Regarding Feelings and Forms

By Rachel Alpha Johnston Hurst

Eugenie Brinkema. The Forms of the Affects. Duke University Press, 2014. 347 pp.

Elspeth H. Brown and Thy Phu, eds. Feeling Photography. Duke University Press, 2014. 397 pp.

As a psychoanalytic cultural theorist, thinking about these books together ensnares me in my familiar oscillating trap: between the visceral imagery of Freud and the hygienic schemas of Lacan. Reading Freud is to vicariously feel his theories of psyche; I am seduced by this provocation of idiosyncratic feeling.
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By Johanna Skibsrud

Catherine Zuromskis. Snapshot Photography: The Lives of Images. MIT Press, 2013. 264 pp.

Like its subject, Catherine Zuromskis’s Snapshot Photography: The Lives of Images straddles the realms of public and private, high and low art. She considers the “snapshot” within an American, middle-class context: those who bought the first Brownie cameras and, over the course of the latter half of the twentieth century, took the requisite photos.
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Trauma and the Limits of Counter-Memory

By Kelli Moore

Dora Apel. War Culture and the Contest of Images. Rutgers University Press, 2012. 273 pp.

War Culture and the Contest of Images comes in the wake of the Bush administration’s corporatized media production, chiefly represented by Colin Powell’s testimony before the U.N. Security Council on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the current extension of policies and practices of the Obama administration that continue to drive underground public knowledge and debate about secret detention camps.
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The Art of Seeing Without Being Seen

By Susan Cahill

Sandra S. Phillips, ed. Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870. San Francisco and New Haven: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yale University Press, 2010. 256 pp.

The widespread viewing of previously unseen activities and spaces has become commonplace in a moment characterized by cell phone cameras, youtube videos, reality television and programmes such as Google Earth. The need to uncover and see has gained increased social importance through the elevated use of CCTVs, UAVs and airport body scanners—surveillance technologies that are legitimized as innocuous, yet essential to ensuring global security.
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The Object in Question

By Johanna Skibsrud

Michael Fried. Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before. Yale University Press, 2008. 410 pp.

Michael Fried’s Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before begins with an epigraph: “Each answer remains in force as an answer only as long as it is rooted in questioning” (1).  Fried’s latest book, published in 2008, is deeply rooted in such questioning, and no one opening the book for the first time should expect any easy or direct answers.  Instead, Fried offers an unabashed return to the ground of the questioning upon which his (self-proclaimed) “infamous” 1967 essay, “Art and Objecthood” (Why Photography 2), was based; a return, that is, to the enduring lure, and force, of the question of the nature of art—and why it matters at all.
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The Citizenry of Photography

By John M. Woolsey

Ariella Azoulay. The Civil Contract of Photography. Zone Books, 2008.

Ariella Azoulay’s The Civil Contract of Photography is, among other things, a political theory of photography that investigates and radically rethinks prevalent conceptualizations of citizenship. As a “political theory,” Azoulay’s argument poses a direct challenge to both modernist and postmodernist approaches to “photographs of horror” that depict injured populations.
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