The Exhausted Bodies of the Colonial Spectacle

Photography creates a power imbalance between photographer and subject. As Susan Sontag has said: ‘To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge — and, therefore, like power.’

When we reuse, post/share, or repurpose problematic photographs we should be aware of our own enmeshment and responsibility in that sensational and exploitative relationship.

Here is a fantastic treatise on the subject by Collectif Cases Rebelles. It’s their response to the publication of ‘Sex, Race & Colonies,’ a 544-page coffee table book filled with sexualized images of indigenous people being abused by white colonizers. The book is a lurid reproduction of colonial, racist, and misogynistic violence.
“To the question of whether these photos should be shown or not, we respond unequivocally: shouldn’t the people in the photographs be the first to answer?”

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