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By the mid-nineteenth century, landscape had become one of the most popular genres in French painting, from the most official forms to the more innovative versions of the Barbizon school and Impressionism. Although many photographers directed their cameras at “nature,” few of the results, Solomon-Godeau argues, can be categorized as landscape, much less “nature.” Rather, such imagery belonged more often to a nineteenth-century category of the “view,” or to categories of topographic documentation or touristic souvenirs. Solomon-Godeau traces the technological developments and social shifts that enabled these various forms to be unified under the genre of landscape. This retrospective construction of a genre shapes the way one views such photographs. In light of the current scale of environmental destruction across the globe, exhibitionary practices and art historical writing that uncritically frame work within the genre of landscape continue this process of mystification, providing the prepackaged “spectacle of nature.”

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