The Advent of the Camera: Technological Rupture, Gendered Implications & Legal Continuity

17 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2019

See all articles by Jessica Lake

Jessica Lake

Swinburne University of Technology; Swinburne Law School

Date Written: March 2017


Technology and law both rest upon, acknowledge and borrow from their forebears, but the trajectory of technological development is distinct from legal precedent. The former thrives on innovative and creative leaps where non-linear progression is celebrated. The latter derives purpose and respect from its conservatism and predictability, adhering to established traditions. At moments of technological rupture, the law’s path forward becomes uncertain. By taking the advent of the photographic camera as its focus, this essay comments upon the ways in which the law grapples to smooth over technological rupture and naturalise the outcomes of its often ambiguous and hesitant decisions. As the gendered battle for rights in a photographic image during the last few decades of the 19th century shows, the primary owner of copyright in a photograph was not naturally or obviously the photographer. This essay encourages us to reflect upon moments of technological rupture and the process by which the once achievable or feasible becomes absurd or forgotten.

Keywords: Technology, law, camera, gender, history

Suggested Citation

Lake, Jessica, The Advent of the Camera: Technological Rupture, Gendered Implications & Legal Continuity (March 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Jessica Lake (Contact Author)

Swinburne University of Technology ( email )


Swinburne Law School ( email )

Cnr Wakefield and William Streets, Hawthorn Victor
3122 Victoria, Victoria 3122

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