Revolution in the Darkroom: Nineteenth-Century Portrait Photography as a Visual Discourse of Authenticity in Historiography
Historical photography has always played a crucial role in historiography, in the creation of collective memory, and in the perpetuation of historical traditions. Of all the photographic genres, portrait photography is the most prevalent genre and remains the “vera icon” of illustrated histories. The significance of portrait photography in historiography is amply illustrated by its use in the creation of so-called “Bulgarian national heroes,” historical figures that acquired an almost mythic significance largely through their depictions in photographic portraits. In this article I examine the specific use of this particular photographic genre in Bulgarian illustrated histories and provide analyses of the motifs and symbols of the portraits themselves, both as historical primary sources and as epistemological instruments that have had a decisive and continuous influence on the historical process of the creation of “true” national heroes. My aim is to outline the genesis of these photographic portraits in order to shed light on the process of their framing within the historical imagination as authentic representations.