The Power Institute Foundation for Art and Visual Culture

Apparitions: Photography and Dissemination


by Geoffrey Batchen

A co-publication from 
NAMU and Power Publications


Winner of the 2020 AAANZ Best Book Prize 


RRP $35.00 AUD
ISBN 978-0-909952-80-8
74 colour illustrations
212 pp
250 x 176 mm
610 gms


An engaging and provocative account of photography’s first commercial applications in England and their global implications. This book addresses a persistent gap in the study of photography’s history, moving beyond an appreciation of single breakthrough works to consider the photographic image’s newfound reproducibility and capacity for circulation through newsprint and other media in the nineteenth century. Batchen asks:

“Can we now devise a history for photography built around the logic of movement and transformation, migration and dissemination, rather than that of origin and singularity? Can we at last abandon the familiar safety of a history restricted to the photograph alone, and allow the structure of our narratives to emulate the sometimes illicit flow back and forth across boundaries and identities that has always characterised both the photographic image and modern life and culture? Writing a story worthy of this dynamic—a history for photography rather than a history of photographs—is, I believe, the challenge that historians like me now face. This book is a fledgling attempt to take up that challenge.”



Geoffrey Batchen teaches art history at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, specialising in the history of photography. His books include Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography  (1997), Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (2001), Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance  (2004), William Henry Fox Talbot (2008), What of Shoes? Van Gogh and Art History (2009), Suspending Time: Life, Photography, Death (2010), Obraz a diseminace: Za novou historii pro fotografii (Czech, 2016), and More Wild Ideas  (Chinese, 2017). He also edited Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida (2009) and co-edited Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis (2012). In April 2016 his exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph opened at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand. A book of the same name was published by Prestel.


An original, convincing and extensively researched book that may change the discipline’s understanding (in art history / photography history / critical theory / museum curating) of the complex processes involved in some of the earliest forms of commercial photography. This path-breaking study challenges photography history’s existing narrative paradigm that “privileges the singular photograph” over “the reproducible photographic image”. Batchen traces the genesis of certain early portrait daguerreotypes and their ‘transfiguration’ through engraving and lithographic printing, producing ‘ghost’ images that necessitate revaluations of both vintage photographs and their reproductions. Judiciously illustrated and with a contemporary feel, this book is constructed as a visual artefact of 2019.

—Judges of the AAANZ Best Book Prize


Geoffrey Batchen’s work has played a central role in redefining photographic studies. His current research makes another important contribution, shifting our attention from a semiotics of the image to use. In taking the earliest photography as his example, Batchen demonstrates that photography has always been entwined with other reproductive forms and the standard histories have isolated special images at the cost to the real dynamics of production and circulation.

—Steve Edwards, Professor of History & Theory of Photography, Birkbeck

Batchen has an extraordinary capacity to develop complex new ideas and to present them persuasively. He is without peer in making the history of photography a dynamic, compelling subject.

—Helen Ennis, Emeritus Professor, Centre for Art History and Art Theory, Australian National University



Photography and the Photographic Image
Photography and Commerce
Photography and Reproduction
Photography and The Great Exhibition
Photography and Empire
Photography and Identity
Photography and Photomechanical Reproduction


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