Photography, Trace, and Trauma

Photography, Trace, and Trauma

Margaret Iversen

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226370026

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Photography as a medium is often associated with the psychic effects of trauma. The automaticity of the process, the wide open camera lens, and the light sensitivity of film all lend themselves to this association. Just as a photograph registers things that to some extent bypass artistic intention and convention, so also the event that precipitates a trauma bypasses consciousness leaving an indexical trace on the psyche. Both involve the chance exposure to something which leaves an indelible impression. This book is an exploration of artists and theorists who have thought of photography as somehow analogous to trauma. It also considers art in other media, especially those sculptural forms, like direct casts, that can readily be understood as presenting or simulating a trace or residue of a traumatic event. Chapters are devoted to indexicality, analogue photography and film, direct casting, rubbing, the graphic trace, and representing the “unrepresentable.” Contesting the rise of digitization, the art under consideration claims some referential weight and meaning but, like trauma, only indirectly, belatedly.