Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Review of Darwin's Camera

Ewen Calloway, of the New Scientist has a review of a new book called Darwin's Camera, by Phillip Prodger. Calloway writes:
FEW scientific fields have escaped the influence of Charles Darwin, from anthropology and geology to zoology and, of course, evolutionary biology. Now we ought to add photography to the list, argues Phillip Prodger, a curator at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, in his revealing new book.

Darwin's influence on art is surprising; most of his published works included few images, and he showed little aptitude for art. On the Origin of Species contains just one illustration, a "tree of life" with all the composition of a stick figure. Indeed, the naturalist often relied on abler hands to illustrate his works.

Yet when his scientific interests turned to the evolution of behaviour and facial expression, Darwin and his collaborators pushed the boundaries of photography, an art form still in its infancy at the time. The result, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, wasn't the first scientific book to include photographs, but when it was published in 1872 it was the most important.
One often forgets that Darwin wrote many books that did not explicitly deal with evolution.

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