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Photography’s development coincided with new world discovery, and thus a palimpsest was born: the world mapped in actuality and, simultaneously, in the ether vision of technological reproduction. For early photographers, the location of this gap – between real and image, what’s there and what’s seen – was something of an alchemist’s pursuit; a quest for mystical truth via scientific method, gamma-spectra and physics, the primitive mechanics of modernity-voodoo. Aboriginal tribes understood its power as juju that could systematically distil the soul; Victorians used it for occult affirmation, proof of the spirit world and hereafter. Early exploratory photographs, such as Shackleton’s South Pole documentation or Carlton Watkins’s Yosemite stereoscopes, attest the world as its own paralleled dimension: virgin expanses, alien and vacant, exuding nothing but time’s eerily still hibernation and the oppressive predestination of fate.

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