Public Lecture

Jules Itier and the coming of photography to Asia.

A talk by Gilles Massot
McNally School of Fine Arts – Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore

Tuesday, 23 Mei 2017
14:00 – Mutimedia Margono

My work has long been concerned with the theory of photography and the effect of this medium on the human perception of time and space, in contrast to the traditional graphic medium, drawing or painting. By the early 2000s, I started teaching photography for the school of Fine Arts in Lasalle, and this new academic context made me developed this research into a concept, which I named COS•MO or “the Constant Self-recording Mode”: with the invention of photography in the 1830s, the world had entered an age in which things were no longer just represented but laterally recorded with the help of a mechanical device; a radical transformation of the human relation to time and space that eventually resulted in today’s Infocom society.

A few years later, I started teaching history of photography in the School of Art Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University. This is when I came across the work of Jules Itier, a French custom officer who travelled around the China Sea in 1844-45 with a daguerreotype camera. His daguerreotypes of China taken in October 1844 were acknowledged as the first extant photographs of China. But there were many more, taken in other countries around the region, including one in Singapore that was dated by the day in his published journal: 6 July 1844. As I developed a timeline of the coming of photography to Asia for my class, this historical perspective began to echo my earlier theoretical concerns: what if that Singapore plate was not just the earliest dated photograph of this port, but marked the shift into the age of COS•MO for the whole Asian continent?

A research grant from Lasalle allowed me to embark on an in-depth research conducted all around Asia and Europe, the results of which were published in the December 2015 issue of the prestigious journal History of Photography. My talk will present the results of this research, some of which proved to be really ground breaking, while tracing the artistic journey that guided it from its onset.

Prof Lala

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