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1 The Traffic in Photographs Author(s): Allan Sekula Source: Art Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1, Photography and the Scholar/Critic (Spring, 1981), pp Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: Accessed: 11/08/ :39 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact College Art Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Art Journal.

2 Allan Sekula The Traffc in Photographs Photographer/author Allan Sekula presently teaches at Ohio State University. I. Introduction: Between Aestheti- discourse exerts a force that is simulta- tween faith in the objective powers of the cism and Scientism neously material and symbolic, inextrica- machine and a belief in the subjective, How can we work towards an active, bly linking language and power. Above imaginative capabilities of the artist. In critical understanding of the prevailing all, in momentarily isolating this histori- persistently arguing for the harmonious conventions of representation, particu- cally specific ideology and practice of coexistence of optical truths and visual larly those surrounding photography? The representation we shouldn't forget that it pleasures, in yoking a positivist scientism discourse that surrounds photography gives concrete form to-thus lending both with a romantic metaphysics, photographspeaks paradoxically of discipline and truth and pleasure to-other discursively ic discourse has attempted to bridge the freedom, of rigorous truths and unleashed borne ideologies: of "the family," of "sex- philosophical and institutional separation pleasures. Here then, at least by virtue of a uality," of "consumption" and "produc- of scientific and artistic practices that has need to contain the tensions inherent in this tion," of "government," of "technology," characterized bourgeoisociety since the paradox, is the site of a certain shell game, of "nature," of "communications," of late eighteenth century. The defenders of a certain dance, even a certain politics. In "history," and so on. Herein lies a major photography have both confirmed and effect, we are invited to dance between aspect of the affiliation of photography with rebelled against the Kantian cleavage of photographic truths and photographic power. And as in all culture that grows from epistemology and aesthetics; some argue pleasures with very little awareness of the a system of oppressions, the discourses for truth, some for pleasure, and most for floorboards and muscles that make this that carry the greater force in everyday life both, usually out of opposite sides of the seemingly effortless movement possible. are those that emanate from power, that mouth. (And a third voice, usually affili- By discourse, then, I mean the forceful give voice to an institutional authority. For ated with liberalism, sporadically argues play of tacit beliefs and formal conven- us, today, these affirmative and supervisory for an ethical dimension to photographic tions that situates us, as social beings, in voices speak primarily for capital, and meaning. This argument attempts to fuse various responsive and responsible atti- subordinately for the state. This essay is a the separated spheres of fact and value, tudes to the semiotic workings of photog- practical search for internal inconsisten- to graft a usually reformist morality onto raphy. In itself constrained, determined cies, and thus for some of the weaknesses empiricism.) by, and contributing to "larger" cultural, in this linkage of language and power. This philosophical shell game is evipolitical, and economic forces, this dis- Photography is haunted by two chat- dence of a sustained crisis at the very course both legitimates and directs the tering ghosts: that of bourgeoiscience center of bourgeois culture, a crisis rooted multiple flows of the traffic in photographs. and that of bourgeois art. The first goes in the emergence of science and technol- It quietly manages and constrains our on about the truth of appearances, about ogy as seemingly autonomous productive abilities to produce and consume photo- the world reduced to a positivensemble forces. Bourgeois culture has had to congraphic imagery, while often encouraging, of facts, to a constellation of knowable tend with the threat and the promise of especially in its most publicized and glam- and possessable obects. The second spec- the machine, which it continues both to orous contemporary variants, an appar- ter has the historical mission of apologiz- resist and embrace.2 The fragmentary and ently limitless semiotic freedom, a time- ing for and redeeming the atrocities com- mechanically derived photographic image less dimension of aesthetic appreciation. mitted by the subservient-and more than is central to this attitude of crisis and Encoded in academic and "popular" texts, spectral-hand of science. This second ambivalence; the embracing issue is the in books, newspapers, magazines, in insti- specter offers us a reconstructed subject nature of work and creativity under capitutional and commercial displays, in the in the luminous person of the artist. Thus, talism. Above all else, the ideological design of photographic equipment, in from 1839 onward, affirmative commen- force of photographic art in modern socischooling, in everyday social rituals, and taries on photography have engaged in a ety may lie in the apparent reconciliation -through the workings of these contexts comic, shuffling dance between techno- of human creativenergies with a scien- -within photographs themselves, this logical determinism and auteurism, be- tifically guided process of mechanization, Spring

3 suggesting that despite the modern indus- active, the outcome of a desire to seize a sures exerted from the aggressive centers trial division of labor, and specifically small area of creative autonomy from a of finance and trade. These forces cause despite the industrialization of cultural tainted, instrumentalized medium, a me- local economies and cultures to lose much work, despite the historical obsolescence, dium that had demonstrated repeatedly of their self-sufficiency, their manner of marginalization, and degradation of arti- its complicity with the forces of industri- being tied by necessity and tradition to a sanal and manual modes of representa- alism. Thus the free play of metaphorical specific local ecology. This process of tion, the category of the artist lives on in associations was implicitly contrasted to global colonization, initially demanding the exercise of apurely mental, imagina- the slavish metonymy of both instrumental the outright conquest and extermination tive command over the camera.3 realism and the sentimental realism of or pacification of native peoples, began But during the second half of the nine- late nineteenth-century family photogra- in earnest in the sixteenth century, a teenth century, a fundamental tension phy. With symbolism, the ultimate goal of period of expanding mercantile capitaldeveloped between uses of photography abstraction also looms, but in metaphysi- ism. In the late twentieth century this that fulfill a bourgeois conception of the cal and spiritualist rather than positivist process continues in a fashion more inself and uses that seek to establish and guise. But both moder science and mod- tensive than extensive, as modern capitaldelimit the terrain of the other. Thus ernist art tend to end up worshiping in ism encounters national political insurevery work of photographic art has its floating cathedrals of formal, abstract, rections throughout the colonized world lurking, objectifying inverse in the ar- mathematical relations and "laws." Per- and attempts to fortify its position against chives of the police. To the extent that haps the fundamental question to be asked a crisis that is simultaneously political, bourgeoisociety depends on the system- is this: can traditional photographic rep- economic, and ecological, a crisis that is atic defense of property relations, to the resentation, whether symbolist or realist internal as well as external. Despite these extenthathe legal basis of the self lies in in its dominant formal rhetoric, transcend changes, a common logic of capital accuproperty rights, every proper portrait of a the pervasive logic of the commodity form, mulation links, for example, the European "man of genius" made by a "man of the exchange abstraction that haunts the slave trade in west Africa in the seventeenth genius" has its counterpart in a mug culture of capitalism. Despite its origins and eighteenth centuries to the late twenshot. Both attempts are motivated by an in a radical refusal of instrumental mean- tieth century electronics sweatshops operuneasy belief in the category of the indi- ing, symbolism appears to have been ab- ated by American multinationals Singavidual. Thus also, every romantic land- sorbed by mass culture, enlisted in the pore and Malaysia. And today, established scape finds its deadly echo in the aerial spectacle that gives imaginary flesh to the as well as recently insurgent socialist view of a targeted terrain. And to the abstract regime of commodity exchange.4 economies are increasingly forced to adextent that modern sexuality has been No theory of photography can fail to just to the pressures of a global system of invented and channeled by organized deal with the hidden unity of these ex- currency dominated by these large multimedicine, every eroticized view of the tremes of photographic practice without national enterprises of the West.5 body bears a covert relation to the clinical lapsing into mere cultural promotion, What are we to make, then, of the oftdepiction of anatomy. into the intellectual background music repeated claim that photography consti- With the rise of the modern social that welcomes photography into the shop- tutes a "universal language?" Almost from sciences, a regularized flow of symbolic ping mall of a bureaucratically adminis to the present, this honorific has and material power is engineered between tered high culture that has, in the late been expansively and