Carol Armstrong’s Birth of Photography Essay
When reading Carol Armstrong’s article, one is hard pressed to decide what the point of her analysis is. Is it really just perpetuating the reductive, gendered ideas of Cameron’s time, or is it trying to interrogate
them? The heavy handed, fairly tenuous nature of her arguments becomes evident even at the beginning of the article, where Cameron’s Cupid’s Pencil of Light is deemed ‘feminine’, because the pencil that cupid is holding is too thin to be phallic, unlike the thick, ‘masculine’ paintbrush of Rejlander’s Infant Photography.
If the article is read as the internalisation of the patriarchal, restrictive codes of the day, and how they manifested in Cameron’s work, ie, a psychoanalytical reading of her photos as a reflection of her unconscious, then it becomes more cohesive, but then it is little more than an exercise in applied Freudian psychology and has little merit if the critical tool is not criticised itself as being a product of its times. Being left as it is, it seems a reiteration of the sexist, reductionist ideas of the time, rather than a deconstruction of them.