Elizabeth Anne McCauley: Industrial Madness

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Industrial Madness: Commercial Photography in Paris, 1848–1871

Yale University Press, 1994

In 1848 there were 13 commercial photographic studios in the city of Paris. By 1871 this number had expanded to almost 400. This book analyzes the origins of professional photography during the Second Empire and its transformation from a novel curiosity to a vital part of the urban environment. Drawing on extensive archival documentation, Elizabeth Anne McCauley profiles the people who became commercial photographers—the innovators, entrepreneurs, and “artistes” who tried to earn their fortunes but were beset by bankruptcy and failure. She also discusses the business of photography—the ways studios were formed, products promoted, and financial backers found. In a detailed analysis of five studios that represent different aspects of commercial production, from industrial photographs to art reproductions, McCauley uncovers the social, political, and psychological needs that each type of photography satisfied. For example, in an examination of the market for photographs of female nudes, McCauley documents how the photographs reinforces masculine stereotypes of female sexual passivity, how government responses to such images reflected the precariousness of Napoleon III’s political power, and how the photographs were positioned within ongoing arguments about realism as a new literary and artistic movement. Industrial Madness is not only a contribution to the sociology of the arts but also an exploration of the ways ideology and visual representation intersected during the decades that saw the birth of modernism. The book also includes a comprehensive listing of commercial photographers working in Paris between 1848 and 1871.

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