Ideology of the Photographs: Thinking with Sontag and Butler Essay

Ideology of the Photographs: Thinking with Sontag and Butler Essay

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When I considered at first to discuss the role of photography and frame as evidence and their limitations, keeping in mind Butler’s argument regarding the visual modes of regulation of reality, the first problem that came up before me was: would it be something futile and an imposition of meaning on something which is by nature to be seen? But Butler’s claim regarding the way suffering is presented to us through the framing of reality in a certain way – for example, “embedded reporting” and our ethical response to it – prompted me to address certain questions involving the frame and its role in establishing or not establishing legal, political and ethical responsibility.
Since the beginning of civilisation the question can art have the capacity to transform the world politically and morally has invariably haunted the philosophers and social scientists alike. This paper makes an attempt to address two different but interrelated questions in the light of photography by primarily focusing on Abu Ghraib pictures. First, I intend to look critically at Butler’s claim that framing of reality in a certain way imposes constraints on what can be heard, seen and read during the times of war. And second, I propose to consider the various ways in which the relationship between photography and ethical responsiveness can be explored by invoking the idea of face propounded by Levinas in one of his interviews.
Butler in “Torture and the Ethics of Photography” is largely concerned with how our understanding of perceptible reality and our response to the suffering of others are controlled by military and governmental authorities, who by allowing “embedded reporting”, that is, to allow the journalists and photographers to report only from the persp...


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...s At The College De France: 1975-76. Eds. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana. Trans. David Macy. Intro. Arnold I. Davidson. New York: Picador P, 2003. Print.
(6) Macherey, Pierre. A Theory of Literary Production. London: Routledge, 1966. Print.
(7) Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Rosetta Books LLC, 1973, 4. Print.
(8) Sontag, Susan. “Regarding the Torture of Others”. New York Times, May 23, 2004. Web.
(9) Sontag, Susan. Regarding the pain of others. New York: Picador, 2003, 89. Print.
(10) Standard Operating Procedure. Dir. Eroll Morris. Sony Pictures Classics, 2008. Film.
(11) Unthinkable. Dir. Gregor Jordon. Perf. Michael Sheen. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2010. Film.
(12) Wright, Tamra. Trans. Benjamin, Andrew and Right Tamara. The Provocation of Levinas. “The Paradox of Morality: an interview with Levinas. London: Routledge, 1988. Print.

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