Camera Lucida Mexicana: Travel, Visual Technologies, and Contested Objectivities

This essay discusses three nascent visual technologies—the camera lucida, the panorama, and the daguerreotype—as often stubborn and defiant agents in quests for both scientific rationality and picturesque image-making in the first four decades of the nineteenth century. Through a series of case studies, it also details how the agency of such technologies emerged in the complex circuits of transatlantic intellectual and artistic exchange formed in order to represent, and thus claim access to or ownership of, Mexican history and archaeology across Europe and the Americas. This suggests the possibility of recasting the genesis of these technologies not as a fixed point, but as a process of transatlantic exchange oriented toward the New World and the south, in this case, Mexico.