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The Awning That Flapped in the Breeze and the Bodies That Littered the Field: “Painting and the Invention of Photography”

Q. Who do you really believe was present at that Supper?

A. I believe one would find Christ with his Apostles. But if in a picture there is some space to spare I enrich it with figures according to the stories.

from the trial of Paolo Veronese before the

Holy Tribunal, Venice, July 18, 1573

ONE OF THE WAYS WE recognize a picture as a photograph is by its unimaginable reserves of micro-data. its readiness to provide for unperceived event, its “space to spare.” Packing in more discriminated material than is needed for any story, the photograph offers an over-abundance of particulars—images of things or people in the way, irrelevancies of every sort—that might even effectively detract from the story. The medium of photography has been denigrated because it “shows everything and explains nothing,” an idea that voices very well the useless grievance that literary people have against the camera.

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