I’m currently doing a little research on the emergence of the discourse of photography. In the early years of the formation of its concepts, the discipline and explication of its ontological nature, two threads have consistently created movement in the overall plane, those celebrating it indexical nature of reality- a faithful reproduction of the world; as well as the creative, magical moments of the automaticity of the light sensitive element and the desire to establish it as an art form in its own right.
One of the earliest voices theorizing its emergence, importance as an invention for the sciences and its lack of artistic integrity was Lady Eastlake. She had a literary background and embarked on a career in writing about arts and photography. Her published article, Photography, has a particularly wonderful snippet of the differing attitudes apparent in the circulating discourses.
Speaking of the stereoscope, she insists that the invention of photography has made the value of stereoscope clear. What’s more, only photography has any business of illustrating this phenomenon, “A few diagrams, of sufficient identity and difference to prove the truth of the principle, might have been constructed by hand for the gratification of a few sages, but no artist is it to be hoped, could have been found possessing the requisite ability and stupidity to execute the two portraits, or two groups, or two interiors, or two landscapes, identical in every minutia of the most elaborate detail, and yet differing in every point of view by the inch between two human eyes, by which the principle is brought to the level of any capacity.”
Actually, I think that sounds like a pretty fantastic conceptual art piece.