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Chapter 2 turns to silver, the most important material used in analog photography. Silver’s remarkable light sensitivity, relatively low cost, and ubiquity enabled the rise of photography as an industry. Engaging Marx’s “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” and focusing on scale, this chapter traces a long historical arc, moving from the fifteenth century discovery of silver in Potosí, (now Bolivia) to Timothy O’Sullivan’s photographs of silver at Comstock Lode, Nevada, in the 1860s, concluding with Eastman Kodak Company and the rise of photography as a mass medium. In the process, we see how socially contested changes in currency standards, industrial uses, and recycling impacted the supply of silver that could then be conscripted into the scaled-up production required for Kodak to become a household name.

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