Certainty in the Uncertainty of Venice: John Ruskin and the Daguerreotype Photographic Process

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Historic Preservation; Photography; John Ruskin
Historic Preservation and Conservation
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John Ruskin was among the first to embrace photography as a tool for preservation of historic architecture. His use of the newly invented daguerreotype photographic process in Venice, beginning in 1845, altered the way he documented architecture and aided in his mission to spread awareness of what he believed to be destructive restoration that was conducted throughout Venice in the mid-nineteenth century. Ruskin used the daguerreotype photographic process to produce a record of architecture in Venice which was his implicit form of preservation – an alternative to the destructive restorations he encountered. Ruskin's interaction with the daguerreotype changed his way of thinking about architecture and the way in which he felt that it should be documented. His interaction with the daguerreotype is reflected in the transformation of his drawing and painting style which was previously focused on creating an aesthetically pleasing illustration – evolving to a more technically accurate measured drawing that aimed to be an exact reproduction of its subject. Ruskin's acceptance and use of photography set the tone for its use in the field of historic preservation where it could be used to preserve the memory and information of a building, and create awareness of the potential dangers of restoration of historic architecture.

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Suggested Citation: Medler, Crystal Leah. (2010). "Certainty in the Uncertainty of Venice: John Ruskin and the Daguerreotype Photographic Process." (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
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