Material Ecologies in the Géniaux Brothers’ Picture Archive of Brittany, ca. 1900

Document Type

Book Chapter


Book chapter in Ubiquity (ISBN 9789462702899).


history of photography; ubiquity; media studies; visual studies; digital media; social media; internet studies; history of technology; art history; critical theory

Identifier Data



Leuven University Press

Rights Management



Around 1900, brothers Paul (1873–1930) and Charles (1870–1931) Géniaux assembled a documentary archive of images, picturing both traditional and industrial forms of work, including the harvesting and processing of materials such as hemp fibers, salt, and slate in their native Brittany. In their realist approach to photography, the Géniaux broth-ers echoed established visual tropes of rural labor and locale, as they pictured the artisanal and industrial skills of extracting and processing natural resource materials. Using the tools of ecocriticism, I examine the ways that the Géniaux conceptualized material ecologies (a seem-ingly endless abundance of natural resources) and the extractive labors connected to them. Despite the ubiquitous proliferation of their photo-graphs in the early 20th century, their collective projects have, until recently, been but a footnote in French photography.