repetitively voiced fully-human subject and less-than-fully- capitalist period, become increasingly in- by photographers, intellectuals, journalhuman object along vectors of race, sex, distinguishable from mass culture in its ists, cultural impressarios, and advertising and class. The social-scientistic appropri- structural dependence on forms of pub- copy writers. Need I even cite examples? ation of photography led to a genre I licity and stardom. The goals of a critical The very ubiquity of this cliche has lent it would call instrumental realism, repre- theory of photography ought, ultimately, a commonsensical armor that deflects sentational projects devoted to new tech- to involve the practical, to help point the serious critical questions. The "universal niques of social diagnosis and control, to way to a radical, reinvented cultural prac- language" myth seems so central, so full the systematic naming, categorization, and tice. Other more powerful challenges to of social implications, that I'd like to isolation of an otherness thoughto be the order of monopoly capitalism need to trace it as it surfaced and resurfaced at determined by biology and manifested be discovered and invented, resistances three different historical conjunctures. through the "language" of the body itself. that unite culture and politics. Neo-sym- An initial qualification seems important Early anthropological, criminological, and bolist revolts are not enough, nor is a here. The claim for semantic universality psychiatric photography, as well as motion purely instrumental conception of politics. depends on a more fundamental conceit: study photography used somewhat later This essay is an attempt to pose questions the belief that photography constitutes a in the scientific analysis and management that I take to be only preliminary, but language in its own right. Photography, of the labor process, constitutes an ambi- necessary, steps in that direction. however, is not an independent or autontious attempto link optical empiricism omous language system, but depends on with abstract, statistical truth, to move II. Universal Language larger discursive conditions, invariably from the specificity of the body to abstract, It goes almost without saying that photog- including those established by the system mathematical laws of huma nature. Thus raphy emerged and proliferated as a mode of verbal-written language. Photographic photography was hitched to the locomo- of communication within the larger con- meaning is always a hybrid construction, tive of positivism. text of a developing capitalist world order. the outcome of an interplay of iconic, Consider for a momenthe symbolist No previous economy constituted a world graphic, and narrative conventions. Decult of metaphor, so central to the rhetoric order in the same sense. Inherently ex- spite a certain fugitive moment of semantic of emergent avant-garde art photography pansionist, capitalism seeks ultimately to and formal autonomy-the Holy Grail of in the United States in the first quarter of unify the globe in a single economic sys- most modernist analytic criticism-the this century. In its attempt to establish the tem of commodity production and ex- photograph is invariably accompanied by, free-floating metaphorical play, or equiv- change. Even tribal and feudal economies and situated within, an overt or covert alence, of signifiers, this symbolist-influ- at the periphery of the capitalist system text. Even at the level of the artificially enced photography was fundamentally re- are drastically transformed by the pres- "isolated" image, photographic significa- 16 ArtJounal

4 tion is exercised in terms of pictorial derived egalitarianism lurks a vision of this immense work successfully... These conventions that are never "purely" pho- the relentless imposition of a new peda- designs will excel the works of the most tographic. After all, the dominant spatial gogical power. accomplished painters, in fidelity of detail code in the Western pictorial tradition is Consider also a related passage from and true reproduction of atmosphere. Since still that of linear perspective, institution- one of the central ideological documents the invention follows the laws of geometry, alized in the fifteenth and sixteenth cen- of the early history of photography, the it will be possible to re-establish with the aid turies. Having made this point, only in report on the daguerreotype given by the of a small number of given factors the exact passing and only too briefly, suppose we physicist and left-republican representa- size of the highest points of the most inaccesexamine what is necessarily the dependent tive Francois Arago to his colleagues in sible structures. 10 clause, a clause anchored in the dubious the French Chamber of Deputies. This conception of a "photographic language." report was published along with the texts In this rather marked example of what My first example consists of two texts of related speeches by the chemist Gay- Edward Said has termed "Orientalist" that constituted part of the initial euphoric Lussac and the interior minister Dfchatel discourse, a "learned" Occident colonizes chorus that welcomed and promoted the in the numerous editions in many lan- an East that has either always lacked or invention of photography in In read- guages of Daguerre's instruction manual. has lost all memory of learning. ' A seeming these, we'll move backwards, as it As is well known, Arago argued for the ingly neutral, mathematical objectivism were, from the frontiers of photography's award of a state pension to Daguerre for retrieves, measures, and preserves the early proliferation to the ceremonial site his "work of genius"; this purchase would artifacts of an Orienthat has "greedily" of invention, tracing a kind of reverse then be offered "generously to the entire squandered its own heritage. In a sense, geographical movement within the same world." Not without a certain amount of Arago's argument here is overdetermined: period of emergence. maneuvering (involving the covert shunt- France, a most civilized nation, a nation Early in 1840, a glowing newspaper ing aside of photographic research by aware of its historical mission, must not account of the daguerreotype (mistrans- Hippolyte Bayard and the more overt down- fail to preserve and nurture its own invenlated understandably enough as the "da- playing of Nicephore Niepce's contribu- tions. In effect, Arago'speech conflates guerreolite") was published in Cincinnati, tion to the Niepce-Daguerre collabora- photography-as-an-end and photography- Ohio. Cincinnati, a busy center for river- tion), Arago established the originality of as-a-means. Thishouldn't be at all surprisborne shipping in what was then the Daguerre's invention.8 Arago also empha- ing, given the powerful tendency of bourwestern United States, would soon support sized the extraordinary efficiency of the geois thought to collapse all teleology into one of the more ornate and culturally invention-its capacity to accelerate the the sheer, ponderous immanence of techpretentious of American photographic process of representation-and the de- nological development. Rational progress portrait establishments, Ball's Daguerrian monstrable utility of the new medium for becomes a matter of the increasingly quan- Gallery of the West.6 Here is a fragment of both art and science. Thus the report's titative refinement of technical means; the what was undoubtedly the first local an- principal ideological service was to fuse only positive transformations are those that nouncement of the novel invention which the authority of the state with that of the stem from orderly technical innovations was soon to blossom into the very embod- individual author-the individuated sub- -hence Arago's emphasis on the coniment of Culture: "Its perfection is unap- ject of invention. quest of vandalism, greed, and ignorance proachable by human hand and its truth While genius and the parliamentary- through speed and the laws of geometry. raises it above all language, painting or monarchic state bureaucracy of Louis- In a very different historical context poetry. It is the first universal language Philippe are broughtogether within the -that of the last crisis-ridden years of addressing itself to all who possess vision, larger ideological context of a unified Weimar Germany-a text appeared that and in characters alike understood in the technical and cultural progressivism, the is reminiscent of both Arago's refined courts of civilization and the hut of the report also touches on France's colonial promotion and the hyperbolic newspaper savage. The pictorial language of Mexico, enterprises and specifically upon the ar- prophecy from Ohio. August Sander, that the hieroglyphics of Egypt are now super- chival chores of the "zealous and famous rigorously and comprehensively sociologseded by reality.7 scholars and artists attached to the army istic portraitist of the German people, I find it striking thathis account glides of the Orient."9 Here is the earliest written delivered a radio talk in 1931 entitled from the initial trumpeting of a triumph fantasy of a collision between photography "Photography as a Universal Language." over "all language," presumably including and hieroglyphics, a fantasy that resur- The talk, the fifth in a series by Sander, all previous European cultural achieve- faced six months later in Ohio: stresses that a liberal, enlightened, and ments, to the celebration of a victorious even socially critical pedagogy might be encounter with "primitive" and archeo- While these pictures are exhibited to you, achieved by the proper use of photologically remote pictographic conventions, everyone will imagine the extraordinary ad- graphic means. Thus Sander's emphasis rendering these already extinct languages vantages which could have been derived is less on the pictorial archive anticipated rather redundantly "obsolete." This opti- from so exact and rapid a means of repro- by Arago in 1839 than on a global mode mistic hymn to progress conceals a fear duction during the expedition to Egypt; of communication that would hurdle barof the past. For the unconscious that everybody will realize that had we had pho- riers of illiteracy and language difference. resides within this text, dead languages tography in 1798 we would possess today But at the same time, Sander echoes the and cultures may well be pregnant with faithful pictorial records of that which the scientistic notions of photographic truth the threat of rebirth. Like zombies, they learned world is forever deprived by the that made their initial authoritative apmust be killed again and embalmed by a greed of the Arabs and the vandalism of pearance in Arago's report: "more perfect union" of sign and referent, certain travelers. a union that delivers "reality" itself with- To copy the millions of hieroglyphics Today with photography we can communiout the mediation of hand or tongue. This which cover even the exterior of the great cate our thoughts, conceptions, and realities, new mechanical language, by its very close- monuments of Thebes, Memphis, Karnak, to all the people on the earth; if we add the ness to nature, will speak in civilizing and others would require decades of time date of the year we have the power to fix the tones to previously unteachable "savages." and legions of draughtsmen. By daguerreo- history of the world... Behind the rhetoric of technologically type one person would suffice to accomplish Even the most isolated Bushman could Spring

