Writing the body: The hypertext of photography
Abstract:In Canada and the United States the transformative value of a photograph was quickly recognized for nation building, and this new invention soon served a purpose in public memory. Its uses expanded from surveying lands to promoting population growth, tourism, artistic expression and to imagining virtual communities. Photography's narrative, however, offers readers a commentary on knowledge, identity and memory within an interactive space that is a dialogue between subject and photographer and a visual writing the body. A subject's presence and intentionality through this writing the body is a significant locus for knowledge and alterity - the construction of cultural otherness. Indigenous people viewing early photographs of family members may glimpse past a genre's rhetoric and actually experience their people in a lived historical moment. This essay examines the genre rhetoric of E.S. Curtis's photographs and Indigenous writing the body as a source of mnemonic knowledge. Photography addresses our senses and extends them while it gives form to a knowledge of being in a photographic hypertext that evokes public memory and references the personal, social and political.
Keywords: E. S. Curtis; Indigenous; Native American; alterity; body politic; cultural immunity; hypertext; memorial spaces; mnemonic; performativity; photography; post-memory; postcolonial; public memory; semiotics; visual ethnography; wampum belt
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: York University, Canada.
Publication date: 2009-10-01
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