Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 6, No. 2, 1992
Photogenic Papers
Edited by John Richardson

Enslaved sovereign, observed spectator: on Jonathan Crary, techniques of the observer

Geoffrey Batchen

How often have we been told by conventional histories of photography that the medium is basically just a modern refinement of the camera obscura? You know the story. Photography came into being as a consequence of the addition of a light-sensitive surface to the camera obscura, an instrument used as a drawing aid since the invention of perspectival space in the fifteenth century. Photography therefore supposedly represents the mechanised production of this same Renaissance way of seeing. There is almost no account of photography, historical or theoretical, that does not repeat this narrative as its most sacred litany. Until now, that is. Jonathan Crary's new book, Techniques of the Observer, at last gives us an analysis of seeing that returns this most natural of the senses both to history and to culture, with all the challenging complexities this sort of move entails.

Crary most clearly indicates what is at stake in his book in an earlier article:

I argue that the camera obscura must be understood as part of a larger organisation of representation, cognition, and subjectivity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ... which is fundamentally discontinuous with a nineteenth-century observer. Thus I contend that the camera obscura and photography, as historical objects, are radically dissimilar. (Crary October 3)1

Through an examination of the camera obscura as it appears in the work of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century scholars such as René Descartes, Etienne de Condillac and John Locke, Crary suggests that the camera obscura was a dominant metaphor for human vision as well as a crucial and consistent representation of the relation of a perceiving subject to an external world. Subject and world were understood to be pregiven, separate, and distinct entities. As a consequence the act of seeing was regarded as both passive and transparent to the world being seen, and was in that sense an act sundered from the physical body of the observer. The camera obscura was taken as an empirical confirmation of the truth of this relationship. However, according to Crary's account, around 1800 one finds a 'vast systematic rupture' in the history of vision which marked the end of the reign of the camera obscura as the dominant paradigm of knowledge and truth. As he puts it, 'by the early 1800s ... the rigidity of the camera obscura, its linear optical system, its fixed positions, its identification of perception and object, were all too inflexible and immobile for a rapidly changing set of cultural and political requirements' (Crary, Techniques 137).

Crary demonstrates this shift by examining an impressive range of physiological and philosophical texts from the early nineteenth century. He particularly concentrates on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's use of the familiar camera obscura metaphor in his Farbenlehre (Theory of Colours ) of 1810. Goethe directs his readers to look fixedly at the circle of light admitted into a room-sized camera and to then close off the light source, thereby observing only the changing colours left floating on the dazzled retina of the eye.2 Crary argues that, in suggesting this last action and thereby confining vision within the physiognomy of the human body, Goethe 'abruptly and stunningly abandons the order of the camera obscura'.

Goethe's instruction to seal the hole ... announces a disordering and negation of the camera obscura as both an optical system and epistemological figure. The closing off of the opening dissolves the distinction between inner and outer space on which the very functioning of the camera (as apparatus and paradigm) depended. But it is now not simply a question of an observer repositioned in a sealed interior to view its particular contents; the optical experience described here by Goethe presents a notion of vision that the classical model was incapable of encompassing.... The corporeal subjectivity of the observer, which was a priori excluded from the concept of the camera obscura, suddenly becomes the site on which an observer is possible. (68-69)

Goethe's observations, says Crary, provide 'a key delineation of subjective vision, a post-Kantian notion that is both a product and constituent of modernity'.3 'It is a moment when the visible escapes from the timeless incorporeal order of the camera obscura and becomes lodged in another apparatus, within the unstable physiology and temporality of the human body'.

Crary further demonstrates the shift in vision's location from camera to body by examining the way in which it was reproduced in various optical devices invented during this same period, specifically the stereoscope, the kaleidoscope, the phenakistiscope, and the diorama. His examination is based on a provocative premise: 'There is a tendency to conflate all optical devices in the nineteenth century as equally implicated in a vague collective drive to higher and higher standards of verisimilitude' (110). According to Crary, such an approach tends to neglect entirely how some of these devices were expressions of what he calls 'nonveridical' models of perception.

