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Camera Geologica

In Camera Geologica Siobhan Angus tells the history of photography through the minerals upon which the medium depends. Challenging the emphasis on immateriality in discourses on photography, Angus focuses on the inextricable links between image-making and resource extraction, revealing how the mining of bitumen, silver, platinum, iron, uranium, and rare-earth metals is a precondition of photography. Photography, Angus contends, begins underground and, through photographs of mines and mining, frequently returns there. Through a materials-driven analysis of visual culture, she illustrates histories of colonization, labor, and environmental degradation to expose the ways in which photography is enmeshed within and enables global extractive capitalism. Angus places nineteenth-century photography in dialogue with digital photography and its own entangled economies of extraction, demonstrating the importance of understanding photography’s complicity in the economic, geopolitical, and social systems that order the world.

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“A major intervention in the study of materiality, Camera Geologica explains how an understanding of photography’s reliance on mineral extraction can provide fascinating and revelatory insights into the sociopolitical realm of a medium that profoundly shapes people’s sense of their world.” — Rachael Z. DeLue, author of Arthur Dove: Always Connect

“This innovative and exciting study reorients the history of photography to account for the materiality of the medium through its focus on mining and extraction. Siobhan Angus’s geology of photography makes a profound contribution to the history of photography and will be welcomed by labor historians and scholars in the environmental humanities as well.”

— Shawn Michelle Smith, author of Photographic Returns: Racial Justice and the Time of Photography

“A remarkable achievement. Unfolding across a wonderful selection of well-known and unfamiliar photographic works, Camera Geologica is an original, ingenious, and passionate investigation of photography’s mineral materiality and dependency.” — Christopher Pinney, coeditor of Citizens of Photography: The Camera and the Political Imagination

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