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07 October 2013


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Great article, John - I followed that twitter conversation with great interest. So much to say to this topic but I'm glad you threw in bell hooks into the mix. Thank you for that!

"Democratization" is a problematic term, because it means different things to different people, and the twitter thread definitely foregrounded that. "Democratic" never meant "egalitarian", not even in ancient Greece. The decisions re. who was eligible to participate in a democracy were never based on equal or unbiased access.

Beyond who can "make images", who has access to the results (and to what degree), one cannot have this discussion without bringing issues of agency and representation into this conversation. The ability to control one's own narrative is often overlooked, but is perhaps more pivotal in this day and age than ever before.

@Zun Lee

Good points. I agree with most of them and think bell hooks would, too.

"Democratic" indeed has many meanings. But, one thing we can be sure of, it's never absolute, never complete, and always connected to struggle.


Thanks again for posting, it's a conversation we need to have more often, and the unfortunate Alex Garcia example is an appropriate illustration of why.

Not really sure why you link to that Stan Banos piece at the end. His critique is straight from the kind of Sontagian polemic you found annoying in that civil war essay, and his knowledge of the history of the photographic technique under debate is sketchy to say the least (apparently he never heard of Walker Evans "Subway" or the time Art Shay's got sued for libel). The way he wants us to talk about representation is certainly not going to help someone like Alex Garcia or anyone else dealing with the problems inherent in an assignment of that nature.

Which isn't to say the Tribune essay isn't without problems, but Stan Banos's post misses the mark.

Why Sontag's flawed diatribe On Photography has held such sway is beyond me. Why the view points of minority writers on the subject remain largely unknown- well, no great mystery there...

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