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Judicial Celebrity in the 19th Century: Photography, Mass Media, and the Revolution in the Production and Consumption of Judicial Pictures

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Judicial Celebrity in the 19th Century: Photography, Mass Media, and the Revolution in the Production and Consumption of Judicial Pictures

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Lecture by Leslie J Moran, Professor of Law, Birkbeck, University of London, and Visiting Professor in the Centre for Law and Culture, St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Location: G5, St Mary's University

To date, debates about the relationship between the judiciary and the lens technology of photography have had two preoccupations: cameras in the courtroom and the appearance of photographic images as ‘evidence’. This lecture adds a new dimension. It explores the birth of the photographic image of the judge in the mid-19th century. More specifically, it examines the photographic portraits of judges produced as ‘carte de visite’ pictures.

The carte de visite format brought together and exploited a number of innovations that helped to turn photography into a form of mass media. It is a picture format that transformed access to and circulation of portraiture and has been linked to the development of celebrity in the 19th century.

Carte de visite pictures of judges appeared alongside other contemporary figures such as royalty, members of the aristocracy, politicians, senior members of the church, as well as explorers, scientists, artists, a wide variety of theatrical performers, and ‘professional beauties’. Some cartes were commissioned by the sitters for personal use. Some were commissioned by photographic studios for sale to the public.

Drawing upon a number of archives, the library of Lincoln’s Inn, London’s National Portrait Gallery, and my own personal collection, this lecture will explore the impact of the carte de visite revolution on what appears within the frame of judicial portraiture and upon how judicial images were distributed and consumed.

For more information about this event please contact thomas.giddens@stmarys.ac.uk.


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