Vossius Center for the History of Humanities and Sciences

Vossius Seminar Omar Nasim

The Materiality of Photography, Reframing Photography for the History of Science: The Case of Astrophotography

11Sept2017 16:00 - 17:30


At the next Vossius seminar Omar W. Nasim will present his lecture 'The Materiality of Photography, Reframing Photography for the History of Science: The Case of Astrophotography'.


Nasim explores the consequences of treating photographs as material objects, rather than as flat, glossy surfaces. Using the case of late nineteenth-century astrophotography and its practices, Nasim hopes to restyle how historians of science and art frame photography. When the objecthood and materiality of astrophotography are brought into greater focus, we begin to see the importance of things like their maintenance, preservation, and fragility, especially in the face of ever encroaching dangers like loss, breakage or even chemical or organic decomposition. From the perspective of handling, then, we can see that photography rarely presented things as given, but rather had to be processed in order to present objects of astronomical interest. Some of the consequences of this to be explored include the ways in which photography was actually handled in order to draw out phenomena; the hybridity and the intermediality of photography; and finally, how astronomers understood their photo-objects to be pieces of the heavens—pieces that could be examined at leisure, during the day, and within their own, everyday scales.

About the speaker

Omar W. Nasim is Professor for the History of Science, Institute of Philosophy at the University of Regensburg. Among his publications is Observing by Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century, winner of the History of Science Society’s Pfizer Book Prize for outstanding scholarly book in the field (2016). He is currently writing Observing by Light: Photography and Observation in Astronomy (in progress for the University of
Chicago Press).

Venue: Artis Library

  • Artis Bibliotheek

    Plantage Middenlaan 45-45 A | 1018 DC Amsterdam
    +31 (0)20 525 6611

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Published by  Vossius Center