Blog 9 – A Technology Herstory

Image result for bather in black photographyFor my exploration of the development of photography technology, I decided to start at its deepest roots, and work my way into the modern era in order to reveal contributors that otherwise would have stayed hidden. Given that photography is an ever evolving art form, and that women have been recognized as content producers within the medium since the great depression, I wanted to focus on women who contributed to the field in its earliest days, and who therefore paved the way for other artists and inventors who followed behind. Prominently featured are the works of Clarence Fox Talbot, who played an integral role in the development of the process that produced the first photographic negatives, Anna Atkins, who published the first work consisting entirely of photographs, and several women who pushed the boundaries of both the art form as well as its economic counterpart.

A timeline, however, produces many theoretical problems to an understanding of history. The timeline presents an undeniably linear view of history, wherein one event inevitably leads to another, and each event happens under the influence of only what preceded it on the timeline. Such an isolated understanding of historical events relegates events not included on the timeline into relative obscurity; a visual depiction of past as a series of mountain tops with nothing beneath. This surrounds history with a certain inevitability, a depiction of reality fundamentally different than the way we naturally understand  our own reality via experience. A timeline is necessarily lacking in at least some part of the essential aspects of the experience depicted, forgetting specific nuances that affected actors into the specific, historical act. As such, the degree to which a timeline (and any history) is measured is by its aptitude to fully capture the full cause of the specific event, in this case the specific act of technological/artistic creation. Furthermore, in depicting such a sterilized history, one implicitly endorses the idea that history itself has culminated in the present day; abstracting the present as the end of the line instead of the highest surveyed point, therefore denying importance to the present in the development of idea depicted by the timeline.

However, the timeline does offer a simple historical overview, which could in turn allow one to explore in depth a specific act or event in a specific context and viewpoint. To be honest, I had never really considered the gender of inventors when considering objects, I always considered them a ‘someone’ or a ‘them’. Thusly, I was not really surprised about the gender of many of the contributors to photography submitted by women. The lack of information regarding their submissions, however, was slightly telling of the climate of the world outside of myself.