The invention of photography 150 years ago changed profoundly the way we learn about the world. Photographs can make the distant and exotic familiar, and the familiar strange; they can rewrite history, challenge aesthetic notions, and arrest time.
In this volume eight scholars share their insights concerning the impact of photography on their fields, illustrating their essays with a rich and varied selection of photographs from the resources of Harvard, Radcliffe, and the collection of Harrison D. Horblit. The fields range from art history to anthropology to medicine; among the 96 photographs are nineteenth-century views of Florence and Beirut, impressionist landscapes, Civil War battlefield scenes, family portraits, haunting studies of inmates of the mental hospital of Sainte-Anne. As Eugenia Parry Janis says in her introductory essay, photographs of “science, reportage, physiognomy of illness and health, visions of modern cities in war time or of ancient ruins, even a shred of cloth isolated under the camera eye, all increase our learning by utterly removing things from the grasp of actuality…we begin to ponder on all that is known, and how we know it, and what to believe because of it.”