5 understand a photograph of the heavens- Doblin, in his preface to Sander's Antlitz violating the aesthetic coherence and whether it showed the sun or the moon or the der Zeit, described as a project method- semantic ambiguity of the traditional porconstellations. In biology, in the animal and ologically analogous to medical science, trait form. Despite his scientistic rhetoric, plant world, the photograph as picture lan- thereby collapsing history and sociology his portraits never achieve the "precision" guage can communicate without the help of into social-anatomy: and "exactitude" so desired by physiognosound. Buthe field in which photography has mists of all stripes. Sander's commitment so great a power of expression that language You have in front of you a kind of cultural was, in effect, to a sociologically extended can never approach it, is physiognomy history, better, sociology of the last 30 years. variant of formal portraiture. His scientism How to write sociology without writing, but is revealed in the ensemble, in the attempt Perhaps it is understandable that in his presenting photographs instead, photographs to delineate a social anatomy. More than enthusiasm for photographic enlighten- of faces and not national costumes, this is anything else, physiognomy served as a ment Sander led his unseen radio audience whathe photographer accomplished with his telling metaphor for this project. to believe that a Coperican cosmology eyes, his mind, his observations, his knowl- The historical trajectories of physiogand a mechanically rendered Albertian edge and last but not least his considerable nomy, and of the related practices of perspective might constitute transhistori- photographic ability. Only through studying phrenology and anthropometrics, are excal and transcultural discourses: photog- comparative anatomy can we come to an un- tremely complicated and are consistently raphy could deliver the heliocentric and derstanding of nature and the history of the interwoven with the history of photoperspectival truths of the Renaissance to internal organs. In the same way this photog- graphic portraiture. And as was the case any human viewer. rapher has practiced comparative anatomy with photography, these disciplines gave Further, Sander describes photography and therefore found a scientific point of view rise to the same contradictory but conas the truth vehicle for an eclectic array beyond the conventional photographer.15 nected rationales. These techniques for of disciplines, not only astronomy but reading the body'signs seemed to promhistory, biology, zoology, botany, and The echoes of nineteenth-century positiv- ise both egalitarian and authoritarian rephysiognomy (and clearly the list is not ism and its Enlightenment antecedents are sults. At the one extreme, the more liberal meanto be exhaustive). Two paragraphs deafening here, as they are in Sander's own apologetic promoted the cultivation of a later, his text seeks to name the source of implicit hierarchy of knowledge. The grim common human understanding of the the encyclopedic power to convey virtually master-voice is that of August Comte's sys- language of the body: all of humanity was all the world's knowledges: "No language tematic and profoundly influential efforto to be both subject and object of this new on earth speaks as comprehensively as invent sociology (or"social physics," as he egalitarian discourse. At the other extreme photography, always providing that we initially labeled the new discipline) on the -and this was certainly the dominant follow the chemical and optic and physical model of the physical sciences, in his Cours tendency in actual social practice-a path to demonstrable truth, and under- dephilosophie positive of specialized way of knowledge was openly stand physiognomy. Of course you have Physiognomy predates and partially harnessed to the new strategies of social to have decided whether you will serve anticipates positivism. A number of social channeling and control that characterized culture or the marketplace."13 In oppos- scientific disciplines absorbed physiog- the mental asylum, the penitentiary, and ing photographic truth to commercial nomic method as a means of implementing eventually the factory employment office. values, and in regarding photography as positivist theory during the nineteenth Unlike the egalitarian mode, these latter "a special discipline with special laws century. This practice continued into the projects drew an unmistakable line beand its own specialanguage,"'4 Sander twentieth century and, despite a certain tween the professional reader of the is assuming an uncompromisingly mod- decline in scientific legitimacy, took on body's signs-the psychiatrist, physioloernist stance. This position is not without an especially charged aspect in the social gist, criminologist, or industrial psycholits contradictions. Thus, on the one hand environment of Weimar Germany. Sander ogist-and the "diseased,""deviant," Sander claims that photography constitutes shared the then still common belief- or "biologically inferior" object of cure, a "language" that is both autonomous which dated back at least as far asjohann reform, or discipline. and universal; on the other, photography Caspar Lavater's Physiognomische Frag- August Sander stood to the liberal side is subsumed within the logical order of mente of that the body, espe- of positivism in his faith in a universal the natural sciences. The "laws" that are cially the face and head, bore the outward pedagogy. Yet like positivists in general, "special" to photography turn out to be signs of inner character. Lavater himself he was insensitive to the epistemological those of chemistry and optics. From this had first suggested that this "original differences between peoples and cultures. subordinate position photography func- language of Nature, written on the face of Difference would seem to exist only on tions as the vehicle for a scientific peda- Man" could be deciphered by a rigorous gogy. For Arago, photography is a means physiognomic science. 7 the surface; all peoples share the same The "science" modes of perception and cognition, as of aggressively acquiring the world's truth; proceeded by means of an analytic isolation well as the same natural bodily codes of for Sander, photography benignly dissem- of the anatomic features of the head and expression. For nineteenth-century posiinates these truths to a global audience. face-forehead, eyes, ears, nose, chin, and tivism, anthropological difference became Although the emphasis in the first instance so on-and the assignment of a signifi- quantitative rather than qualitative. This is on acquisition, and in the second on cance to each. "Character" was judged reduction opened the door to one of the distribution, both projects are fundamen- through a concatenation of these readings. principal justifications of social Darwinism. tally rooted in a shared epistemology. Of course Sander never proffered so Inferiority could presumably be measured This epistemology combines a faith in the vigorous a mode of physiognomical inter- and located on a continuous calibrated universality of the natural sciences and a pretation for his photographs. He never scale. Armed with calipers, scalpel, and belief in the transparency of representation. suggested that each fragment of facial camera, scientists sought to prove the For Sander, physiognomy was perhaps anatomy be isolated through the kind of absence of a governing intellect in crimithe highest of the human sciences, which pictorial surgery sketched by Lavater and nals, the insane, women, workers, and are in turn merely extensions of natural practiced by his myriadisciples. I suspect nonwhite people.'8 Here again, one linscientific method. Physiognomic empiri- Sander wanted to envelop his project in eage stretches back beyond positivism cism serves as the basis for what Alfred the legitimating aura of science without and social Darwinism to the benign figure 18 ArtJournal

