6 January 2013

"It was unimaginable, but there it was"

Boulevard du Temple
In Chapter 14: Nautilus (page 218), I wrote:
the [photographic] image was not 'merely' memory or imagination...but to all appearances something real.
In The Information Peter Gleick writes:
The same year that Babbage published his essay, the artist and chemist Louis Daguerre in Paris perfected his means for capturing visual images on silver-coated plates. His English competitor William Fox Talbot, called this "the art of photogenic drawing, or of forming pictures and images of natural objects by means of solar light...By means of this contrivance" he wrote, "it is not the artist who makes the picture but the picture which makes itself." Now the images that fly before our eyes could be frozen, impressed upon substance, made permanent.
    By painting or drawing, an artist -- with skill, training and long labor -- reconstructs what the eye might see. By contrast, a daguerreotype is in some sense the thing itself -- the information, stored, in an instant. It was unimaginable, but there it was. The possibilities made the mind reel. Once storage began where would it stop?

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