Jennifer Tucker is Associate Professor of History, Science in Society, & the College of the Environment at Wesleyan University in CT. She received her PhD in the History of Science, Medicine, & Technology at Johns Hopkins University and held an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellowship in Victorian Humanities at the California Institute of Technology. Her publications include Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science (2006) and, with the support of a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award, she recently completed a book manuscript titled ‘Facing Facts: The Tichborne Trial in the Victorian Imagination.’ She is the co-author (with Jennifer Mnookin) of the ‘Photography and Law Reader» (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2018), and co-editor (with Simon Schaffer and David Serlin) of Radical History Review’s 127 theme issue, ‘Political Histories of Technoscience’ (Winter 2017). She has also published several articles recently about Victorian photography and science, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and new visual methods in social and cultural history. She currently serves as co-chair (2017-21) of the editorial collective of Radical History Review journal, associate editor of History and Technology journal, and co-editor (with Elizabeth Edwards and Patricia Hayes) of a new Photography/History monograph series at Bloomsbury Academic Press.
New faces of privacy: Trans-Atlantic historical and legal perspectives on the circulation of facial images in media, 1870-1960
European University, 18 May at 18.00
This paper aims to examine the ways in which photographic technologies have contributed, both practically and symbolically, to the construction of particular legal, evidential and affective modes of visualizing the human face. Despite the centrality of photographic portraiture to the creation of this cornerstone of American privacy law, many questions still remain about how, and why, a legal right to one’s face created in Anglo-American law and society. This paper examines some of the conditions and historical forces behind the creation of legal doctrines surrounding the photographic reproduction of the human face from roughly 1870 to 1960. The origin of a legal right to privacy in the United States is traced in American legal scholarship to a series of debates in Congress and the Supreme Court in the 1890s over what constituted “misuse of the faces of private persons.” In their much publicized legal opinion in 1890, lawyers Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis defended the right to recover monetary damages for the emotional anguish caused by this unusual form of identity theft – having one’s picture used, without authorization, in an embarrassing and undignified commercial context. As photography concerns moved to the center of discussions of American privacy law, the debate that followed transformed more than the law. It also helped change the meanings, cultural norms and socially accepted practices of photography up to today.