The Perils of Mechanical Reproduction


Within the essay, “The Image of Objectivity,” authors Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison reflect on the mechanical objectivity of atlases- the bibles of the observational sciences (Daston & Galison 81). According to Daston and Galison, while the emergence of photography, a common form of mechanical reproduction, “held out the promise of images uncontaminated by interpretation” (Daston & Galison 120), this promise was never actually made good. Above are several textbook images of human hearts that are considered to be authentic, or truthful depictions. However, as Daston and Galison reasoned, these images are not free from the “dread of subjective interpretation” (Daston & Galison 117). For instance, machine-made images, such as the human hearts, are undoubtedly contaminated by interpretation. This contamination is created by selecting images that are deemed to be “typical, the ideal, the characteristic, the average, or the normal” (Daston & Galison 117). Thus, while machines are capable of producing an objective representation, ultimately, the responsibility of selecting what is “true” and “pure” falls upon the maker, a subjective action. 

-Ro Weissberg


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