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Oliver Wendell Holmes

Discuss about The Stereoscope and The Stereograph of Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The task at hand explores an article by Oliver Wendel Holmes title; ‘The Stereoscope and the Stereograph’ published in the Atlantic Monthly in June 1859. To summarize this essay, the piece discusses various aspects of photography and how complex and innovative it was. It looks at the implications on the audience and also the grueling history of this art.  In his theory, Holmes argues that since the beginning of capturing images, people are so quick to judge instead of appreciating the art behind it and experiencing the moment. The article continue to discuss the growth of photography, where people focus on the aesthetic qualities of images than the inspiration behind the piece. As the writer talks about stereoscope he discusses how image seems to substitute the eyes and denies people the chance to rely on what they believe they are seeing and focus more on what they see in the photograph. Stereograph in this sense, make viewing of a photograph seem more human natured from the viewer’s point of view.

Oliver Wendell Holmes was an American physician, who lived between 1809 -1894. During his time Holmes was an America physician, lecturer, professor and author based in Boston. He was also a member of the Fireside Poets where he was acclaimed by his peers as one of the best writers of his time. One of his most famous process work included the ‘Autocrat of the breakfast-table published in 1858. I also taught in at Dartmouth Medical School and Harvard where he also served as the Dean. During his time he also became an advocate for various medical reforms some of which included the idea that doctors were capable of carrying perpetual fever from patient to patient. He retired in 1882 and continued writing poetry, novels and essay until the time he died in 1894.

Our main interest is in Holmes article, the Stereoscope and the Stereograph which was published in June 1859, Atlantic Monthly issue. He wrote after realizing how photography had become an everyday matter that people tend to forget the miraculous nature of the art. He compared photography to the sun which the art depended on. In the article, Holmes criticizes the then society for not appreciating the reason behind the invention of photography and realized how the new form of art was already stereotyped by people it intended to benefit.  Holmes teaches us how the art of photography has been perceived through the creation that comes from a lenses. The writer was in fact very excited with the process by which a photographic image comes to be (Ardenne, 2004).

The stereoscope as he mentions and the stereograph will combine to make photography and other forms of image creation. The action has been carried even in modern times. Photography was thus very important to Holmes as he studied and scrutinized various images and different ways that these images were expressed. For example, Holmes talks about, the action of light which prompts a body to be presented at a distance as a shadow or picture. However, if the action behind it all is removed, then the picture and the shadow will not come to being. He wonders how the inspiration behind a picture is quickly forgotten once he picture is taken, reasons behind the picture are not kept in the mind of the man standing in front of the camera (Holmes, 2014).  

Due to his various interests, he found himself to be drawn inexorably to contemplate photography, the astonishing new medium of his time which was credited by the development of scientific and technological experiments. Holmes paid a lot of attention to photographic images which included not slow, patient close naked eye scrutiny alone; he also used the magnifying glasses and microscopes to examine details that represented the desire of each photographer with regard to their own views. Photography in his time, was used in various occasion and even during academic processes. Photography was a very important tool in describing businesses, education and politics of the time.  Holmes discusses photography, stereoscopes and stereographs. He gives the reader a history on photography and how is not ignored, with the rise of digital photography.

Indeed one of the most fascinating writing of Holmes was the Stereoscope and the Stereograph which was written and published in 1859 by the Atlantic Monthly. In the article, we see Holmes exploring how varied practices in photography can be coded or interpreted through key theoretical models. This is based upon different genres that looks at portraiture, documentary, still life, landscape, global photography and art. Holmes provides us with the ideal guide on the role that photography plays in our society and the range of different genres of photography (Aspland, 2014). The writer outlines the history of photography by giving a theory which has built upon the use of photography. One is able to learn about different photographic genre that discusses portraiture, documentary, still life, art and modern day photography.

According to Holmes, the distinctness of details in the image will provide particular truths that may interest the viewer more than the main focus of the image (Holmes, 2014). Here the theorist discusses all the interpretations of image and interpretation that are presented in a piece of photograph, to come up with a systematic conceptual framework.  In general, his work depicts stereotypic meaning and that of the general recording of reality. The questions that come in mind is on the image and in doing so, presents the image to a spectral type of analysis of the message in which it works to communicate (Chanan, 2006).

Reflection

In the article the reader is able to realize how the art of photography became to be part of everyday life in his time. This is a position that is held even by the development of digital photography and digital manipulation.  For decades photography is used to sell products, confirm identity, visual news items, reshape reality, communicate, record and communicate a moment. Photography is an art form in its own way, making it one of the most persuasive forms of modern day media (Ardenne, 2004).  Thus means that photography is part of everyday life, it forms part of the news we read, advertising, collection of data and surveillance. Photography is said to shape up all parts of our social identity. As human beings, we are constantly surrounded by the images we take during a photographic session.


