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Ambivalence and Photography: Resistance or Exchange in Edward Said’s After the Last Sky

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  1. Introduction
  2. The dialectic of exchange and resistance between photograph and text
  3. The rhetoric of resistance and of exchange in 'States'
  4. Conclusion

In his essay Picture Theory on the relationship between photograph and text, W.J.T. Mitchell refers to concepts he coins as the ?rhetoric of resistance? and the ?rhetoric of exchange and cooperation? (Mitchell, 41). The terms ?rhetoric of resistance? and ?rhetoric of exchange and cooperation? are perhaps best defined with Mitchell's example of Walker Evans and James Agee's photographic essay Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. In their essay, resistance signifies for Evans and Agee the ?sabotaging of an effective surveillance and propaganda apparatus, one which creates easily manipulable images and narratives to support political agendas? (Mitchell, 41). Evans and Agee are able to sabotage this untruthful?and thus unethical?apparatus of exchange of (and cooperation with) political agendas by way of resisting conventional forms of image/text juxtapositions in forming their essays. Conventional forms might include adding photograph cutlines in an attempt to place the shot in time and history, or using angle techniques to embolden the subject. By resisting these conventional forms, photograph and text do not exchange meanings and cooperate with each other vis-à-vis or perpetuate political aims. Instead, Evans and Agee's photographic essay is a work in which the nature of the photographs is not a given; it demands objectivity from a viewer, a viewer who can draw his or her own conclusions from what is offered.

[...] The dialectic of exchange and resistance between photograph and text in Said and Mohr's is similar to that of Let Us Know Praise Famous Men. Said (writer) and Mohr's (photographer) work is a collaborative effort, like Evans and Agee's (Mitchell, which opposes the traditional, politicizing tendencies of essays with accompanying photography. resists these tendencies structurally, by the ?intertwined relation of photos and essay, a complex of exchanges and resistances? (Mitchell, 47). According to Said, it is this structure, this form of the essay itself, and that of all Palestinian compositions, which is most important to understanding Palestinian strife (Mitchell, 48). [...]


[...] Ambivalence and Photography: Resistance or Exchange in Edward Said's After the Last Sky In his essay Picture Theory on the relationship between photograph and text, W.J.T. Mitchell refers to concepts he coins as the ?rhetoric of resistance? and the ?rhetoric of exchange and cooperation? (Mitchell, 41). The terms ?rhetoric of resistance? and ?rhetoric of exchange and cooperation? are perhaps best defined with Mitchell's example of Walker Evans and James Agee's photographic essay Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. In their essay, resistance signifies for Evans and Agee the ?sabotaging of an effective surveillance and propaganda apparatus, one which creates easily manipulable images and narratives to support political agendas? (Mitchell, 41). [...]

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