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Inadvertent ImagesA History of Photographic Apparitions$
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Peter Geimer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226471877

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226471907.001.0001

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History and “Prehistory”

History and “Prehistory”

(p.11) 1 History and “Prehistory”
Inadvertent Images

Peter Geimer

, Gerrit Jackson
University of Chicago Press

Parts of what, around 1830, became, according to the classical photo-historical narrative, a photographic image—which is to say, a fixable, representational, and intentionally produced visual record—had already existed as an unintentional, non-mimetic, and ephemeral trace before that time. This chapter delves into the so-called “prehistory” of photography—those countless non-representational, ephemeral, or accidental figures that light inscribed upon sensitive materials for centuries long before anyone knew how to harness it for the purposeful production of images. It shows why the classical treatments on the invention and the origins of photography shunt these unintended formations off to the realm of a “prehistory” distinct from the history of “photography properly speaking”. It sketches an alternative genealogy that takes these evanescent and indeliberate traces into account as an less integral part of the body of photographic imagery.

Keywords:   prehistory, invention, genealogy

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