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The Civil Contract of Photography
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"Ariella Azoulay makes a simple and profound claim. Every photograph bears the traces of the encounter between the photographer and the photographed, and neither party can ultimately control that inscription nor determine what happens to those traces. The photograph, she tells us, fixes nothing and belongs to no one. This untethering of photography from responsibility, at least in its traditional sense, allows her to approach the ethics and politics specific to photography in a completely new way. Even or especially when it is a photograph of a crime or an injustice, a photograph is more than evidence. It imposes another sort of obligation on us, to address and readdress it in a way that challenges what it shows of our life together. Azoulay's breathtaking book finally demands nothing less of us than to reimagine how, in the age of the photograph, we might become citizens again."--- Thomas Keenan, Human Rights Program, Bard College -- Thomas Keenan "Ariella Azoulay makes a simple and profound claim. Every photograph bears the traces of the encounter between the photographer and the photographed, and neither party can ultimately control that inscription nor determine what happens to those traces. The photograph, she tells us, fixes nothing and belongs to no one. This untethering of photography from responsibility, at least in its traditional sense, allows her to approach the ethics and politics specific to photography in a completely new way. Even or especially when it is a photograph of a crime or an injustice, a photograph is more than evidence. It imposes another sort of obligation on us, to address and readdress it in a way that challenges what it shows of our life together. Azoulay's breathtaking book finally demands nothing less of us than to reimagine how, in the age of the photograph, we might become citizens again." Thomas Keenan , Human Rights Program, Bard College

About the Author

Ariella is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media at Brown University and the author of Death's Showcase: the Power of Image in Contemporary Democracy (MIT Press).

Reviews

...nothing less than a wholesale restatement of the contemporary political stakes of the image... -Art Review
The Civil Contract of Photography does not simply delineate how meaning is contained in or created through photograph; it demonstrates precisely how meaning avoids being cheated. If there is one lesson to take from Azoulay's writing, it is that photography is a profoundly political act-an act that is also, in the strictest sense, public. -Aperture
The Civil Contract of Photography will likely be one of the most influential books to shape the contemporary inquiry of photography and public culture. -Argumentation and Advocacy
... Azoulay's central themes-state violence, violations of human rights, and the nature and potential of photographic witness-are as relevant to our own political circumstances as they are to hers. -Art in America
... this is a significant, deeply moral book that should undercut complacent thinking. Azoulay's renewal of cultural attention to the state and her view of photography that requires us to dispute prevailing interpretations of evidence must surely be welcomed as we are, once again, thrown headlong back to reality. -Steve Edwards, Times Higher Education

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