Photography: intimating mortality, a Heideggerian account of photographic authenticity

Joost, Katrin ORCID logo ORCID: (2013) Photography: intimating mortality, a Heideggerian account of photographic authenticity. In: Aaron, Michele, (ed.) Envisioning death: visual culture and dying. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, pp. 158-173.

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We all know that we will die one day. This is a fundamental aspect of our lives. Not only is death inescapable but the finitude of our lives structures what it means to be a human being, a person. We are born, we live, we die. The time of our lives, in all senses, makes us who we are. Yet, as much as this is clear it also constitutes a blind spot. It is one of the least understood aspect of human existence. We spend our lives living. This may seem an obvious statement, but it is impossible to comprehend and think our own death. And this impossibility seems to be essential to death.2 In other words death is fundamentally inexperiencable and therefore unthinkable. We live and when we stop living, we are no more; there is no identity that remains. To be dead is not to be. To be is to to live, to experience the world, continuously. How can we even begin to understand our death, which is outside of our lives, and so beyond ourselves? I shall argue that photography as a specific form of visual expression not only represents the world, but shows what being in the world means. Photography intimates our experience of the world beyond the visible. Photography's power to refer directly to the particular leads to its ability to show the particular moment. Therefore, it can illustrate death. This means that photography not only can represent dead objects but also disrupts the temporal structure of perceptual experience and therefore brings into consciousness the finality of our being. This happens through the immediacy of seeing and not intellectual understanding. Our own death is disturbing and frightening, because it is essentially unimaginable, which renders an analysis of it as a phenomenon or event futile. Photography, though, is a medium, which can express the belonging of death to life and show that living being is, with Heidegger, “being towards death”.3

Item Type: Book Section
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
ISBN: 9781443849265
Departments: Academic Departments > Institute of Arts (IOA) > Graphics and Photography
Additional Information: Chapter 9 within book.
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2016 12:13
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 11:16


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