It is in his analysis of the stereoscope that Crary best explains what he means by nonveridical. Conceived in the 1830s by Charles Wheatstone and David Brewster (who in 1815 had also invented the kaleidoscope), the stereoscope was, according to Crary, 'the most significant form of visual imagery in the nineteenth century, with the exception of photographs'.4 In most accounts the stereoscope is regarded as yet another of those optical toys that directly prefigured and then came to be dominated by the invention of photography. Crary strongly disagrees with this view, arguing that 'its conceptual structure and the historical circumstances of its invention are thoroughly independent of photography'.

Crary identifies a number of features peculiar to the stereoscope that testify to its break from the classical camera obscura model of vision. These include its overt stress on the binocular disparity of vision (thus presupposing perceptual experience to be essentially an apprehension of differences or disjunction), its desired effect of immediate, apparent tangibility, and its radical repositioning of the observer's relation to visual representation. This last characteristic required what he describes as the 'corporal adjacency and immobility' of the observer, with the latter's optical experience stemming as much from the 'functional interaction of body and machine' as from external objects. Crary places great stress on the undisguised nature of the stereoscope's operational structure: 'even though they provide access to "the real", they make no claim that the real is anything other than a mechanical production'. By transforming each observer into 'simultaneously the magician and the deceived' this kind of 'machinic aggregate' produces a being that Crary calls a 'decentred observer'. With the production of this observer, 'a new assemblage of binocular body, optical apparatus and multiplied image conjoin on a single immanent field'.

Crary's discussion of the stereoscope places great emphasis on the viewer's embodiment of the optical effects of this machine. At first glance this reading would appear to run counter to the one provided by Allan Sekula in his 1981 article "The Traffic in Photographs":

Despite the slight discomfort of the body that bore the weight of the machine, the experience was one of disembodied vision, vision lacking the illusion-shattering boundary of a frame. Thus the stereo process was particularly liable to give rise to a belief in dematerialised form. (98)

Sekula no doubt bases his reading on the descriptions offered by Oliver Wendell Holmes in the 1850s and '60s.5 These descriptions (not specifically discussed by Crary) speak of the stereograph as producing 'a dream-like exaltation in which we seem to leave the body behind us and sail away into one strange scene after another, like disembodied spirits' (qtd. in Krauss 138). Rosalind Krauss, on the other hand, stresses the way that the stereoscope gives an engrossed and isolated viewer the sensation of periodically refocussing one's eyes as they look from plane to plane; by this means a movement of the eyes and a movement of the entire body are made synonymous.

These micromuscular efforts are the kinesthetic counterpart to the sheerly optical illusion of the stereograph. They are a kind of enactment, on a very reduced scale, of what happens when a deep channel of space is opened before one. The actual adjustment of the eyes from plane to plane within the stereoscopic field is the representation by one part of the body of what another part of the body (the feet) would do in passing through real space. (Krauss 138)

So it would seem that, contrary to Crary's exclusive emphasis on embodiment, the key to the experience of the stereograph is that the eye is both disembodied and re-embodied. Or, to put it another way, in a single act of looking, the observer is moved back and forth between two separate but conjoined embodiments. Cut off from all distractions by the masked instrument held to the face, the eye of the viewer is dismembered from his or her immobilised body and induced to wander freely through the receding picture planes that unfold ahead. That same wandering eye simultaneously becomes a miniature prosthesis for another body; the viewer enjoys, as Holmes points out, the palpable sensation of turning into a flying phantom limb and thereby becoming an integral part of the representation being seen.

