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A Serious Comedian: Honoré Daumier’s Critique of Photography and Modern Society

“Nadar elevating Photography to the height of Art” likewise has political undertones. In fact, it is not surprising that this print appeared during an era marked by what Jürgen Habermas described as “the structural transformation of the press” (Habermas 186). This particular age, Habermas argues, saw a shift away from a journalism of “private men of letters” toward a commercialized, commodified mass media (Habermas 188). Daumier’s choice to ridicule the “elevation” of a new and highly sensationalized medium shows that he was both sensitive to and critical of the “new” journalistic directions signified by Nadar’s successes. While perhaps primarily comical, this print suggests its artist was far from comfortable with the advent of what Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno would later term the “culture industry.”

Source: A Serious Comedian: Honoré Daumier’s Critique of Photography and Modern Society