With His ‘Mind-Guided Camera’

Justin Carville

in Synge and Edwardian Ireland

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199609888
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731778 | DOI:
With His ‘Mind-Guided Camera’

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This chapter examines John Millington Synge’s use of photography in late Victorian and Edwardian Ireland. Drawing on the writings of Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin, the chapter discusses Synge’s engagement with photography along with that of his contemporary John Joseph Clarke. Through a discussion of the shifting cultural practices of amateur photography and the industrialisation of camera technologies, the influence of street-photography on Synge’s writings are considered with particular reference to the politics of eye-contact in public spaces. These anxieties about ocular exchange became increasingly embedded within Edwardian modernity, and the cultural practices of street-photography became an arena through which face to face encounter between different classes and genders in urban space could be negotiated. This chapter suggests that Synge played out his own version of these apprehensions about ocular exchange and urban modernity through the use of photography in his ethnographic and journalistic writings.

Keywords: Walter Benjamin; Georg Simmel; street-photography; amateurism; visual culture; The Aran Islands; primitivism; technological modernity; literary modernism; ethnography

Chapter.  7438 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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