Throughout the article, Holmes discusses the selling factors of an image which is based on his own theory. For example, when it comes to advertising, one will rely on signs and symbols which will be used to get the message across to the viewer or the consumer with regard to advertising. With regard to the message of the image, a photography the sends a message is not in any way a form of abstraction of meaning (Hedgecoe, 2006). This shows that the viewer interpretation might be very much directed. The article also looks at different forms of messages that are depicted by a viewer while looking at a photography, and especially the intended message. For example the way that a photograph will communicate to one person, may be totally different to another. Photographic images thus communicate in connotation and denotation that lead the caption and other forms of labeling (Demond, 2004).  

It is also worth mentioning that the article came just before the civil war where one is able to realize the charge of times. The work is very precise and informative. He shows how the changes in the American culture was largely influenced by photography or in his words, ‘the mirror with a memory’. Holmes argues that the invention of photography made people to reevaluate them visual apparatus and the way they viewed the world around them. He discusses the complicated process of photography when he talks about the chemical process and effects where daylight was strongest producing a strong chemical reaction. This excited a lot of people at the time, however not so many paid attention of what laid behind the ‘stereoscope’ (Hedgecoe, 2006).

From the article, I now have a better understanding of the art of photography and the main factors that play behind a picture. Photography is a supreme art form which is meant to provide the society with an image of what might easily be ignored or forgotten by and ordinary man. For example, in n his writing, photography was vital in depicting anti-slavery discourse that was rampant all over the United States at the time. The negative picture represented the other part of life before it came to reality; this was when a negative was finally taken through the chemical process to become a picture. In fact he depicts this when he reiterates that the negative gives birth to a positive. I believe that the earlier forms of photography were largely ignored. This is depicted by Holmes on how daguerreotypes, photographs and stereographs are different in their own right especially during print. As discussed above, he considers the ‘negative’ of a photography as being the opposite of the picture until it is transforms to a ‘positive’ this is compared to the way that an individual would draw a picture with closed eyes and open eyes both of which will provide a different perspective. The reason why the art of photography is ignored in the modern days is because people have forgotten the inspiration behind the art. Photography in the modern day is a profession and the capture of a beautiful scene becomes priceless.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the work of Oliver Wendell Holmes provides readers with details of photographic invention and methods associated with capturing of a photographic moment. As much as he found the art to me miraculous, the art is nowadays ignored and has become unimpressive. In his time, photography was a complex process that required creativity, patience and reason. Other factors will include the photographers experience, age, social structure and so on. This will also depend on the person with regard to different factors.

References

Ardenne, P., 2004. Face to face : Portrait photography / Paul Ardenne ; photo research, Élisabeth Nora. Paris: Flammarion.

Aspland, M., 2014. The art of sports photography / Marc Aspland.. Munich: New York : Prestel.

Chanan, N., 2006. William, Earl of Craven : photography / Noel Chanan.. Tiverton, Devon: Halsgrove.

Dahlberg, L. V., 2005. Victor Regnault and the advance of photography : the art of avoiding errors / Laurie Dahlberg.. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press.

Day, J., 2011. Robert Frank's The Americans : Documentary photography / Jonathan Day.. Bristol ; Chicago: Intellect.

Demond, F., 2004. Developing the picture : Queen Alexandra and the art of photography / Frances Dimond.. London : Royal Collection Publications.

Eastway, P., 2009. Away : the art of travel photography / by Peter Eastway and David Oliver.. Collaroy Beach, N.S.W.: PT78 Pty, Limited.

Hedgecoe, J., 2006. Digital photography / John Hedgecoe.. New York, N.Y.: DK Pub..

Holmes, O. W., 2014. The Steroscope and Stereograph. In: Photographic theory: A photographic Anthology. s.l.:Blackwell Publishing, pp. 68-69.

Isert, G. & Gaunt, L., 2010. The art of colour photography / [by] G. Isert ; [Tr. and adapted by Leonard Gaunt.. London: Focal Pr..

James, T. H., 1960. Fundamentals of photographic theory / by T.H. James, George C. Higgins.. New York: Morgan & Morgan.

Niemeyer, L., Atglen, PA. Flower photography / Lucian Niemeyer.. Schiffer Publishing: 2010.

Noble, L., 2006. The art of collecting photography / Laura Noble.. Lausanne: Switzerland : AVA.

Soutter, L., 2013. Why art photography? / by Lucy Soutter.. Abingdon, Oxon : New York Routledge.

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My Assignment Help. Oliver Wendell Holmes' 'The Stereoscope And The Stereograph': A Critique On Photography And Society [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2017 [cited 25 July 2024]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/stereoscope-and-stereograph-oliver-wendell-holmes.

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