The point is that such technologies are but one manifestation of a dissolution, in the years around 1800, of the Cartesian boundaries between observer and observed, subject and object, self and other, virtual and actual, representation and real - a dissolution that is, as Crary argues, one of the fundamental conditions of modernity itself. It is important to recognise this history in the midst of contemporary discussions of the ramifications of computer technologies that produce so-called "virtual reality". For example, in a recent symposium at the San Francisco Art Institute, there was much lamentation over the apparent attack wrought by proliferating virtual reality systems on both "accepted notions of reality" and on the "autonomous subject". What most of the speakers failed to recognise was that they were mourning a Cartesian reality and subject that have already been under erasure for nigh on 200 years.6

Crary's book is therefore a timely one. As we have seen, it provides a reading of the 'sudden and thorough collapse' of the Cartesian camera obscura paradigm in the early nineteenth century and of the simultaneous development of a modern and radically different type of optical and epistemological figuring. It insists that optical devices are 'embedded in a much larger assemblage of events and powers'. Particularly useful is Crary's emphasis on the historical specificity of vision and his rejection of those who, in his description, 'tend to pose an account of ever-increasing progress toward verisimilitude in representation, in which Renaissance perspective and photography are part of the same quest for a fully objective equivalent of "natural vision"'. In presenting this account, he adopts a historical method that would argue against any simple continuity flowing seamlessly from one epoch to the next. And indeed Crary's description of the decentered modern observer--an observer constituted by the kaleidoscope and stereoscope as simultaneously mobile and immobile, observer and observed, magician and deceived--appears to draw directly from Michel Foucault's analysis of modernity in The Order of Things. In the section of this book sub-titled "Man and His Doubles", Foucault argues that 'man' is a figure of 'recent invention', one who appears for the first time only in the years around 1800.

Man, in the analytic of finitude, is a strange empirico-transcendental doublet, since he is a being such that knowledge will be attained in him of what renders all knowledge possible.... The threshold of our modernity is situated not by the attempt to apply objective methods to the study of man, but rather by the constitution of an empirico-transcendental doublet which was called man. (318-319)7

Note how closely Crary's account of vision adheres to this description of the modern era. Foucault conceives of the modern human subject as a being who is, paradoxically, both the subject and object of knowledge, a 'strange empirico-transcendental doublet'. In Crary's book this same personage is projected as becoming, around 1800, simultaneously the subject and object of vision. This doubling of the subject back on itself happens at the very moment that, according to Foucault, the source of all knowledge about humanity is sought within the structures of the body. It might appear that this would give such knowledges the advantage of being "natural", but, as Foucault points out later in this same chapter, even nature is from this point on seen as having a history 'formed within the relations that are woven between men'.

Crary's historicisation of vision continues in this same tradition. And there is no doubt that Crary's Foucault-inspired approach offers an unusually sophisticated analysis of the question of technology and its effects, one that speaks of a close relationship between knowledge, power, and subjectivity. Most important, he insists on a history of seeing in which difference and historical change play a key role. However this move inevitably produces as many problems as it solves. A book such as this is a challenge to conventional history writing precisely because it makes evolutionary narratives and unspoken assumptions problematic. The most worthwhile response an admiring reader can make is to challenge its premises in turn and thereby extend its polemical range.

One might begin with Crary's discussion of photography, a technology of seeing that he describes as fulfilling the same metaphorical function in the modern era as had the camera obscura in past centuries. Like the camera obscura (and unlike the stereoscope and kaleidoscope), photography is assumed to offer a veridical perception of the world. And certainly, in terms of viewer mobility, the photographic camera appears to replicate exactly the static point of view of the superseded camera obscura. However, according to Crary, if photography 'seemed to reincarnate the camera obscura, it was only as a mirage of a transparent set of relations that modernity had already overthrown'. Here then is the source of a troubling contradiction within Crary's account.

