Author:Gustavo Racy (Universiteit Antwerpen/CAPES Foundation)
Paper short abstract:
The paper will stress Walter Benjamin's contribution to the history of photography and experiment methodologically in ways of addressing photography vis-à-vis politics. It will adress matters such as social relations of production, cultural history and the practice and reception of photography.
Paper long abstract:
The relation between photography and political belonging may be draw back to the very inception of the medium. The dispute between Talbot and Daguerre over the credits for the invention of the medium, for instance, translated the competition between English and French cultural and economic systems over political hegemony. Likewise the fact that photography was simultaneously invented in Brazil by a Frenchman, and the fact that this is hardly ever remembered, come together as an expression of the political character that legitimates and decides how history is to be told. Looking back at the 19th century, Walter Benjamin provided two seminal readings on photography. In both "Small History of Photography" and "The Work of Art", Benjamin looks back at the social conditions that allowed photography to emerge both as technology and as practice that borders a threshold. Still today, social scientists and scholars of photography go back to these texts acquiring new insights on the many levels in which photography and politics relate. Using different examples this paper will develop both a theoretical argument and an experimental methodology for addressing the relaton between photography and politics. Stressing Benjamin's thinking and bringing photographs from the 19th century onwards, the paper will address the many layers in which photography and politics relate, from nationality and nationalism to relations of production and cultural history, addressing the viewer and viewee alike, the photographer and the photographed, and so fort. With that, the paper expects to create a debate over qualitative analysis of photographic images.
Photography and Political Belonging