6 of Lavater, who proclaimed both the "uni- individual types to the farthest Left, we ages. The invention of photography gave versality of physiognomic discernments" would already have a partial physiognomic visual communication its most simple, and defined a "humanature" fundamen- image of the nation."22 Just as a picture direct, universal language."24 Steichen tally constituted by a variable mixture of stands for its referent, so parliament stands went on to tout the success of his Museum "animal, moral, and intellectual life."'9 for a nation. In effect, Sander regards of Modern Art exhibition, The Family of But Sander, in contrasto his nine- parliament as a picture in itself, a synec- Man, which by 1960 had been seen by teenth-century predecessors, refused to dochic sample of the national whole. This "some seven million people in the twentylink his belief in physiognomic science to conflation of the mythologies of pictorial eight countries." He continued, introducbiological determinism. He organized his and political representation may well be ing a crude tautological psychologism portraiture in terms of a social, rather fundamental to the public discourse of into his view of photographic discourse: than a racial, typology. As Anne Halley liberalism. Sander, unlike Bertolt Brecht "The audiences not only understand this has noted in a perceptivessay on the or the left-wing photomontagist John visual presentation, they also participate photographer, herein lay the most imme- Heartfield, believed that political relations in it, and identify themselves with the diate difference between Sander's physi- were evident on the surface of things.23 images, as if in corroboration of the words ognomic project and that of Nazi race Political revelation was a matter of careful of ajapanese poet, 'When you look into a "theorists" like Hans F.K. Ginther who sampling for Sander, his project shares mirror, you do not see your reflection, deployed physiognomic readings of pho- the logic of the opinion poll. In this, your reflection sees you.' "25 Steichen, in tographic portraits to establish both the Sander stands in the mainstream of liberal this moment of fondness for Zen wisdom, biological superiority of the Nordic "race" thinking on the nature of journalism and understandably neglected to mention that and the categorical otherness of the Jews.20 social documentation; he shares both the the Japanese recipients of the exhibition The very universalism of Sander's argu- epistemology and the politics that accom- insisted on the inclusion of a large photoment for photographic and physiognomic pany bourgeois realism. The deceptively graphic mural depicting the victims of the truth may well have been an indirect and clear waters of this mainstream flow from atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasomewhat naive attempto respond to the confluence of two deep ideological saki, thus resisting the ahistoricity of the the racial particularism of the Nazis, which currents. One current defendscience as photo essay's argument. "scientifically" legitimated genocide and the privileged representation of the real, The Family of Man, first exhibited in imperialism. as the ultimate source of social truth. The 1955, may well be the epitome of Ameri- The conflict between Sander and Nazi other current defends parliamentary pol- can cold war liberalism, with Steichen Rassentheorie, which culminated the itics as the representation of a pluralistic playing cultural attache to Adlai Stevenson, gestapo's destruction of the plates for popular desire, as the ultimate source of the would-be good cop of U.S. foreign Antlitz der Zeit in 1934, is well remem- social good. policy, promoting a benign view of an bered and celebrated by liberal historians Despite Sander's tendency to collapse American world order stabilized by the of photography. One is tempted to empha- politics into a physiognomic typology, he rule of international law. The Family of size a contrast between Sander's "good" never loses sight of the political arena as Man universalizes the bourgeois nuclear physiognomic science and the "bad" one of conflict and struggle. And yet, family, suggesting a globalized, utopian physiognomic science of Giinther and his viewed as a whole, Sander's compendium family album, a family romance imposed ilk, without challenging the positivist un- of portraits from the Weimar period and on every corner of the earth. The family derpinnings of both projects. That is, earlier possess a haunting-and ideologi- serves as a metaphor also for a system of what is less apparent is that Sander, in his cally limiting-synchronicity for the con- international discipline and harmony. In "scientific" liberalism, shared aspects of temporary viewer. One witnesses a kind the foreign showings of the exhibition, the same general positivist outlook that of false stasis, the appearance of a tense arranged by the United States Information was incorporated into the fascist project structural equilibrium of social forces. Agency and cosponsoring corporations of domination. But in this, Sander was Today, Sander's project suggests a neatly like Coca-Cola, the discourse was expliclittle different from other social democrats arranged chessboard that was about to itly that of American multinational capital of his time. The larger questions that be dashed to the floor by brown-shirted and government-the new global manloom here concern the continuities be- thugs. But despite Sander's and Doblin's agement team-cloaked in the familiar tween fascist, liberal capitalist, social claims to the contrary, this project was and musty garb of patriarchy. Nelson democratic, and bureaucratic socialist not then and is not now an adequate Rockefeller, who had served as president governments as modes of administration reading of German social history. of the MoMA board of trustees between that subject social life to the authority of What of an even more ambitious photo and 1953, delivered a preview adan institutionalized scientific expertise.21 graphic project, one that managed not dress that is revealing in terms of its own The politics of social democracy, to only to freeze socialife but also to render father fixation. which Sander subscribed, demand that it invisible? I'm thinking here of that Rockefeller began his remarks in an government be legitimated on the basis of celebrated event in American postwar cul- appropriately internationalist vein, sugformal representation. Despite the sense ture, the exhibition The Family of Man. gesting that the exhibition created "a of impending collapse, of crisis-level un- Almost thirty years after Sander's radio sense of kinship with all mankind." He employment, and imminent world war talk, the photographer Edward Steichen, went on to say that "there is a second conveyed by Sander in his radio speech who was director of the photography de- message to be read from this profession of 1931, he sustains a curiously inflected partment at the Museum of Modern Art, of Edward Steichen's faith. It demonstrates faith in the representativeness of bour- voiced similarly catholic sentiments in an that the essential unity of human experigeois parliamentary government: "The article published in 1960 in Daedalus, ence, attitude and emotion are perfectly historical image will become even clearer the journal of the American Academy of communicable through the medium of if we join together pictures typical of the Arts and Sciences. Despite the erudite pictures. The solicitous eye of the Bantu many different groups that make up human forum, the argument is simplistic, much father, resting upon the son who is learnsociety. For instance, we might consider more so than anything Sander ever claimed. ing to throw his primitive spear in search a nation's parliament. If we began with "Long before the birth of a word language of food, is the eye of every father, whether the Right Wing and moved across the the caveman communicated by visual im- in Montreal, Paris, or in Tokyo."26 For Spring

7 Rockefeller, social life begins with fathers served to legitimate a family-based con- the neocolonial peripheries with the imteaching sons to survive in a Hobbesian sumerism. If nothing else, The Family of perial center. American culture of both world; all authority can be metaphorically Man was a massive promotion for family elite and mass varieties was being proequated with this primary relationship. photography, as well as a celebration of moted as more universal than that of the A close textual reading of The Family the power of the mass media to represent Soviet Union. ofman would indicate that it moves from the whole world in familiar and intimate A brief note on the cultural politics of the celebration of patriarchal authority- forms.28 the cold war might be valuable here. which finds its highest embodiment in the The Family ofman, originating the Nelson Rockefeller, who welcomed The United Nations-to the final construction Museum of Modern Art but utilizing a Family of Man with the characteristic of an imaginary utopia that resembles mode of architecturally monumentalized exuberance noted above, was the princinothing so much as a protracted state of photo-essayistic showmanship, occupies pal architect of MoMA's International infantile, preoedipal bliss. The best-selling a problematic but ideologically conve- Circulating Exhibitions Program, which book version of the exhibition ends with nient middle position between the con- received a five-year grant from the Rockthe following sequence. First, there ap- ventions of high modernism and those of efeller Brothers' Fund beginning in pears an array of portraits of elderly mass culture. The modernist category of Under the directorship of Porter McCray, couples, mostly peasants or farmers from the solitary author was preserved, but at this program exhibited American vanguard Sicily, Canada, China, Holland, and the the level of editorship. The exhibition art abroad, and, in the words of Russell United States. The glaring exception in simultaneously suggested a family album, Lynes "let it be known especially in Euregard to class is a Sander portrait of a a juried show for photo hobbyists, an rope that America was not the cultural wealthy German landowner and his wife. apotheosis of Life magazine, and the mag- backwater that the Russians during that Each picture is captioned with the re- num opus in Steichen's illustrious career. tense period called 'the cold war' were peated line from Ovid, "We two form a A lot more could be said about The trying to demonstrate that it was."30 Eva multitude." From these presumably ar- Family of Man, particularly about its Cockcroft has convincingly shown that chetypal parent figures we turn the page relation to the domestic