Photography defeated the stereoscope as a mode of visual consumption ... because it recreated and perpetuated the fiction that the "free" subject of the camera obscura was still viable. Photographs seemed to be a continuation of older "naturalistic" pictorial codes, but only because their dominant conventions were restricted to a narrow range of technical possibilities (that is, shutter speeds and lens openings that rendered elapsed time invisible and recorded objects in focus). But photography had already abolished the inseparability of observer and camera obscura, bound together by a single point of view, and made the new camera an apparatus fundamentally independent of the spectator, yet which masqueraded as a transparent and incorporeal intermediary between observer and world (135-136).

This is not an easy paragraph to follow, and yet its decipherment is crucial to an understanding of Crary's mode of argument. He insists that photography and camera obscura appear to share the same veridical way of seeing. However we have also already been told that, as 'historical objects', photography and the camera obscura are 'radically dissimilar'. What we have not been told is how they are dissimilar, although the inference from the rest of Crary's account is that the meaning of subject-object relations in general has been totally transformed during the shift from Classical to modern. If the meaning is different, then it follows that the objects must be equally different. But the question remains as to how, in the same historical period, some new technologies retain a Classical epistemology (photography) while others (stereoscopy) are apparently able to reproduce certain modern formations of knowledge and subjectivity.

My own work has some similarities to that of Crary. I have argued, for example, that the desire to photograph that emerged around 1800 has an identifiable historical and cultural specificity. However this same work would dispute the opposition that Crary constructs between a supposedly veridical photography and various contemporary 'non-veridical' devices like the stereoscope. On the contrary, the discourse produced by photography's inventors manifests exactly the same signs of epistemological crisis as Crary finds embodied in the stereoscope and kaleidoscope. Photography was, for example, figured by its pioneers as a mode of representation that is simultaneously fixed and transitory, that draws nature while allowing her to draw herself, that both reflects and constitutes its object, that partakes equally of the realms of nature and culture. In other words, photography's inventors did not regard it as simply a transparent window onto an outside world or as an unproblematic replication of an ongoing Cartesian way of seeing.8

But in the passage from Crary quoted above, the suggestion is made that at some point photography comes to represent the same Cartesian epistemology as had the camera obscura before it. Moreover Crary implies that it was in fact because photography represented this older epistemology that it 'triumphed' over the stereoscope as a way of seeing. The inference is that such a triumph was somehow inevitable. According to this account, the look provided by the camera obscura is apparently a "truth" that persists and dominates even when the Cartesian epistemology it represents has, according to Crary's own description, been profoundly 'ruptured', 'displaced', and 'overthrown' during the years around 1800. Nowhere does Crary actually explain how a Cartesian look was miraculously resurrected in the nineteenth century as the continuing standard by which 'referential illusion' and visual truth were to be measured.9

Nevertheless, it is the Cartesian look, with its 'metaphysic of interiority', 'monadic viewpoint', and 'unified space', that for Crary continues to remain the unwavering real against which his various 'nonveridical' alternatives are measured. It is curious in this respect that he chooses to examine in detail the invention of the stereoscope and the kaleidoscope but not the contemporary emergence of technologies such as the camera lucida or photography.10 Perhaps this is because the images provided by these first two devices more conveniently resemble the fragmented, multiple appearance of certain nineteenth-century avant-garde art practices. Indeed Hal Foster has pointed out that Crary's interest in equating vision with the body allows him to 'suggest that this is a precondition of the modernist move that culminates in abstraction'.11 J.M.W. Turner and Paul CŽzanne are mentioned by Crary as the exemplary figures in this regard, with Goethe and Arthur Schopenhauer apparently providing 'a crucial anticipatory statement of modernist aesthetics and art theory'. But why should such an anticipation be considered 'crucial'? Why is a modernist avant-garde aesthetic, as opposed to a normative but still modern way of seeing, the look around which a history of nineteenth-century vision is to be organised? What is at stake in structuring this account in terms of an adversarial struggle for natural selection between opposing veridical and non-veridical modes of perception? In this aspect Crary's notion of a 'radical reconfiguration of vision' is both surprisingly conventional and narrowly art historical. Serious questions need to be asked about histories that continue to represent the modern era as a perpetual artistic battle between reactionary naturalists and a progressive, anti-realist avant-garde. Like Peter Galassi's argument in Before Photography, Crary's history fits a little too neatly into a revisionist version of the avant-garde that pushes its origins back into the early years of the nineteenth century but insufficiently questions its particular premises and value claims.12

