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Cara Anne Finnegan, PhD
Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (Champaign, IL 61801-3620)
American Presidents and the History of Photography from the Daguerreotype to the Digital Revolution

A book-length study of the impact of the U.S. presidency on the history of photography and photographic technology.

The Camera Politic contends that a history of photography told through the lens of its most official subject, the President of the United States, shows us how generations of Americans learned to understand photography's role in public life. The book will analyze images, texts, and archival material to study how presidents participated in and shaped the public experience of photography at four transformative moments: the introduction of the daguerreotype in 1839; the rise of halftone after 1880; the arrival of 35-mm photography in the late 1920s; and the digital revolution of the early twenty-first century. By challenging the narrow characterization of photography as a political tool and extending political communication scholarship back into the pre-television era, my project invites us to think more broadly about how presidential photography participates in the public sphere, and reminds us that every era negotiates the challenges and opportunities of its own "new media."

[Grant products][Media coverage]

Project fields:
American Studies; Communications; Communications; Composition and Rhetoric

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2016 – 7/31/2017