Siobhan Angus, "Camera Geologica: An Elemental History of Photography" (Duke UP, 2024)


In Camera Geologica: An Elemental History of Photography (Duke UP, 2024) Siobhan Angus tells the history of photography through the minerals upon which the medium depends. Challenging the emphasis on immateriality in discourses on photography, Angus focuses on the inextricable links between image-making and resource extraction, revealing how the mining of bitumen, silver, platinum, iron, uranium, and rare earth elements is a precondition of photography. Through a materials-driven analysis of visual culture, she illustrates histories of colonization, labor, and environmental degradation to expose the ways in which photography is enmeshed within and enables global extractive capitalism. 

This conversation discusses the meta-narrative and performative aspects of some of the photographs shown in the text, dives into some of the stories and examples from Ann Atkin's cyanotypes of the 1800s to Warren Cariou's contemporary bitumin prints, and asks what ethical photography looks like given the resource extraction required. 

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Sarah Kearns

Sarah Gulliford (Kearns) (@annotated_sci) reads scholarship, science, and philosophy for NBN. she's currently composting ideas to write her own book one day.

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