Interpreters of the Real: Poems about Photographs in the Periodical Press, 1840–1860

Jonathan Potter (Corresponding / Lead Author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Short, anonymous poems were a common feature in the popular magazines and literary journals of photography’s first two decades, the 1840s and 1850s. Yet despite its wide readership, periodical poetry has been largely neglected in histories of photography. Through close readings of periodical poems, this essay addresses this gap and adds a fresh perspective to the complex history of photography’s reception. It argues that whereas Victorian journalism often concentrated on photographic realism and focal clarity, periodical poets were more interested in photography’s ability (or inability) to convey the emotional and psychological qualities of visual experience. By drawing on the technical process and language of photography but concentrating instead on affective qualities, the poems discussed here repositioned familiar debates about photography’s status and made their own claims for the values of both arts as interpreters of the real.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Victorian Culture
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 28 Feb 2024


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