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'A Pointer for Beauty': Photography, Ekphrasis, and the Aesthetics of Attention in Johannes Jaeger's 1866 Photobook
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Literature and History of Ideas. (Research School of Aesthetics)
2013 (English)In: History of Photography, ISSN 0308-7298, Vol. 37, no 4, 421-430 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This essay inquires into attention and detail as aesthetic categories in the nineteenth-century reception of photography in Scandinavia. It circles around what is generally considered to be Sweden’s first book with original photographs, Johannes Jaeger’s Molin’s Fountain in Photographs, with text (1866), read through two articles on the aesthetic potential of the photographic medium written by two contemporary Scandinavian art critics. In seven albumen print photographs, the book documents a fountain sculpture by Swedish sculptor Johan Peter Molin, exhibited at the first Scandinavian Art and Industrial Exhibition in 1866. However, the book also includes poetry; each photograph is juxtaposed with a poetic stanza that describes the part of the sculpture that the photograph reproduces. This paper studies the close relation between image and text in Jaeger’s volume. It argues that a contemporary view of the photographic image, also articulated by the Scandinavian art critics, can be discerned from the layout of the book – namely, that photography produces images too distractive and oversaturated with insignificant details to be aesthetically valuable. The visual and verbal framework for the photographs, then, arguably aims to overcompensate the distractive qualities of the image, by regulating the reader/viewer’s attention towards the sculpture and its significant details. In this ambition, Jaeger’s photobook anticipates a future aesthetic appreciation of the photograph in its own right.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 37, no 4, 421-430 p.
Keyword [en]
distraction, Johan Peter Molin (1814-73), detail, text and image, Johannes Jaeger (1832-1908), Scandinavian photography, Herman Satherberg (1812-97), Julius Lange (1838-96), attention, nineteenth-century photographically illustrated books, ekphrasis, Scandinavian Art and Industrial Exhibition in Stockholm 1866
National Category
General Literature Studies Arts
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-101955DOI: 10.1080/03087298.2013.798525ISI: 000333569400005OAI: diva2:705926
Available from: 2014-03-18 Created: 2014-03-18 Last updated: 2014-06-11Bibliographically approved

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Bremmer, Magnus
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