Jane Hutchinson


This thesis explores how an understanding of an immaterial dimension of human experience was expressed and experienced in the context of nineteenth century engagement with science and technology. Drawing upon methods of media archaeology, it presents examples of visual technologies where apparatus and images representative of scientific and technological objectivity appear to have been appropriated and modified for the purpose of experiencing this dimension, an experience this thesis calls enchantment. The thesis suggests that some period specific behaviours associated with these visual technologies are sophisticated and subtle mechanisms that contribute to the affective and cognitive experience of enchantment. The flickering negative/positive of Daguerreotypes was matched by the uncertain and shifting understanding about the place, status and meaning of photography was part of a broader instability in science and theological thinking during this period characterised by preoccupation with the production and acquisition of material objects and of progress. Photography’s beginnings, and even how to name the process was subject to debate (Batchen, 1997) The thesis argues that studio portrait photography was a significant feature within this context due to the studio being a place where there was deliberate construction of an obvious instability, and perceptual and cognitive dissonance resulting in a synthesis of the technologies of the external physical world and the viewer’s imaginary world. 5 Discussions of the period viewers’ engagement with and experience of these images and associated technologies is often concerned with their materiality. The thesis contributes to this existing scholarship by re-evaluating them in terms of our desire to make apparent a dimension of the human which extends beyond the material. It does this through an examination of the cultural, social and economic context of visual technologies during the second half of the nineteenth century. The thesis presents focused studies of photographic portrait studios and the resulting photographs, Life Model lantern slide shows, phantom rides, and Hugo Münsterberg’s design for a psychotechnical experiment as he developed his film theory, published in 1916 as The Photoplay: A Psychological Study. Through these studies, the thesis shows that the immaterial dimension of engagement with these technologies during the nineteenth century is a quality that endures though studio portrait photographs and is accessible to us as we encounter them now.

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