The world on a plate: the impact of photography on travel imagery and its dissemination in Britain, 1839-1888

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Mullins, Charlotte (2013)
  • Subject: TR

This thesis explores how early photography contributed to the visual understanding of the world in the nineteenth century. It draws extensively on the collection of nineteenth-century photographic albums at the National Maritime Museum, London. These albums, compiled or purchased by officers in the Royal Navy, offer an extensive view\ud of how the world was perceived by both the officers who collected photographs during overseas service and the photographers who competed to supply them. Chapter 1 considers two personal photographic albums compiled by naval officers Frederick North and Tynte F. Hammill. Through these it reveals the agency of the collector as a curator of their own world picture, and introduces wider currents visible across the archive. Chapter 2 explores the impact of photography on the visual representation of the Crimean War and the competitive market for travel imagery in Britain. Chapters 3 and 4 explore the work of photographer Felice Beato, the studio albums he created in Japan and Korea, and the role of the British navy and military in Asia – a significant early market for overseas photography. Chapter 3 looks at Beato’s Views and Costumes albums (c. 1868) and problematizes previous readings, arguing for a more nuanced and cross-cultural approach. This chapter also offers evidence to support a realignment (caused by previous misbinding) of the V&A Views album. Chapter 4 employs Beato’s Korean album (1871) as a case study and reveals pictorial slippage across albums previously believed to be homogenous. Chapter 5 explores the secondary use of\ud overseas photographs as engravings in the British press and publications. The thesis concludes that nineteenth-century photographic albums compiled by naval officers while on overseas service offer visual evidence that vision underwent a profound shift during this time and that looking at the world became subjective, fragmentary and contingent.
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