sexual politics of this nongovernmental sponsorship was to find a large photograph of the United the cold war and about its exemplary closely allied with CIA efforts to promote Nations General Assembly, accompanied relation to the changing conventions of American high culture abroad while cirby the opening phrases of the U.N. Charter. advertising and mass-circulation picture cumventing the McCarthyist probings of The next page offers a woman's lower magazines in the same period. This will right-wing congressmen who, for exambody, bedecked in flowers and standing have to wait. My main point here is that ple, saw Abstract Expressionism as a in water. The following five pages contain The Family ofman, more than any other manifestation of the international comsmaller photographs of children at play single photographic project, was a mas- munist conspiracy.31 But since the formal throughouthe world, ending with W. sive and ostentatious bureaucratic attempt rhetoric of The Family ofman was that of Eugene Smith's famous photograph of his to universalize photographic discourse. photo-journalistic realism, no antagonism son and daughter walking from darkness Five hundred and three pictures taken of this sort developed; and although a into light in a garden. The final photo- by 273 photographers in 68 countries number of the photographers who congraph in the book is quite literally a were chosen from 2 million solicited sub- tributed pictures to the exhibition were depiction of the oceanic state, a picture missions and organized by a single, illus- or had been affiliated with left parties or by Cedric Wright of churning surf. trious editorial authority into a show that causes, Steichen himself, the grand author A case could also be made for viewing was seen by 9 million citizens in 69 of this massive photo essay, was above The Family of Man as a more-or-less countries in 85 separatexhibitions, and suspicion. Thus The Family of Man was unintentional popularization of the then- into a book that sold at least 4 million directly sponsored by the USIA, and openly dominant school of American sociology, copies by 1978-or so go the statistics embraced by the cosponsoring corpora- Talcott Parsons's structural functional- that pervade all accounts of the exhibition. tions as a valuable marketing and public ism. Parsons's writings on the family cel- The exhibition claims to fuse universal relations tool. The exhibition was intended ebrate the modern nuclear family as the subject and universal object in a single to have an immensepopular appeal, and most advanced and efficient of familiar moment of visual truth and visual pleasure, was more extensively circulated than any forms, principally because the nuclear a single moment of blissful identity. But other MoMA production. Even mediumfamily establishes a clear-cut division of this dream rings hollow, especially when sized cities in the United States, Canada, male and female roles. The male function, we come across the following oxymoronic Europe, Australia, Japan, and the Third in this view, is primarily "instrumental" construction in Carl Sandburg's prologue World received the show. For example, in and oriented towards achievement in the to the book version of the exhibition: India it turned up in Bombay, Agra, New public sphere. The female function is Sandburg describes The Family of Man Delhi, Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Madras, and primarily "expressive" and restricted to as a "multiplication table of living breath- Trivandrum. In South Africa The Family the domestic sphere. Although The Family ing human faces."29 Suddenly, arithmetic of Man traveled to Johannesburg, Capeof Man exhibits a great deal of nostalgia and humanism collide, forced by poetic town, Durban, Pretoria, Windhoek (Southfor the extended family engaged in self- license into an absurd harmony. Here, west Africa), Port Elizabeth, and Uitensufficient agrarian production, the overall yet again, are the twin ghosts that haunt boge. In domestic showings in New York flow of the exhibition's loosely knit nar- the practice of photography: the voice of State alone, the original MoMA exhibition rative traces a generalized family biogra- a reifying technocratic objectivism and was followed by appearances in Utica, phy that adheres to the nuclear model.27 the redemptive voice of a liberal subjec- Corning, Rochester, and Binghamton. The familialism of The Family ofman tivism. The statistics that seek to legitimate Shades of American television, but with functions both metaphorically and in a the exhibition, to demonstrate its value, higher pretensions. quite specific, literal fashion as well. For begin to carry a deeper sense: the truth From my reading of the records of audiences in the advanced capitalist coun- being promoted here is one of enumera- foreign showings, it seems clear that The tries, particularly in the United States, the tion. This is an aestheticized job of global Family ofman tended to appear in politicelebration of the familial sphere as the accounting, a careful cold war effort to cal "hot spots" throughouthe Third exclusive arena of all desire and pleasure bring about the ideological alignment of World. I quote from a United States Infor- 20 Art Journal

8 mation Agency memo concerning the ex- cold war extravaganza: a corporate com- to the minutest details of time and place hibition in Djakarta in 1962: "Th exhibi- mentary on the showing of The Family of delivers these details through an unaction proved to have wide appeal... in Man in Johannesburg in 1958 attempted knowledged, naturalized, epistemological spite of the fact that... the period coin- to link the universalism of the exhibition grid. As the myth of a universal photocided with a circus sponsored by the to the global authority of the commodity: graphic language would have it, photog- Soviet Union, complete with a performing "At the entrance of the hall the large raphy is more natural than naturalanbear. The exhibit was opened with a re- globe of the world encircled by bottles of guage, touching on a common, underlying ception to which members of the most Coca-Cola created a most attractive eye system of desire and understanding closeimportant target groups in Djakarta were catching display and identified our prod- ly tied to the senses. Photography would invited."32 uct with Family of Man sponsorship."35 seem to be a way of knowing the world In a more lyrical vein, Steichen recalled And thus an orbiting soft drink answered directly-this is the scientistic aspect of the Guatemala City showing in his autobi- the technological challenge of sputnik. our faith in the powers of the photographography, A Life in Photography: The Family of Man worked to make a ic image. But photography would also bottled mixture of sugar, water, caramel seem to be a way of feeling the world A notablexperience was reported in Guate- color, and caffeine "humanly interesting" directly, with a kind of prelinguistic, afmala. On the final day of the exhibition, a -to recall Steichen's expressed ambition fective openness of the visual sense-this Sunday, several thousand Indians from the for his advertising work of the late 1920s is the aestheticist aspect of our faith in hills of Guatemala came on foot or muleback and 1930s. In the politicalandscape of the medium. As a symbolic practice, then, to see it. An American visitor said it was like apartheid, characterized by a brutal racial photography constitutes not a universal a religious experience to see these barefoot hierarchy of caloric intake and forced language but a paradoxical yoking of a country people who could not read or write separation of black African families, sugar primitivist, Rousseauian dream, the dream walk silently through the exhibition gravely and familial sentiment were made to com- of romantic naturalism, with an unboundstudying each picture with rapt attention. mingle in the imagination. ed faith in a technological imperative. Regardless of the place, the response was Clearly, both the sexual and interna- The worldliness of photography is the always the same... the people in the tional politics of The Family of Man are outcome, not of any immanent universality audience looked at the pictures and the especially interesting today, in light of the of meaning, but of a project of global people in the pictures looked back at them. headlong return of American politics to domination. The language of the imperial They recognized each other.33 the familialism and interventionism of a centers is imposed, both forcefully and new cold war, both domestic and inter- seductively, upon the peripheries. At the risk of boring some readers with national in scope. The Family ofman is a more statistics, allow me to recall that in virtual guidebook to the collapse of the III. Universal Equivalent 1954, only fourteen months earlier, the political into the familial that so charac- Photography was dreamed of and slowly United States directly supported a coup in terizes the dominant ideological discourse invented under the shadow of a fading Guatemala, overthrowing the democrati- of the contemporary United States. In a European aristocracy; it became practical cally elected government of Jacobo Arbenz, sense, The Family of Man provides a and profitable in the period of the conwho had received 72 percent of the popu- blueprint of sorts for more recent political tinental European revolutions of 1848, lar vote in the 1950 elections. American theater; I'm thinking here of the orches- the period in which class struggle first pilots flew bombing missions during the trations of the Vietnam POW "homecom- took the clear form of an explosive politicoup. When Arbenz took office, 98 per- ing" and the return of the American hos- cal confrontation between bourgeoisie cent of the land in Guatemala was owned tages from Iran. It would be a mistake, and urban proletariat waged againsthe by 142 people, with corporations counted however, not to realize that The Family conflict-ridden backdrop of everyday inas individuals. Arbenz nationalized 200,000 ofman eschewed the bellicosity and