Cover of Photography and Its Shadow by Hagi Kenaan
Photography and Its Shadow
Hagi Kenaan

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January 2020
216 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9781503606364
Paper ISBN: 9781503611375

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Photography and Its Shadow argues that the invention of photography marked a rupture in our relation to the world and what we see in it. The dominant theoretical and artistic paradigm for understanding the invention has been the tracing of shadows. But what photography really inaugurated was the shadow's disappearance—a disappearance that irreversibly changed our relationship to nature and the real, to time and to death. A way of negotiating impermanence, photography was marked from the start by an inherent contradiction. It conflated two incompatible configurations of the visible: an embodied human eye, deeply sensitive to nature, and a machine vision that aimed to reify the instant and wallow in images alone. Photography's history is replete with efforts to conceal the mystery of its paradoxical constitution. Born in the century of Nietzsche's "death of God," it long enacted the fraught subjectivity of its age. Anxious, haunted by a void, it used an array of strategies to take on ever-new identities. Challenging the hitherto most influential accounts of the practice and taking us from its origins to the present, Hagi Kenaan shows us how photography has been transformed over time, and how it transforms us.

About the author

Hagi Kenaan is Professor of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of The Present Personal (2005) and The Ethics of Visuality (2013).

"Hagi Kenaan theorizes photography as powerfully as Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes did, and in a completely new way. This book is erudite but accessible, dense but patient. It meditates on a foregone world, a loss of the visible, a loss of God, and photography's fundamental role in these developments. Yet the author is hopeful as well as elegiac: Nothing is set in stone, not even the shadows."

—Alexander Nemerov, Stanford University

"Writing movingly and poetically, Hagi Kenaan offers a fresh way of understanding the medium of photography, one that escapes the coils of nostalgia and mourning that have enveloped its study since the writing of the late Roland Barthes."

—Keith Moxey, Columbia University