It can be seen that the question of appearance and resemblance, of sameness and difference, is one that lies at the heart of the confusion within Crary's account. On the one hand he concedes that photography invites no more than 'formal comparisons' with the camera obscura (comparisons that he implies are therefore superficial, an illusion, a 'mirage'). But he then argues that photography was successful precisely because it 'recreated and perpetuated the fiction that the "free" subject of the camera obscura was still viable'. He seems, in other words, unable to decide whether the camera obscura and photography are really 'radically dissimilar' or whether they merely represent an ongoing production of Cartesian effects beneath a 'masquerade' of technological refinement and modern progress. An opposition is thereby constructed between fact and fiction, between the reality of photography's essential nature and the representation of that reality at any given historical moment. But when is reality not already representation, and representation not complicit with real life? Significant conceptual problems arise when you try to insist on a sharp division between the two. In this case, history, which began as a powerful constituent in Crary's analysis, ends up as a colourful backdrop against which meanings and arrangements of power are subject to change, but behind which the real remains a hidden, but apparently reliable, constant.

Crary rehearses this real/representation split in his opening chapter on historical method. In the context of wanting to make clear that all historical selection serves the interests of the present, he claims that 'it should not be necessary to point out there are no such things as continuities and discontinuities in history, only in historical explanation'. The boundary between history and fact, between discourse and 'actual change', is similarly figured on an earlier page. 'If I have mentioned the idea of a history of vision, it is only as a hypothetical possibility. Whether perception or vision actually change is irrelevant, for they have no autonomous history. What changes are the plural forces and rules composing the field in which perception occurs' (6). In carefully maintaining this particular Cartesian division, Crary chooses to forget Foucault's postmodern insistence that discourses are 'practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak', and that in the process of such practices 'subjects are gradually, progressively, really and materially constituted'. If, as Foucault claims, sex is produced by the discourse of sexuality, why shouldn't we also presume that perception 'actually changes' as a consequence of transformations in the discourse of vision?13

Another problem in Crary's account is his dependence on what appears to be a form of technological determinism, something that he tells us he is anxious to avoid. He describes the Cartesian camera obscura as a paradigm that delineates a fixed set of relations between exterior world and interior representation, but he then equates its insistence on passive reception and legislated truth with a literal passivity on the part of the body of the observer. Similarly, he identifies modern modes of seeing with an activated eye and an increased range of physical experience, as if heightened optical stimulation is a mimetic measure of the break with the constraints of the Classical. As he puts it at one point, 'the apparently passive observers of the stereoscope and phenakistiscope were in fact made into producers, by virtue of specific physical capacities'. The opposition Crary constructs between Cartesian passivity and modern activity is, again, not a convincing one, and nor is his explanation for its inducement and reproduction. It is one thing to argue, as he does, that in the modern 'the objects of vision are coextensive with one's own body' and another to link this 'fully embodied viewer' directly to modernity's 'need' for 'a more mobile, usable, and productive observer'. This is a neat rhetorical slide, but its causal presumption still leaves a provocative question mark over the inter-constitutive relationship of technology, embodiment and social imperative.

Crary's account tends to give conscious apprehension a central role in this relationship. The consciousness of the modern observer - of, for example, the 'undisguised nature' of the stereoscope or the newly 'discovered' physical functioning of the eye - is seemingly crucial to that being's embodiment of modern subjectivity. No one would deny that this embodiment is a difficult process to articulate. And, as in other aspects of his account, Crary provides one of the most interesting attempts to date to relate its complexities to questions of visual epistemology, social change, and the invention of optical technologies. Nevertheless, one is still left waiting for a fulfilment of that most Foucauldian of aspirations: 'What I want to show is how power relations can materially penetrate the body in depth, without depending even on the mediation of the subject's own representations. If power takes hold on the body, this isn't through its having first to be interiorised in people's consciousness' (Foucault Power/Knowledge 186).

