Accepted Paper:

Political Identity - "1848"  


Petra Trnkova (Czech Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

The paper looks at the photographic portraiture related to the revolutionary year 1848 in Austrian monarchy. Drawing on three barely known portraits connected with local political upheavals it shows how differently the photographs assisted at the turmoil and how their meaning shifted with time.

Paper long abstract:

Owing to recently extending research into early history of photography, more and more topics which have been overshadowed by researchers' interest in the pioneering generation of photographers, now emerge. One of them is the photographic portraiture associated with the revolutionary events in the Habsburg Empire in 1848.

Evidenced by a large number of portraits which have been lately identified within an extensive survey into local (particularly Czech) collections, it is clear that the interest in photographic (or photography-related) portraiture must have intensified in 1848. Such an unusual amount of preserved or documented portraits raises several questions, particularly of their origin, of their function and also of their subsequent elimination from the photography narrative.

Apart from the photographic and graphic collection surveys, the paper draws on memoirs, newspapers, and other publications of the period and also on close formal reading of three barely known portrait samples referring to diverse parties, groups, notions and picture processing. (These are the portraits of the café owner and short-term politician Petr Faster; the painter and creator of the "Czech national style" Josef Mánes; and the entrepreneur and member of a local National Guard Josef Alitzer.)

The amount and variety of portraits, and sometimes also their strangeness aroused by the figures' costumes, prove that the revolutionary year 1848, which was in the Habsburg Empire closely tied up with (temporary) abolition of censorship, left its fundamental marks on the photographic production and vice versa; incidentally, it also gave birth to a new generation of photographers.

Panel P056
Photography and Political Belonging