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A Painful Labor: Photography and Responsibility
Visual Studies (2004)
Despite the avalanche of objections regarding documentary's false promise to awaken social conscience, this paper considers the tension between photography and responsibility. By examining the encounter with images of suffering through a psychoanalytic register, the paper tries to articulate what Barthes describes as the ‘painful labour’ of responding to the photographic other – an encounter that illuminates the limit of the spectator's ability to respond. Photographs provide an occasion to register this limit, which, I argue, opens up the spectator's traditional notions of responsibility from a set of moral duties towards a questioning of the ethical relation.
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"A Painful Labor: Photography and Responsibility" Visual Studies Vol. 19 Iss. 2 (2004)
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