rac- dustrial production. Photography prolifacres of unused United Fruit Company ism that accompanies these latter dramas; erated, becoming reproducible and acland, agreeing to pay for the land with in this, it represented the limit of an cessible in the modern sense, during the twenty-five-year bonds, rather than engag- officialiberal discourse in the cold war late nineteenth-century period of transiing in outright expropriation. In establish- era.36 The peaceful world envisioned by tion from competitive capitalism to the ing the terms of payment, the Guatemalan The Family of Man is merely a smoothly financially and industrially consolidated government accepted the United Fruit val- functioning international market econo- monopoly form of capitalist organization. uation of the land at $600,000, which my, in which economic bonds have been By the turn of the century, then, photoghad been claimed for tax purposes. Sud- translated into spuriousentimental ties, raphy stood ready to play a central role in denly United Fruit claimed that the dis- and in which the overt racism appropriate the development of a culture centered on puted land was worth $16 million, and to earlier forms of colonial enterprise the mass marketing of mass-produced approached the U.S. State Department for has been supplanted by the "humanization commodities. assistance. Secretary of State John Foster of the other" so central to the discourse Perhaps more than any other single Dulles, who was both a United Fruit stock- of neocolonialism.37 technical invention of the mid nineteenth holder and a former legal counsel to the Again, what are we to make of the century, photography came to focus the firm, touted the successful invasion and argument that photography constitutes a confidence and fears of an ascendant coup as a "new and glorious chapter in universal language? Implicit in this claim industrial bourgeoisie. This essay is an the already greatradition of the American is the suggestion that photography acts as attempto understand the contradictory States."34 Following the coup the U.S.- a miraculous universal solvent upon the role played by photography within the sponsore dictatorship of Colonel Castillo linguistic barriers between peoples. Visual culture dominated by that class. As we Armas dismantled agrarian reform and culture, having been pushed to an unprec- have seen briefly and will see again, this disenfranchised the 70 percent of the pop- edented level of technical refinement, role combined a coldly rational scientism ulation that could, in Steichen's words, loses specificity, cultural difference is can- with a sentimental and often antirational "neitheread nor write." In this context, celled, and a "common language" pre- pursuit of the beautiful. "visual literacy" takes on a grim meaning. vails on a global scale. Paradoxically, a But my argument here seeks to avoid Finally, my last exhibit concerning this medium that is seen as subtly reponsive simple deterministic conclusions: to sug- Spring

9 gest that the practice of photography is effluvia that are continuously "shed from its referent. For Holmes, quite explicitly, entirely and inseparably bound by capital- the surface of solids."38 Arguing, as was the photograph is akin to money. The ist social relations would be reductive common at the time, that photographs parallel with political economy becomes and undialectical in the extreme. As a are products of the sun's artistry, he coins even more apparent as Holmes continues: social practice photography is no more a the phrase "mirror with a memory,"39 "Matter in large masses must always be "reflection" of capitalist society than a thereby implying that the camera is a fixed and dear; form is cheap and transparticular photograph is a "reflection" wholly passive, reflective, technical ap- portable. We have got hold of the fruit of of its referential object. Conversely, pho- paratus. In this view nature reproduces creation now, and need not trouble ourtography is not a neutral semiotic tech- itself. Thus, while Holmes casually pre- selves with the core. Every conceivable nique, transparently open to both "reac- faces his discussion of photography with object of Nature and Art will soon scale tionary" and "progressive" uses. The a mention of the railroad, the telegraph, off its surface for us."4' issue is much more complicated than and chloroform, it would seem that pho- But we are not simply talking about a either extreme would have us believe. tography constitutes a uniquely privileged global political economy of signs, we are Although I want to argue here that pho- technical invention its refusal or inabil- also invited to imagine an epistemological tography is fundamentally related in its ity to dominate or transform the realm of treasure trove, an encyclopedia organized normative way of depicting the world to nature. Photography would seem to offer according to a global hierarchy of knowlan epistemology and an aesthetics that an inherently preservationist approach to edge and power. Diderot's ghost animates are intrinsic to a system of commodity nature. So far, there is nothing in Holmes's Holmes's Yankee enthusiasm: "The time exchange, as I've suggested before, pho- argument that is not relatively common to will come when a man who wishes to see tography also needs to be understood as what is by now the thoroughly institutional- any object, natural or artificial, will go to a simultaneous threat andpromise in its ized discourse of photographic naturalism. the Imperial, National, or City Stereorelation to the prevailing cultural ambi- But the essay takes a rather bizarre turn graphic Library and call for its skin or tions of a triumphant but wary western as Holmes ventures to speculate about form, as he would for a book at any bourgeoisie of the mid nineteenth century. the future of photography in a conclusion common library."42 How prophetic and The historical context was one of crisis that seems rather prototypical of science typical that an American, writing in an and paradox; to forget this is to risk fiction, even if entirely deadpan in its aggressively expanding republic, should achieving an overly harmonized under- apocalyptic humor: "Form is henceforth invoke the fictitious authority of empire standing of the contradictory material divorcedfrom matter. In fact, matter as in his vision of the future. Finally, Holmes and symbolic forces at work in the devel- a visible object is of no great. use any gets down to brass tacks: "Already a opment of bourgeois culture. longer, except as the mould on which workman has been traveling about the With this warning in mind, I'd like to form is shaped. Give us a few negatives of country with stereographic views of furniturn to an extraordinary text written by a thing worth seeing, taken from different ture, showing his employer's patterns in the American physician, essayist, and poet, points of view, and that is all we want of it. this way, and taking orders for them. This Oliver Wendell Holmes, published in 1859 Pull it down or bur it up, if you please."40 is a mere hint of what is coming before in the Atlantic Monthly. Holmes is in [Holmes's italics] Perhaps it is important long."43 (In fact, by 1850, traveling clock many senses an exemplary, even if unique, to interject that Holmes is discussing the salesmen are known to have carried boxes figure in nineteenth-century New England stereograph apparatus, the most effective of daguerreotypes illustrating their line culture. Furthermore, embodies the of nineteenth-century illusionistic machin- of products.) Holmes's vision of an exoscillating movement between scientism eries in its ability to reconstruct binocular panded system of photographic advertis- and aestheticism that so pervades the vision and thus offer a potent sensation of ing leads to a direct appeal for an exdiscourse of photography. Holmes was three-dimensional depth. (Holmes in- panded economy of images: "And as a both a practical man of science-an ad- vented the hand-held stereo viewer and means of facilitating the formation of vocate of positivism-and a genteel man was an avid collector of stereo views.) public and private stereographic collecof letters-the archetypal Boston Brah- Also, like the dioramand the lantern- tions, there must be arranged a compremin, Autocrat, Poet, and Professor of the slide show, the stereoscope delivered a hensive system of exchanges, so that there Breakfast Table. He was a founding mem- total visual experience: immersed within might grow up something like a universal ber of the American Medical Association the field of the illusion, eyes virtually currency of these banknotes, on promises and, in company with Emerson, Lowell, riveted to the sockets of the machine, the to pay in solid substance, which the sun and Longfellow, a founder of the Atlantic viewer lost all sense of the pasteboard or has engraved for the great Bank of Na- Monthly. Characteristically, Holmes's glass material substrate of the image. ture."44 Note that Holmes, true to the writing veers between surgical metaphors Despite the slight discomfort caused by logic of commodity fetishism, finds the and allusions to the classics. Perhaps the weight of the machine, the experience origin of this moneylike aspect of the there was no American writer who was was one of disembodied vision, vision better prepared, both rhetorically and lacking the illusion photograph, not in human labor, but in a shattering boundary direct "miraculous" agency of Nature. ideologically, to envelop photography in of a frame. Thus the stereo process was Recall Marx's crucial definition of the the web of Culture. particularly liable to give rise to a belief commodity fetish, first published in 1867, Holmes's essay "The Stereoscope and in dematerialized form. in the first volume of Capital: the Stereograph" was one of many opti- Would it be absurd for me to suggest mistic early attempts to both philosophize that Holmes is describing something analo- The definite social relation between men and prognosticate about photography. gous to the capitalist exchange process, themselves... assumes here, for them, the Significantly, English and American physi- whereby exchange values are detached fantastic form of a relation between things. cians seem to have been prominent in from, and exist independently of, the use In order, therefore, to find an analogy we voicing unqualified enthusiasm for the values of commodities? The dominant mustake flight into the misty realm of relipowers of the camera. Holmes, however, metaphor in Holmes's discussion is that gion. There the products of the human brain goes to hyperbolic extremes. Citing Dem- of bourgeois political economy; just as appear as autonomous figures endowed with ocritus, he suggests that photography es- use value is eclipsed by exchange value, a life of their own, which enter into relations tablishes a means of capturing the visual so the photographic sign comes to eclipse both with each other and with the human 22 Art Journal

