‘Marriage is not a Natural State’: Love, Truth, Fiction and the Photographic Image

In: Learning to See: The Meanings, Modes and Methods of Visual Literacy

This chapter explores the evolution of photographic subjectivity – specifically, the role of the female subject – in relationship to the narrative and visual implications of the wedding photograph from Victorian Britain. Drawing on debates centered within modernism, the chapter explores the cultural and social impact of photographic expression. Each stage of this chapter considers an aspect of photography and traces the emerging popularisation of the photographic image. The impact of photography is explored within the literal, historical, cultural and social framework of marriage in Great Britain during the nineteenth century. The emerging technology of photographic representation introduced the ability to fix a visual image into a permanent record. Seen as a recorder of reality, photography would have an enormous impact upon the idea of visual perception. Although the camera ‘sees’ in a significantly different way to how the eye ‘sees’, the photographic way of seeing was nonetheless accepted as being the normal mode of perception. The photographic image is inherently paradoxical for it at once captures reality whilst holding it distant. Wedding photographs of the nineteenth century were essentially contrived images. In this chapter, this contrivance is discussed as an informed character of photography. Also explored is the manner in which societies view the proscribed role of woman as artists in the Victorian era, especially in view of the advent of the female photographer. The psychology of memory, truth, love and its relationship to visual literacy and photographic representation is central to this chapter.

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