Recall, reader if ever in the mountains a mist has
caught you, through which you could not see except
as moles do through skin …
ARGUMENT: THE RELEASE FROM THE BODILY EGO
Many recent studies on visual culture highlight the representation of the body in
photography as a signifier of social constructions. Photography however has always played an
important part in the construction of the subject, a perspective that I suggest in what follows,
one that combines analytical concepts with aspects of the phenomenology of perception,
indispensable for the understanding of art works and of our relation to them.
By contrast with the overexposure of the body in commercial photography,
photographers in the art field today represent the body as a visual metaphor for configurations
of interiority engaged in subject construction. Their insistence on formal aspects (of
composition and technique) displaces the focus from the physical to the psychic body so as to
“capture” unstable phenomena of change, of conflict in the subject’s relation to time. In Joyce
Tenneson’s photographs ordinary referents are obliterated to liberate space for other dimensions
* This paper is an abridged and adapted version of a chapter in an unpublished manuscript
devoted to photography, aging, and subject construction, entitled Touching Surfaces:
Photography and the Fabric of the Subject, in Time
1 This Dante fragment coming from Charles Singleton’s prose version of the Comedy
seems to me evocative of the « misty » visual effect in Tenneson’s photographs, and also of her
placing the lens of the camera much like a mole through the skin, to look at the human body
from an interstice, as it were, between the inside...
... middle of paper ...
... Collector’s Photography Magazine. June, 1987.
FREUD, Sigmund. The Ego and the Id. The Standard Edition London: Hogarth Press & The
Institute od Psychoanalysis, 1953-1974, vol. XIX.
GLISSANT, Edouard. Poétique de la relation. Poétique III. Paris: Gallimard, 1990.
GOLDBERG, Vicki. “Unwritten Myths.” Preface to Transformations.
MERRILL, James. “Divine Poem,” in Recitative. Prose by James Merrill. San Francisco:
North Point Press, 1986.
RICHIR, Marc. Le Corps. Essai sur l’intériorité. Paris: Hatier, 1993.
WINNICOTT, D.W. “Ego Distortion in Terms of True and False Self,” (1960). The
Maturational Process and Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional
Development. London: Hogarth Press & The Insititute of Psychoanalysis, 1965.
WOLLHEIM, Richard. “The Bodily Ego,” The Mind and Its Depths. Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard Univeristy Press, 1993.
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