Choose Life (Review of Nonhuman Photography by Joanna Zylinska)

Coley, Rob (2018) Choose Life (Review of Nonhuman Photography by Joanna Zylinska). Media Theory . ISSN 2557-826X

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Abstract

Critical writing on photography has long been a gloomy, melancholic affair. The most enduring articulation of this lugubrious tendency is made by Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, a short meditation on photography first published in 1980 and still at the top of an all-too-short list of required reading on the subject. For Barthes, photographs that purport to capture moments of life in fact force us to ‘observe with horror an anterior future of which death is the stake’ (1993: 96). In what he describes as a ‘monstrous’ immobilization of time (1993: 91), every photograph forces us to confront a moment that has passed, that is no more, that can never be again. In these terms photographs bear testimony to human mortality, and so, as Barthes memorably put it, photographers are unwitting ‘agents of Death’ (1993: 92). Indeed it is the spectre of death that has governed the recent concerns of both scholarly and popular writing on photography, variously staged as obituaries for indexicality, for truth, for medium-specificity, for contemplative attention, and so on. It is, then, hard to overstate the intervention staged by Joanna Zylinska in Nonhuman Photography, a book that sets out to explore a radically different ‘photographic condition’, where the temporality of photography is in fact key to its vitality, and where ‘life itself is photographic’ (72).

Keywords:Photography, nonhuman, media studies, Anthropocene
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
ID Code:31207
Deposited On:07 Mar 2018 13:55

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