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What new histories surface when photography begins underground? Chapter 1 turns to bitumen, the light-sensitive material in the first photograph taken by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. Taking as a case study Warren Cariou’s petrographs of the Athabasca tar sands in western Canada, the chapter proposes a shift in focus from light to minerals, considering the complex interplay between time, fossils, solarity, and labor that bitumen introduces. It situates Cariou’s very material photographs within the hidden-in-plain-sight visual culture of oil, reading Cariou alongside works by Ts?m?, Edward Burtynsky, and Allan Sekula. Crucially, Cariou’s petrographs move toward a land-based photography, bringing into view the complex networks of settler colonialism, petrocapitalism, and consumption that make the image possible while proposing other ways of seeing human relations with territory. In doing so, Cariou makes a case for photography as a critical site of antiextractive world-making.

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