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Article

Terri Weissman

Refers in the broadest sense to any use of the photographic medium as visual evidence. This use arises out of the special relationship to the material world that photography has been imagined to have in the West since the 19th century (see Photography, §II). Even with the advent of digital technologies, which facilitate image manipulation (see Digital photography), pictures produced with a camera often continue to serve an evidentiary function, some even presenting themselves as legally actionable traces of the real. But this straightforward description of documentary is deceptive. In the historiography of photography, no consensus exists on whether documentary is a historically specific genre or a descriptive quality that can be applied to a variety of images across time periods. Documentary thus has two histories: one is the retrospective construction of a history of evidentiary or informational photography that stretches back to photography’s beginnings; the other concerns the development of a photographic approach to which photographers and critics in Europe and the US applied the term ‘documentary’. No single style or conceptual model characterized the latter, which emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, although it often combined realist subject-matter with modernist or creative practice in order to educate the public about the world. These early practices laid the groundwork for future approaches to documentary, as inspiration or as critical response....

Article

Jeffrey Martin

Medium on which a series of photographic images are recorded on a flexible plastic base in order to produce the illusion of movement when reproduced by projection through a lens or other means. Although ‘film’ has been used by the general public as a catch-all term for any moving image medium, it actually refers specifically to photochemical reproduction.

Three different types of film base have been used in motion picture production. The first, cellulose nitrate, was used from the time it was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1889, through the early 1950s. Cellulose nitrate was durable, withstood repeated projection, and provided a high-quality image. It was also extremely flammable, requiring careful handling in shipping and storage, and the construction of special fireproof projection booths in theatres. It is always identified by the words ‘Nitrate film’ along one edge. Cellulose acetate film was first made available commercially in 1909, but was inferior in strength to nitrate film, and was not widely adopted for theatrical use. It was, however, used exclusively in smaller-gauge film for home and amateur use by the 1920s. In ...

Article

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....