Essays
Photography

Photographing the Dark: Nadar’s Descent into the Paris Catacombs

Photographing the Dark: Nadar’s Descent into the Paris Catacombs

Today the Paris Catacombs are illuminated by electric lights and friendly guides. But when Félix Nadar descended into this “empire of death” in the 1860s artificial lighting was still in its infancy: the pioneering photographer had to face the quandary of how to take photographs in the subterranean dark. Allison C. Meier explores Nadar’s determined efforts (which involved Bunsen batteries, mannequins, and a good deal of patience) to document the beauty and terror of this realm of the dead. more

Yvette Borup Andrews: Photographing Central Asia

Yvette Borup Andrews: Photographing Central Asia

Although often overshadowed by the escapades of her more famous husband (said by some to be the real-life inspiration for Indiana Jones), the photographs taken by Yvette Borup Andrews on their first expeditions through Central Asia stand today as a compelling contribution to early visual anthropology. Lydia Pyne looks at the story and impact of this unique body of images. more

Stuffed Ox, Dummy Tree, Artificial Rock: Deception in the Work of Richard and Cherry Kearton

Stuffed Ox, Dummy Tree, Artificial Rock: Deception in the Work of Richard and Cherry Kearton

John Bevis explores the various feats of cunning and subterfuge undertaken by the Kearton brothers — among the very first professional wildlife photographers — in their pioneering attempts to get ever closer to their subjects. more

The Secret History of Holywell Street: Home to Victorian London's Dirty Book Trade

The Secret History of Holywell Street: Home to Victorian London's Dirty Book Trade

Victorian sexuality is often considered synonymous with prudishness, conjuring images of covered-up piano legs and dark ankle-length skirts. Historian Matthew Green uncovers a quite different scene in the sordid story of Holywell St, 19th-century London's epicentre of erotica and smut. more

Neanderthals in 3D: L’Homme de La Chapelle

Neanderthals in 3D: L’Homme de La Chapelle

More than just a favourite of Victorian home entertainment, the stereoscope and the 3D images it created were also used in the field of science. Lydia Pyne explores how the French palaeontologist Marcellin Boule utilised the device in his groundbreaking monograph analysing one of the early-20th-century's most significant archaeological discoveries - the Neanderthal skeleton of La Chapelle. more

Julia Margaret Cameron in Ceylon: Idylls of Freshwater vs. Idylls of Rathoongodde

Julia Margaret Cameron in Ceylon: Idylls of Freshwater vs. Idylls of Rathoongodde

Leaving her close-knit artistic community on the Isle of Wight at the age of sixty to join her husband on the coffee plantations of Ceylon was not an easy move for the celebrated British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Eugenia Herbert explores the story behind the move and how the new environment was to impact Cameron's art. more

The Naturalist and the Neurologist: On Charles Darwin and James Crichton-Browne

The Naturalist and the Neurologist: On Charles Darwin and James Crichton-Browne

Stassa Edwards explores Charles Darwin's photography collection, which includes almost forty portraits of mental patients given to him by the neurologist James Crichton-Browne. The study of these photographs, and the related correspondence between the two men, would prove instrumental in the development of The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), Darwin's book on the evolution of emotions. more

The Serious and the Smirk: The Smile in Portraiture

The Serious and the Smirk: The Smile in Portraiture

Why do we so seldom see people smiling in painted portraits? Nicholas Jeeves explores the history of the smile through the ages of portraiture, from Da Vinci's Mona Lisa to Alexander Gardner's photographs of Abraham Lincoln. more

Sir Arthur and the Fairies

Sir Arthur and the Fairies

In the spring of 1920, at the beginning of a growing fascination with spiritualism brought on by the death of his son and brother in WWI, Arthur Conan Doyle took up the case of the Cottingley Fairies. Mary Losure explores how the creator of Sherlock Holmes became convinced that the 'fairy photographs' taken by two girls from Yorkshire were real. more

Remembering Scott

Remembering Scott

A century on from his dramatic death on the way back from the South Pole, the memory of the explorer Captain Scott and his ill-fated Terra Nova expedition is stronger than ever. Max Jones explores the role that the iconic visual record has played in keeping the legend alive. more

The Snowflake Man of Vermont

The Snowflake Man of Vermont

Keith C. Heidorn takes a look at the life and work of Wilson Bentley, a self-educated farmer from a small American town who, by combining a bellows camera with a microscope, managed to photograph the dizzyingly intricate and diverse structures of the snow crystal. more

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