A Carnal Medium. Fin de siècle essays on the photographic nude is a collection of ten articles originally published in three journals during the period 1893-1898. These articles were addressed to a specialist (though not necessarily professional) readership rather than a general one, but then – as now – there was a large crossover between amateur and professional in photography. The writers could therefore assume a degree of knowledge of techniques and processes on the part of the readership which is not generally held in the digital age of the twenty-first century.
The articles all address the problems – both practical and ethical – presented by photographing the nude figure, but taken together they also generate a discussion on the role of the nude in photography and on the relationship of photography to painting. While this is mainly general, it also includes one photographer’s replies to specific points raised in an article by a fellow photographer to create an interesting public dialogue. Continue reading