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Go See: Early Celebrity photos and Photojournalism at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford

Image: Artist unknown (England), Portrait of a man (resembling Jabez Hogg) operating a daguerreotype camera, c. 1845 ©Bodleian Libraries.

Well, here’s an excuse for PAN to visit Oxford again – the Bodleian Libraries just invited us to preview their new exhibition which will show an interesting selection of images from the collection. ‘A New Power: Photography and Britain 1800-1850‘ is running 1 February – 7May 2023, at the Weston Library, home of the Bodleian’s special collections.

They say:A New Power: Photography and Britain 1800-1850 explores the early history of photography, starting with the invention of the medium and the earliest dissemination of photographic images in Britain and ending with the famous Great Exhibition of 1851. It examines the broad range of uses that photography would quickly come to fill, from documenting the invention of celebrity to the very first ‘travel photography’ and how this helped to shore up colonial sensibilities. By showing how photography intersected with all aspects of a nascent modernity, A New Power reveals photography’s crucial role in making Britain the society it is today.”

Exhibition Highlights include:

• The race to be the first to invent photography: Daguerreotypes made by the first British photographic studio, the studio of William Edward Kilburn, and other significant items related to this groundbreaking invention, depict the race to commercialise photography that was rampant in Britain and beyond in the first half of the 19th century.

• The history of celebrity: Featuring a number of early examples of society’s obsession with the images of famous people:
Among the most interesting items on display: a book of photography of famous actors of the period, which includes a photograph of an African American actor who performed Shakespeare and would give anti-slavery speeches after his performances.
A daguerreotype portrait of Queen Victoria and her grandchildren, from which the Queen wiped her face off.
A photo of the Duke of Wellington which proliferated across the British Empire.

• The rise of photojournalism: Exploring how the technique of woodblock engraving to reproduce an accurate image that could then be printed onto illustrated newspapers, transformed journalism, making daguerreotypes a mark of authenticity in the newspaper industry.

Plan your visit here – See you there!


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