This research takes issue with the lacuna in the history of photography with regard to the colonial trade in minerals. How did early practitioners of photography in Europe have access to, and conceive of, the metals they employed, which were most often mined elsewhere in the world? A range of metals, both precious and base, will be investigated as chemical elements and cultural signs within the political economy of photographic experimentation in Britain in the early nineteenth-century.
Addressing the work of unnamed labourers involved in making metals available to photographer raises questions of how to discuss the products of labour rendered imperceptible within a Western political economy. This project takes up Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s approach to the colonial episteme, expanding it to photography by ‘measuring silences’ in pre-existing discourse and framing the work of figures such as Talbot as one localized history of photography, rather than a universal point of origin.
Before starting my doctoral studies, I obtained a BA in History of Art and Visual Culture at St Catherine's College Oxford, an MA in History of Art and Material Studies at University College London, and worked as a research assistant at galleries and museums.