23 December 2006

Photography and Popular Empowerment

"The Great Chartist Meeting, 10 April 1848," W.E. Kilburn. Daguerreotype. The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
As part of my thesis back in the day I wrote abut Chartism as a workers movement seeking political redress (in terms of suffrage and pariliamentary representation) for economic hardship and dislocation. There is a terrific but apparently out of print book on the subject by Dorothy Thompson - The Chartists: Popular Politics in Industrial Revolution (Pantheon, 1984). It turns out that not only was this the first mass movement of workers, but also that it was accompanied by photographs. So, when Susan Sontag rightly says that, as a matter of its historical genesis, photography has been intimately implicated with war, it seems that her observation is partial. Photography also seems to be intimately implicated in the struggle for popular empowerment - at least it would be interesting to explore that thesis. As a first step I recommend an essay by Christian Nold "Legible Mob." In Making Things Public. Ed. Bruno Latour & Peter Weibel. (MIT Press, 2005). This vollume is huge (1000 pages) and a bit difficult to grasp (physically and intellectually) but it is intriguing. In his essay Nold talks not just about the image shown here, but about the (usually contested) contemporary practice of estimating the size "crowds" at political protests and the ways various parties to such debates use photography for that purpose. (For recent examples see this post and this one too.)



Anonymous Anonymous said...

for some reason, this post made me think of the way that photography was used in the whole westward expansion/manifest movement. like the images of william h. jackson, and other USGS survey folks.

25 December, 2006 11:55  

Post a Comment

<< Home