Photos and captions: the political uses of photography in the Third French Republic, 1871-1914
English, Donald Edward
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This dissertation examines the political uses of photography in the Third French Republic from 1870 to 1914. It focuses particularly on photography dealing with the Paris Commune of 1871, and on the use of photography by organized political opponents of the Republic, notably the Bonapartists, the royalists, the Boulangists, the Ligue des Patriotes, and the Ligue antisemitique. These groups took advantage of technological advances in photography to convey their political messages to a wide audience enfranchised by the new republic. The study describes how they used photographs, their objectives in distributing them, and the elementary symbolic messages contained in these images. It also details the reaction of the government to the widespread distribution of political photographs by opponents of the regime. Political photographs alarmed government officials and police, who assumed that the pictures could influence viewers and ultimately could endanger the regime. The F('7) series (national security police) in the French National Archives and selected cartons in the Archives of the Prefecture of Police, Paris, contain much of the record of these operations.Photographs taken during and immediately after the Paris Commune of 1871 supported right-wing myths about the upheaval. These photographs aroused such political passions that the government banned their publication and distribution in December, 1871. Bonapartists used photographs as propaganda to regain political favor after Sedan. Boulangists' systematic exploitation of photography and of other forms of publicity from 1888 to 1890 was a significant departure from old style elitist politics and a step toward modern political campaigning to a wide, semi-literate audience. Royalists created "media events" that were photographed and used to harass and to embarrass opponents. During the Dreyfus Affair, the Ligue antisemitique and the Ligue des Patriotes were instrumental in developing techniques to exploit the photographic press for political gain. Overall, photography helped make possible the extension of political issues to a broader public and contributed to the French viewers' political opinions by providing them with visual information, which they could not experience firsthand.
- History