Lecture on Photography

The presentation below, which took place on October 26, 2015,  was recently posted as part of Penn State’s Comparative Literature Luncheon Series. It is a work in progress that will likely become part of a larger book project on recording technologies, so comments and suggestions are very welcome. A special thanks to Jonathan Eburne for the invitation and the very productive dialogue.

“Remaking Machines: Pragmatics and Politics of Photography”

“The only sensible weapon against the cops,” Chris Marker presciently claimed in the 1960s, is “a film camera.” Exploring the ramifications of this statement in the context of the current struggles around the racial violence perpetrated by the police and vigilantes, this paper proposes a broad reflection on the social pragmatics of photography and its consequences. It begins by revisiting the question ‘what is photography?’ by inquiring into its supposed privileged relationship to the objective world. It argues that photography, far from simply capturing reality, is a powerful remaking machine that recomposes the very nature of the real. By resituating the photographic apparatus in a broad social pragmatics, it thereby seeks to elucidate its political power as a “sensible weapon.”


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