10 race. So it is in the world of commodities with It is the metaphysician who respiritualizes duced to a "language" that is primitive, the products of men's hands. I call this the the rationalized project of photographic infantile, aggressive-the imaginary disfetishism which attaches itself to the products representation. Thus Holmes in a later course of the machine. The crucial quesof labour as soon as they are produced as essay on photography, speaks of carte- tion remains to be asked: can photogracommodities, and is therefore inseparable de-visite portraits as "the sentimental phy be anything else? End from the production of commodities.45 'greenbacks' of civilization."48 All of this is evidence of a society in which economic For Holmes, photographs stand as the relations appear, as Marx put it, "as "universal equivalent," capable of denot- material relations between persons and ing the quantitative exchangeability of all social relations between things."49 Holmes sights. Just as money is the universal ends his earlier essay with an appropriategauge of exchange value, uniting all the ly idealist inversion of the Promethean world goods in a single system of transac- myth: "a new epoch in the history of tions, so photographs are imagined to human progress dates from the time when reduce all sights to relations of formal He... took a pencil of fire from the hand equivalence. Here, I think, lies one major of the 'angel standing in the sun' and aspect of the origins of the pervasive placed it in the hands of a mortal."50 So formalism that haunts the visual arts of much for bourgeois humanism: Promethe bourgeois epoch. Formalism collects theus is no longer an arrogant rebel but a all the world's images in a single aesthetic grateful recipient of divine favors. And so emporium, tearing them from all contin- technical progress is reconciled with gencies of origin, meaning, and use. theology. Photography, as it was thus con- Holmes is dreaming of this transcendental ceived in mid ninteenth-century America, aesthetic closure, while also entertaining was the vocation of pious accountants. a pragmatic faith in the photograph as a Notes transparent gauge of the real. Like money, IV. Conclusion 1 An earlier, shorter version of this essay the photograph is both a fetishized end in A final anecdote to end this essay, much was published in the Australian Photogitself and a calibrated signifier of a value too long already. Crossing the cavernous raphy Conference Papers, Melbourne, that resides elsewhere, both autonomous main floor of New York's Grand Central I'm grateful to the editors of the and bound to its referential function: Station recently, I looked up to see the Working Papers on Photography, Euan latest installment in a thirty-odd year McGillvray and Matthew Nickson, for the To render comparison of similar objects, or series of monumental, back-illuminated opportunity to presenthe preliminary of any that we may wish to see side by side, dye-transfer transparencies; a picture, version there. easy, there should be a stereographic metre taken low to the wet earth of rural Ireland, 2 In 1790, Kant separated knowledge and or fixed standard of focal length for the a lush vegetable apparition of landscape pleasure in a way that fully anticipated camera lens... In this way the eye can and cottage was suspended above this the bastard status of photography: "If art make the most rapid and exact comparisons. gloomy urban terminal for human traffic. which is adequate to the cognition of a If the "great elm" and Cowthorpe Oak, the With this image-seemingly bigger and possible object performs the actions requi- State-House and Saint Peter's were taken on more illusionistic, even in its stillness, site therefor merely in order to make it the same scale, and looked at with the same than Cinerama-everything that is absent actual, it is mechanical art; but if it has magnifying power, we should compare them is made present. Above: stillness, home, as its immediate design the feeling of withouthe possibility of being misled by hearth, the soil, the remote old country pleasure, it is called aesthetical art." those partialities which might make us tend for many travelers, an affordable or un- Immanuel Kant, Critique ofjudgement, to overrate the indigenous vegetable and the affordable vacation spot for others, a trans.j.h. Bernard, New York, 1951, 148. dome of our native Michel Angelo.46 seductive sight for eyes that must strain A number of textseem relevant to the hurriedly in the gloom to read timetables. question of the photographer as mere In what may be a typically American fash- Below: the city, a site for the purposeful "appendage to the machine." Of specific ion, Holmeseems to be confusing quan- flow of bodies. Accompanying this giant importance is Bernard Edelman's Ownertity with quality, even in modestly suggest- photograph, a caption read, as nearly as I ship of the Image: Elementsfor a Marxist ing the inferiorities of the American can remember: "PHOTOGRAPHY: THE Theory of Law, London, Less directnatural and architectural landscape. More UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE / EASTMAN KODAK ly related, but valuable are Harry Bravergenerally, Holmes shares the pervasive " man's Labor and Monopoly Capital, faith in the mathematical truth of the And what of the universality of this New York, 1974, Alfred Sohn-Rethel's camera. name, Kodak, unknown to any language Intellectual and Manual Labor, London, Oliver Wendell Holmes, like most other until coined in 1888 by George Eastman, 1978, and an essay by Raymond Williams, promoters of photography, manages to inventor of roll film, pioneer in horizontal "The Romantic Artist," in Culture and establish a false discursive unity, shifting and vertical corporate integration, the Society, New York, 1958, schizophrenically from instrumentalism global mass-marketing of consumer goods? 3 I'm grateful to Sally Stein for discussions to aestheticism, from Yankee pragmatism Eastman offered this etymological expla- abouthe relation between scientific manand empiricism to a rather sloppy roman- nation in 1924 inamerican Photography: agement and the development of a mechticism, thus recalling that other related "Philologically, therefore, the word 'kodak' anized visual culture in the early twentiincongruity, Ralph Waldo Emerson's link- is as meaningless as a child's first 'goo.' eth century, and especially for showing age of the "natural fact" and the "spiri- Terse, abrupt to the point of rudeness, me an unpublished essay written in 1980 tual fact."47 The ideological custodians literally bitten off by firm unyielding con- on this issue, "The Graphic Ordering of of photography are forced periodically to sonants at both ends, it snaps like a Desire: Modernization of The Ladies' switch hats, to move from positivisto camera shutter in your face. What more HomeJournal, " Her critimetaphysician with the turn of a phrase. could one ask?"51 And so we are intro- cisms and support were very important. Spring

11 Another friend, Bruce Kaiper, deserves schenkenntniss undmenschenliebe, Leip- surement science over the body, with a thanks for a lucid essay, "The Human zig and Winterthur, feminist inflection that is absent in the Object and Its Capitalist Image," Left 18 I'm preparing an essay that deals with work of Foucault. Curve, no. 5, 1976, 40-60, and for a the relation between physiognomy and 19 Lavater, Essays on Physiognomy, 13. number of conversations this subject. instrumental realism in much greater 20 Anne Halley, "August Sander," Massa- 4 For an earlier discussion of the relation detail. Much of this work revolves around chusetts Review, xix, no. 4, 1978, 663- between symbolist and realist photogra- a study of the two principal schools of 73. See also Robert Kramer, "Historical phy see my "On the Invention of Photo- late nineteenth-century European crimi- Commentary," in August Sander. Photographic Meaning," Artforum, xiii, no. 5, nology, the Positivist School of the Italian graphs of an Epoch, Philadelphia, 1980, 1975, forensic psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso and 11-38, for a discussion of Sander's 5A useful introduction to some of the the Statistical School of the French police relation to physiognomic traditions. cultural implications of an international official Alphonse Bertillon. Lombroso 21 Fascist ideology is overtly metaphysical capitalist economy can be found in Samir advanced the profoundly racist and long- in character, depending large measure Amin's "In Praise of Socialism," in Im- lived notion of an atavistic criminal type, on cults of racial and national superiority perialism and Unequal Development, while Bertillon, applying the social sta- and on the ostentatious display of charis- New York, 1977, In this connec- tistics developed by the Belgian statistician matic authority. Nevertheless, actual tion, a recent and perhapsardonic Adolphe Quetelet in the 1820s and 1830s, functioning of the fascist corporate state remark by Harold Rosenberg comes to soughto identify absolutely the criminal demands the sub rosa exercise of a bumind: "Today, all modes of visual exci- "individuality." Bertillon's method of reaucratic