These assorted questions and interventions should not be taken as a condemnation of what is in general a persuasive and provocative book. What they indicate is the difficulty of working in this field of argument, a difficulty that anyone who enters it will quickly come to share and appreciate. The early history of photography has attracted relatively little critical attention in recent years, and the development of contemporary optical technologies, like the stereoscope and kaleidoscope, even less. In this context, the true worth of Techniques of the Observer will be measured not by its own internal strengths and inconsistencies but by the debate and dispute that it is able to engender within future discourses on the visual.


1. Two other articles by Crary similarly prefigure the arguments in his book; "Notes on the Kaleidoscope and Stereoscope", and "Modernizing Vision".

2. It is interesting to compare Goethe's 'stunning' suggestion with the sensory experience described by that staid English gentleman Reverend William Gilpin in his 1792 essay "On Picturesque Travel": 'We are, in some degree, also amused by the very visions of fancy itself. Often, when slumber has half-closed the eye, and shut out all the objects of sense, especially after the enjoyment of some splendid scene; the imagination, active, and alert, collects its scattered ideas, transposes, combines, and shifts them into a thousand forms, producing such exquisite scenes, such sublime arrangements, such glow, and harmony of colouring, such brilliant lights, such depth, and clearness of shadow, as equally foil description, and every attempt of artificial colouring' (qtd in Alasdair Clayre 28). We also have a first-hand account of an interest in the physiological workings of the eye from one of the inventors of photography. On November 1, 1818, William Henry Fox Talbot wrote to his mother from Cambridge to complain of his increasing short-sightedness: 'I have been reading books on the structure of the eye, in order to find out the cause: and have arrived at the learned conclusion, that it is owing to want of due tension in the ligamentum Žclaire. It occurred to me the other day, that if I was to press my eye gently with my finger, it would render the vision distinct, and upon trial I found that this was actually the case. The distinctness however is not quite as great as can be obtained by the use of a glass' (qtd in Gail Buckland 21).

3. Although he here uses the term "post-Kantian", Crary means to include Immanuel Kant among his pioneers of modern vision. Indeed he argues that 'clearly Kant's "Copernican revolution" (Drehung) of the spectator, proposed in the preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (1787), is a definitive sign of a new organization and positioning of the subject'. It is worth noting that Samuel Monk argued in fairly similar terms back in 1935: 'In the preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant likens his assumption that objects must conform to our cognitions, rather than our cognitions to objects, to the Copernican revolution; and indeed the point of view that he takes does represent as great a change from methods of thought in the Enlightenment as is found in the difference between the Copernican and the Ptolemaic astronomy. That difference is reflected in a general way in the fundamental contrasts between the romantic age and the early eighteenth century. This is not to say that Kant created the romantic age, but that his philosophy and the art of the romantics are symptoms of a changed point of view, far too involved to be discussed here' (Monk 5).

4. Brewster derived the word stereoscope from two Greek terms meaning "solid seeing," as a way of stressing the tangibility of its perceptual experience. A detailed description of the instrument and its properties is to be found in his 1856 publication The Stereoscope: Its History, Theory and Construction. For a wide-ranging discussion of Brewster's earlier invention, the kaleidoscope, see Noel Gray, Laughter in the Ruins. Like the stereoscope, the kaleidoscope proved to be very popular. For example, on April 23, 1818, Talbot wrote home to his mother from Cambridge to complain about 'the ludicrous fad for Calleidoscopes at the University' (qtd in H.J.P. Arnold 41). Talbot was later (in 1826) to become a close friend of David Brewster. John Herschel, another photographic pioneer, was also familiar with the kaleidoscope. On April 27, 1818, he wrote to his friend Charles Babbage 'Bye the bye what a beautiful toy [the] Kaleidoscope is.... If the sun will only shine this summer, I shall enter with all the means I can command into the field of physical optics' (qtd in Larry Schaaf 16).

