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Developing Animals

Wildlife and Early American Photography

2010
Author:

Matthew Brower

Developing Animals

How the emergence of wildlife photography changed the way we think about animals

Developing Animals takes us back to the time when Americans started taking pictures of the animal kingdom, investigating how photography changed our perception of animals. Combining approaches in visual cultural studies and the history of photography, Matthew Brower argues that photography has been essential not only to the understanding of wildlife but also to the conceptual separation of humans and animals.

In seeking to further our understanding of animal representations, Matthew Brower poses exactly the right question by asking not why we look at animals but how we look at them. Reframing the abundant and varied imagery of ‘animals in nature’ in early American photography, he ably reveals how selective the rhetoric and vision of wildlife photography has now become. Developing Animals will have a real impact on contemporary debates about the representation of animals.

Steve Baker, author of Picturing the Beast

Pictures of animals are now ubiquitous, but the ability to capture animals on film was a significant challenge in the early era of photography. In Developing Animals, Matthew Brower takes us back to the time when Americans started taking pictures of the animal kingdom, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the moment when photography became a mass medium and wildlife photography an increasingly popular genre.

Developing Animals compellingly investigates the way photography changed our perception of animals. Brower analyzes how photographers created new ideas about animals as they moved from taking pictures of taxidermic specimens in so-called natural settings to the emergence of practices such as camera hunting, which made it possible to capture images of creatures in the wild.

By combining approaches in visual cultural studies and the history of photography, Developing Animals goes further to argue that photography has been essential not only to the understanding of wildlife but also to the conceptual separation of humans and animals.

Developing Animals

Matthew Brower is curator of the University of Toronto Art Centre and a lecturer in museum studies in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto.

Developing Animals

In seeking to further our understanding of animal representations, Matthew Brower poses exactly the right question by asking not why we look at animals but how we look at them. Reframing the abundant and varied imagery of ‘animals in nature’ in early American photography, he ably reveals how selective the rhetoric and vision of wildlife photography has now become. Developing Animals will have a real impact on contemporary debates about the representation of animals.

Steve Baker, author of Picturing the Beast

Matthew Brower’s historical survey is a subtle and complex analysis of how wildlife photography, as a particular kind of contact between human and animal, has been central to our seeing and thinking about animals. This is an indispensable contribution to contemporary work on animals, vision, and the philosophy of animal representation.

Jonathan Burt, author of Animals in Film

Developing Animals

Contents

Preface
Introduction: Capturing Animals

1. A Red Herring: The Animal Body, Representation, and Historicity
2. Camera Hunting in America
3. The Photographic Blind
4. The Appearance of Animals: Abbott Thayer, Theodore Roosevelt, and Concealing-Coloration

Conclusion: Developing Animals
Notes
Index

Developing Animals

UMP blog: On photography and how it's changed our perception of animals.

Q: You write: "It is no longer possible for us to have an 'authentic' encounter with an animal." Can you explain what you mean by this?

A: This is John Berger’s position in Why Look at Animals? He argues that modern humans are alienated from nature by capitalism and technology so that they can no longer meaningfully engage with animals. He also suggests that animals that surround us, like pets or those in zoos, have been marginalized by modern technology and society so that they too are incapable of authentic engagement. Pets are merely dependent creatures and zoo animals are diminished and unreal in comparison to their authentically wild counterparts. Berger is thus comparing our modern encounters with his fantasy of an encounter with a truly wild – and therefore real – animal.
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