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Unfixing the photographic image: Photography, indexicality, fidelity and normativity

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Normative conceptions of embodiment can operate only by fixing or essentialising the body's necessarily processural (or existential) ontology. Given that traditional film-based photography and cinema are reliant on the arrestation of a process, a process of fixing analogous to that seen in the constitution of normative bodies, this paper suggests that it is not surprising that photography has long been considered a privileged realm for the presentation of idealised bodies. Some critics have of course problematised this primarily indexical role of the photographic image by showing how this is disrupted in avant-grade practices in both photography and the cinema. In this paper, what is suggested instead is that the rupture of indexicality in traditional cinema and photography was always already inscribed in the technological apparatus or medium itself, and that what appeared to present itself as an ontological precondition of photography (its indexicality) was therefore only the result of the normal usage and perception of this medium. To this end, this paper presents case studies of the work of (amongst others) Edward Weston and Bill Henson, paying particular attention to their conceptualisation of the material ontology of the medium in which they work to show how they, respectively, reinforce or disrupt normative modes of embodiment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Queensland, School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, Brisbane, Australia

Publication date: 01 October 2008

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