rationalism that is profoundly tation, from Benin idols to East Indian police identification, which linked a series rooted in positivist notions of the comchintz, are both contemporaneous and of anthropometric measurements to a manding role of science and of technical American." (Harold Rosenberg, "The photographic portrait-parle, or "speak- elites. Nazi ideologues felt the need, in Problem of Reality," in American Civi- ing likeness," was the first "scientific" fact, to legitimate the fiihrer cult scienlization: A Portrait from the Twentieth system of police intelligence. Perhaps the tifically. One text in particular is relevant Century, ed. DanielJ. Boorstin, London, most striking example of the quantifica- to our discussion of Sander and physiog- 1972, 305). tion inherent in these searches for the nomy. Alfred Richter in his Unsere Fiihrer 6 See Richard Rudisill, Mirror Image: The absolute, objective truth of the incarcer- im Lichte der Rassenfrage und Charak- Influence of the Daguerreotype on Ameri- ated body is found, not in criminological terologie, Leipzig, 1933, sought to demoncan Society, Albuquerque, 1971, 201. literature, but in the related field of strate the racial ideality and innate polit- 7 "The Daguerreolite," The Daily Chroni- medical psychiatry. ical genius of Adolf Hitler and the host of cle (Cincinnati), 17 January 1840, 2, I would like to cite one example to top party officials by means of handquoted in Rudisill, Mirror Image, 54. emphasize the nature of this thinking. somely lit formal portraits that were ac- 8 See Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, LJ.M. Hugh Welch Diamond, a minor English companied by flattering physiognomical Daguerre: The History of the Diorama psychiatrist and founding member of the analyses. This research-project-cumand the Daguerreotype, New York, 1968, genteel Photographic Society, attempted souvenir-album provides unintended evi- 88, 99. to use photographic portraits of patients dence that the seemingly charismatic 9 FranCois Arago, "Report," in Josef Maria in the Surrey County Women's Asylum authority of the fascist leader has the Eder, History of Photography, trans. Ed- for empirical research, therapy, and sur- quality of an apparition, an Oz-like aspect ward Epstean, New York, 1945, 235. The veillance of the inmate population. Dia- that requires amplification through the earliest English translation of this address mond read a paper on his work to the media and legitimation through an apappears in LJ.M. Daguerre, A Historical Royal Society in "The photogra- peal to the larger, abstract authority of and Descriptive Account of the Daguerr pher, on the other hand, needs in many Science. In this light, Hitler shines as the eotypeandthediorama, London, cases no aid from any language of his embodiment of a racial principle. In its 10 Arago, "Report," own, but prefers rather to listen, with the assault on parliamentary pluralism, fas- 11 Edward Said, Orientalism, New York, pictures before him, to the silent but cist government portrays itself not only telling language of nature... the picture as a means of national salvation but as 12 August Sander, "Photography as a Uni- speaks for itself with the most marked the organic expression of a nonrational, versal Language," trans. Anne Halley, pression and indicates the exact point biologically driven will to domination. Massachusetts Review, xix, no. 4, 1978, which has been reached in the scale of 22 Sander, "Photography as a Universal unhappiness between the first sensation Language," Ibid, 675. and its utmost height. [Italics mine. 23 Walter Benjamin in "A Short History of 14 Ibid., 679. Hugh W. Diamond, "On the Application Photography," [1931], trans. Stanley 15 Alfred Doblin, "About Faces, Portraits, of Photography the Physiognomic and Mitchell, Screen, xiii, Spring 1972, 24, and Their Reality: Introduction to August Mental Phenomena of Insanity" in The quotes a very explicit and often-cited Sander, Antlitz der Zeit" (1929), in Ger- Face of Madness: Hugh W Diamond statement by Brecht in this regard: "For, many: The New Photography, and the Origin of Psychiatric Photogra- says Brecht, the situation is 'complicated 33, ed. David Mellor, London, 1978, 58. phy, ed. Sander L. Gilman, Secaucus, by the fac that less than at any time does 16 August Comte, Cours dephilosophieposi- N.J., 1977, 19.] a simple reproduction of reality tell us tive ( ) in August Comte and I have found the work of Michel anything about reality. A photograph of Positivism: The Essential Writings, ed. Foucault particularly valuable in consid- the Krupp works or GEC yields almost Gertrud Lenzer, New York, Lenzer's ering these issues, especially his Disci- nothing abouthese institutions. Reality introduction is especially valuable. pline and Punish: The Birth of the Pris- proper has slipped into the functional. 17Johann Caspar Lavater, Essays on Phys- on, New York, My interest this The reification of human relationships, iognomy, trans. Henry Hunter, London, area began in conversations with Martha the factory, let's say, no longer reveals 1792, i, preface, n. pag. This is the first Rosier; her video "opera" Vital Statistics these relationships. Therefore something English translation of Physiognomische of A Citizen, Simply Obtained (1976) is has actually to be constructed, something Fragmente, zur Beforderung der Men- an exemplary study of the power of mea- artificial, something set up.'" 24 ArtJournal

12 One could argue that even the assem- Program Office of MoMA. blage of portraits pursued by Sander 33 Edward Steichen, A Life in Photography, merely reproduces the logic of assigned New York, 1962, n. pag. individual places, and thus of reification. 34 Department of State White Paper, Inter- 24 Edward Steichen, "On Photography," re- vention of International Communism printed in Nathan Lyons, ed., Photogra- in Guatemala, 1954, 33, quoted in David phers on Photography, Englewood Cliffs, Horowitz Free World Colossus, New York, NJ., 1966, , 160. My summary of events in 25 Ibid Guatemala is taken largely from Felix 26 Nelson Rockefeller, "Preview Address: Greene, The Enemy, New York, 1971, 'The Family of Man,'" U.S. Camera , with some references to Horo- 1956, ed. Tom Maloney, New York, 1955, witz, I'm grateful to Alex Sweetman for 35 Coca-Cola Overseas, December 1958, 15. calling my attention to this article. 36 Writing in Commentary in 1955, while 27 See Talcott Parsons et al., Family, Social- that magazine was being covertly funded ization, and Interaction Progress, New by the CIA, Hilton Kramer attacked The York, 1955, and the critique provided in Family of Man for displaying liberal Mark Poster, Critical Theory of the Fam- naivete in an era of harsh political realiily, New York, 1978, Barbara ties, claiming that the exhibition was "a Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, For Her reassertion in visual terms of all that has Own Good: 150 Years of Experts'Advice been discredited in progressive ideology." to Women, New York, 1978, are excellent Hilton Kramer, "Exhibiting the Family on the issue of familial ideology in the of Man," Commentary, xx, no. 5, Octopostwar period. ber Russell Lynes presents evidence that 37 For further criticism of The Family of Steichen's appointment to the position of Man from the political left see Roland director of the MoMA department of pho- Barthes, "The Great Family of Man," in tography in 1947 involved an unsuccess- Mythologies, trans. Annette Lavers, New ful plan to bring direct funding from York, 1972, I also found an photographic corporations into the mu- unpublished English translation of an seum. Although unsurprising today, in essay by Edmundo Desnoes, "The Photoan era of direct corporate funding, this graphic Image of Underdevelopment" was a novel move in the late 1940s. (translator unknown) extremely valu- Russell Lynes, Good Old Modern, New able. This essay appeared in Spanish in York, 1973, Punto de Vista, Havana, Carl Sandburg, "Prologue," The Family 38 Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Stereoscope of Man, New York, and the Stereograph," Atlantic Monthly, 30 Lynes, Good Old Modern, 233. iii, no. 20, June 1859, 738. My attention 31 Eva Cockcroft, "Abstract Expressionism, was directed to this essay by an insightful Weapon of the Cold War," Artforum, xil, article by Harvey Green, "'Pasteboard no. 10, 1974, See also Max Masks,' the Stereograph in American Cul- Kozloff, "American Painting During the ture, ," in Points of Vieu: Cold War," Artforum, xi, no. 9, 1973, The Stereograph in America-A Cultur ; William Hauptman, "The Sup- al History, Rochester, N.Y., 1979, 109. pression of Art in the McCarthy Decade," 39 Holmes, "Stereoscope," 739. Artforum, xii, no. 2, 1973, Of 40 Ibid, 747. general interest is Christopher Lasch's 41 Ibid, 748. "The Cultural Cold War: A Short History 42 Ibid of the Congress for Cultural Freedom," 43 Ibid. in Towards a New Past. Dissenting Es- 44 Ibid. says in American History, ed. Barton 45 Karl Marx, Capital, trans. Ben Fowkes, Bernstein, New York, 1969, It New York, 1977, i, 165. is interesting, if not terribly relevant to 46 Holmes, "Stereoscope," 748. my present argument, to note that Harry 47 Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature," The Lunn, currently regarded as the biggest Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerphotographic dealer in the U.S., was a son, i, Cambridge, 1971, 18. principal agent in the CIA's infiltration 48 Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Doings of the of the National Student Association in Sunbeam," Atlantic Monthly, xiii, no. the 1950s and 1960s, according to Sol 49, July 1863, 8. Stein, "NSA and the CIA, A Short Account 49 Marx, Capital, i, 166. of International Student Politics and the 50 Holmes, "Stereoscope," 748. Cold War," Ramparts, v, no. 9, March 51 George Eastman, quoted in J.M. Eder, 1967, 33. History of Photography, trans. E. Epstean, 32 United States Information Agency memo, New York, 1945, 489. subject "Djakarta showing of Family of Man," 5 February A copy of this memo is in the files of the International Spring