5. Holmes describes the stereoscopic experience in more detail in an earlier essay: 'Oh, infinite volumes of poems that I treasure in this small library of glass and pasteboard! I creep over the vast features of Rameses, on the face of his rockhewn Nubian temple; I scale the huge mountain-crystal that calls itself the Pyramid of Cheops. I pace the length of the three Titanic stones of the wall of Baalbec, - mightiest masses of quarried rock that man has lifted into the air ... [I] leave my outward frame in the arm-chair at my table, while in spirit I am looking down upon Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives'. Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Stereoscope and the Stereograph" (1859), in Beaumont Newhall, ed. 59).

6. The symposium, titled "Mass Media, Virtual Reality & the Persian Gulf War", was held on June 12, 1991, at the San Francisco Art Institute and featured papers by Allucquere Rosanne Stone, Margaret Morse, Frances Dyson, and Avital Ronell. Stone's opening paper specifically traced the genealogy of virtual reality back to the invention of the stereoscope in 1838, but, like the other speakers, went on to assume that the virtual reality produced by computer simulation is an "altogether new" phenomenon.

7. That Crary directly draws from this particular passage is indicated by his approving reference to these same pages in his article "Modernizing Vision" in Foster (36, 44). Foucault discusses the figure he calls "man" in a number of places in The Order of Things: 'When natural history becomes biology, when the analysis of wealth becomes economics, when, above all, reflection upon language becomes philology, and Classical discourse, in which being and representation found their common locus, is eclipsed, then, in the profound upheaval of such an archaeological mutation, man appears in his ambiguous position as object of knowledge and as a subject that knows: enslaved sovereign, observed spectator' (312).

8. See my articles "Photography, Power, and Representation"; "Orders Profoundly Altered: Photography and Photographies"; "Burning with Desire: The Birth and Death of Photography" and "Desiring Production Itself: Notes on the Invention of Photography".

9. Foucault himself makes a sharp distinction between the modern and Cartesian versions of the cogito, arguing indeed that 'the modern cogito is as different from Descartes' as our notion of transcendence is remote from Kantian analysis'. He describes this modern cogito as involving a 'double movement' that 'involves, for the first time, man's being in that dimension where thought addresses the unthought and articulates itself upon it'. Foucault, The Order of Things (324, 325). Crary no doubt sees himself as following directly in Foucault's footsteps when he claims that 'my discussion of the camera obscura is founded on notions of discontinuity and difference'. However, in keeping with the constitutive double movement of the modern cogito, Foucault's own writing of history is a theoretically complex practice that involves the deployment of sharp historical breaks only as part of a perverse complicity of discontinuity and continuity. Commenting on this aspect of Foucault's work, Michel De Certeau points out, for example, that during the shift from Classical to modern, 'the same words and the same ideas are often reused, but they no longer have the same meaning, they are no longer thought and organized in the same way'. A more direct engagement with the implications of this paradox may well have clarified Crary's somewhat elliptical discussion of the camera. See Michel de Certeau, "The Black Sun of Language: Foucault" (178).

10. For more on the epistemology invested in the camera lucida see my "Detours: Photography and the Camera Lucida".

11. Hal Foster, during the discussion following the delivery of Crary's paper "Modernizing Vision" at the Dia Art Foundation in New York in 1987. See Vision and Visuality (48).

12. See Peter Galassi, Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography, and critical remarks by Abigail Solomon-Godeau in "Tunnel Vision" (175), and "Calotypomania: A Gourmet Guide to Nineteenth-Century Photography" (11).

13. See Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (49). See also Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge (10, 210).

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