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Inadvertent Images: A History of Photographic Apparitions
by Peter Geimer
University of Chicago Press, 2018
Cloth: 978-0-226-47187-7 | eISBN: 978-0-226-47190-7
Library of Congress Classification TR183.G4513 2018
Dewey Decimal Classification 770

As an artistic medium, photography is uniquely subject to accidents, or disruptions, that can occur in the making of an artwork. Though rarely considered seriously, those accidents can offer fascinating insights about the nature of the medium and how it works. With Inadvertent Images, Peter Geimer explores all kinds of photographic irritation from throughout the history of the medium, as well as accidental images that occur through photo-like means, such as the image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin, brought into high resolution through photography. Geimer’s investigations complement the history of photographic images by cataloging a corresponding history of their symptoms, their precarious visibility, and the disruptions threatened by image noise. Interwoven with the familiar history of photography is a secret history of photographic artifacts, spots, and hazes that historians have typically dismissed as “spurious phenomena,” “parasites,” or “enemies of the photographer.” With such photographs, it is virtually impossible to tell where a “picture” has been disrupted—where the representation ends and the image noise begins. We must, Geimer argues, seek to keep both in sight: the technical making and the necessary unpredictability of what is made, the intentional and the accidental aspects, representation and its potential disruption.

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