I am interested in art history's relationship to science and metaphysics, and that colors my particular interest in the history of photography. I am fascinated when images of artists and scientists adopt new models to incorporate or spread new ideas about self, nature, and the pictorial acquisition of truth, untruth, experience, and value. There is a rich metaphysical story in the history and prehistory of photography and it forms the broad subject of my research.
My current book project, Before Photography, is about how European art evolved first- and third- person metaphysics after the birth of the concept of a captured view, a picture seen as being taken from a prior field of vision. The concept, it shows, emerged in Northern Europe, particularly in Dutch views, and eventually became marketed as if an empirical sample of the visible world in the work of Canaletto. By the nineteenth century, the captured view mixed third-person and first-person perspectives, thanks to the Rückenfigur, our viewing double in the landscape, who in the book, in the first person, tells us all about his life in art and death by photography. Then, finally, it considers how photography’s mechanical first-person encounter with place has functioned as a barrier, though perhaps a penetrable one, to a “photographic world picture” in art—a worldscape that can capture underlying processes, much Bosch and Bruegel visualized long ago, before captured views existed.
History and theory of photography, moving image media, photographic practice, digital media, modern image culture, affect theory, philosophy of mind, value, and aesthetics