Tuesday, September 8, 2020

On History, On Photography

I have remarked in the past about the similarities between writing history, and taking photographs. Both reduce a chaotic world, infinitely complex, infinitely large, and reduce it to a legible explanation of sorts. Both, necessarily, take a point of view. Both select what to discard; both select where to stand.

There is an interested corollary of this notion. The notion that you can discern the race, gender, or politics of the photographer (or historian) in the work is revealed to be bankrupt and silly. White writers are fully capable of writing a kind of "black gaze" version of history, as we see from the famously controversial 1619 Project. To be fair, the project was largely written by black journalists, but there are a couple bog-standard white guys on the roster.

In the same way, I dare say that there are more women working specific kinds of projects than men. You could characterize those projects as "female gaze" if you liked, but then you'd have to allow that men can do it too which seems unlikely. Given the wildly incoherent framing "gaze" has in contemporary theory anything is possible, but I suspect that many of the self-styled thinkers here would balk at this point.

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