Public art essay

From the moment of its birth, photography had a dual character—as a medium of artistic expression and as a powerful scientific tool—and Daguerre promoted his invention on both fronts. Several of his earliest plates were still-life compositions of plaster casts after antique sculpture—an ideal subject since the white casts reflected light well, were immobile during long exposures, and lent, by association, the aura of “art” to pictures made by mechanical means. But he also photographed an arrangement of shells and fossils with the same deliberation, and used the medium for other scientific purposes as well. The journalist Hippolyte Gaucheraud, in a scoop that appeared the day before daguerreotypes were first shown to the Académie des Sciences, wrote of having been shown the image of a dead spider photographed through a solar microscope: “You could study its anatomy with or without a magnifying glass, as in nature; [there is] not a filament, not a duct, as tenuous as might be, that you cannot follow and examine.” Even Arago, director of the Observatoire de Paris, was reportedly surprised by a daguerreian image of the moon.

Public art essay

public art essay

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