slides, also shaped the reception and remediation of image forms. The session will interrogate these dynamics of the spatial, social, and material. The speakers draw from collections at the Science Museum, the Royal Geographical Society, University College London, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the British Ecological Society, the Scott Polar Research Institute, and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
Linked Sessions Institutional geographies of the photograph: Aesthetics, circulation and affect (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details:
The S. Pearson & Son Malta Albums: institutional and corporate image(s)
Noeme Santana (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
In 1909 the Admiral Superintendent of HM Dockyard wrote to Richard Ellis, a British-born photographer resident in Malta. Ellis, who had visually documented the construction of several dry docks, breakwaters and quarries in the Maltese islands was requested by the Admiral to print extra copies of photographs as per request of the contractors, S. Pearson & Son. Over a period of eight years beginning in 1901, Richard Ellis photographed the construction of the infrastructure built by Pearson. During his tenure Ellis produced hundreds of 8 x 10 inch photographs and panoramas to illustrate scale, progress and the logistical complexities behind such a vast operation. For the Governor of Malta and the Colonial Office, the Ellis photographs were a form of monitoring progress, however, for Pearson whose headquarters were also based in London, the Ellis photographs were a visual representative of the company's corporate image of efficiency and excellence. At the Pearson headquarters the photographs were organised by infrastructure type and compiled in to nine albums, part of the company's wider photographic collection, currently housed at the Science Museum. Based on the Malta albums in the Pearson collection, this paper will investigate the various roles played by photography in the mediation of commercial relationships, in particular between Pearson and the British Government in the early nineteenth century.
Hidden in plain sight: early ecology as visual science
Damian Hughes (De Montfort University, UK)
Scientific discourses of ecology began to cohere in the first decades of the twentieth century. The making, distribution and use of photographs amongst early ecologists indicate a fundamental role for visualization in constituting and communicating the new science. This paper will consider the role of visual practices in constituting and mediating ecology as new specialist knowledge as ecologists strove to define their object of study and to fashion a common conceptual framework for their subject.
Geographical projections: lantern slides, science and popular geography at the RGS, 1886 – 1893
Emily Hayes (University of Exeter / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), UK)
In the RGS of the mid to late 1880s a reform movement to promote geography education championed photography as a field practice and method of illustration and instruction at home. This paper analyses how figurative and landscape photographs, remediated into the material form of the lantern slide, were superposed upon the Society’s earlier tradition of surveying and cartographically displaying the world and an existing oral culture of knowledge presentation. The synthesis of these representational forms and scales of visualisation shaped the geographical imaginations and practices of the RGS as well as those of the then nascent modern academic discipline of geography, with the duality of the human and the physical at its core. Used to demonstrate the principles of an aspiring earth and social science, the lantern was also instrumental in the exhibition of picturesque hand-coloured scenes much to the delight of popular audiences. By contrasting the manufacture and consumption of lantern slides, and by tracing the media’s changing role across a range of spaces, the expanding social and scientific spectrum of the Society is brought to light. The discussion stands in relation to notions of hybrid geographies (Whatmore 2002), historical geographers’ renewed focus on visual and material sources (Ryan 1997 & 2005; Blunt & McEwan 2002) and the mapping of ‘slideness’ (Rose; Driver; Ryan; Matless 2003).
Lantern slide projections at the Paris Société de Géographie
Olivier Loiseaux (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, France)
Founded in 1821 with the objective of benchmarking geographical progress, the Société de Géographie also sought to promote geographical education and to inspire travel to little known lands. The society’s library expanded through bequests and reciprocal publication exchange agreements, and from the mid-1870s photographs were added to the existing collections of travelogues, scientific publications, maps and atlases. James Jackson, the Society’s librarian and himself a photographer, was the driving force behind the founding of the photograph collection. He was supported in this by Charles Maunoir, the Secretary of the society. In parallel, from 1875 the society’s meetings were illustrated with photographic lantern slides projected by the dedicated lanternist, Alfred Molteni, descended from a long line of optical instrument makers. Eventually, each meeting came to be illustrated by lantern slides projected via a magic lantern. Today the society’s collection of c.20 000 lantern slides are held in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France under the responsibility of the Maps and Plans department. The slides are currently being digitized.