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Marita Sturken

Culture of images and visuality that creates meaning in our world today. This includes media forms such as photography, film, television, and digital media; art media such as painting, drawing, prints, and installations; architecture and design; comic books and graphic novels; fashion design, and other visual forms including the look of urban life itself. It also encompasses such social realms as art, news, popular culture, advertising and consumerism, politics, law, religion, and science and medicine. The term visual culture also refers to the interdisciplinary academic field of study that aims to study and understand the role that images and visuality play in our society; how images, gazes, and looks make meaning socially, culturally, and politically; how images are integrated with other media; and how visuality shapes power, meaning, and identity in contemporary global culture.

The emergence of the concept of visual culture as a means to think about the role of images in culture and as an academic field of study is a relatively recent phenomenon, emerging in the late 1980s and becoming established by the late 1990s. There were numerous factors that contributed to the idea that images should be understood and analysed across social arenas rather than as separate categories, including the impact of digital media on the circulation of images across social realms, the modern use of images from other social arenas (such as news and advertising) in art, and the cross-referencing of cultural forms displayed in popular culture and art. It was also influenced by the increasingly visible role played by images in political conflict and a general trend toward interdisciplinarity in academia....


Geoffrey Belknap

(b Besançon, 1812; d Paris, 1882).

French photography critic and writer. After preparing for a life in engineering and business at the Ecole des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, Wey soon abandoned his studies to enter the literary world. With patronage from Charles Nodier (1783–1844), a luminary of the Parisian literary community, Wey obtained a position as an archivist, which helped to supplement his writing career. He is known to the art historians today primarily for his writings on photography published as a series of articles in the journal La Lumière throughout 1851. In this journal, Wey contributed commentaries on photographic portraiture; the art of making lithographic prints from photographs; and the relative value of different photographic methods (where he argued for the calotype process over the daguerreotype). Wey also advocated strongly for the use of photography as a tool to record, reproduce, and transport paintings, sculptures, and other three-dimensional art objects; these reproductions, he argued, would allow the study and appreciation of art objects to extend beyond the home and museum. Unlike some of his contemporaries at the British Museum, such as Roger Fenton, who argued for a similar use of the camera as recording device, Wey himself never practised photography. He nevertheless weighed in on the debate over authorial priority in photography, which was framed by the ongoing legal battle in England over William Henry Fox Talbot’s claim to the invention of the positive–negative photographic process. These writings by Wey were influenced in part by his relationship with the French Realist painter Gustave Courbet, who shared Wey’s critical engagement with the supposed verisimilitude of photography....