The subject of photography as part of the Bible design is rather related to popular visual culture, not to contemporary sacred art. Still such art in Latvia is rarely found and poorly researched. Also Bibles with a conceptually different book design are not published here. That is why this article deals with the Bible published by the Latvian Bible Society (LBS) in 2005 - texts of the Old and New Testaments that are supplemented with coloured, illustrated commentaries, the so-called insets. This is a reprint of the German Bible Society edition from 2002, corresponding to various editions issued by Bible Societies of different European countries and the USA. Historically different attitudes have developed towards the visual image of the Holy Scriptures - the ornamental one preserved by Judaism and the narrative one cultivated by Christianity since the Middle Ages; its initial educative motivation grounds also the present need for illustrated editions aimed at children. There are Bibles with thematically apt reproductions of paintings or drawings. Apart from the mysterious artistic value, knowing of iconography matters as well. Still today when visual manipulation is abundant the selection of images for the Bible is significant because the picture in a sense challenges the text, almost questioning if the word came first, as images come ahead of texts and influence their perception. The Bible starts to near the field of popular culture along with the introduction of print technologies and beginnings of the Bible industry in Europe and the USA; today it is a largely common product sold at the international market. Photography has been involved in Bible design since the mid-19th century when the first travel photographs with views of Palestine and Egypt taken by Francis Frith were published in England; later these were included in the first photo-illustrated edition of the Bible - the so-called Queen's Bible. Coloured photographs are largely used to illustrate the 'inset Bibles'. From the viewpoint of photographical grammar and its relation to the written text, principles of the popular visual aesthetics in this edition run into almost comic relationships with the text and its content. Publishers have attempted to show the contemporary look of the places mentioned in the Bible, also associative or direct equivalents of them. The visual experience has changed significantly since the mid-19th century when documental views from Biblical places could stir particular emotions.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.