On Writing with Photography
An exploration of the relationship between photography and text, from the age of early photography to the contemporary graphic novel
On Writing with Photography explores what happens to texts—and images—when they are brought together, addressing a wide range of genres and media, including graphic novels, children’s books, photo-essays, films, diaries, newspapers, and art installations. Together, these essays help explain how writers and photographers—past and present—have served as powerful creative resources for each other.
From James Agee to W. G. Sebald, there has been an explosion of modern documentary narratives and fiction combining text and photography in complex and fascinating ways. However, these contemporary experiments are part of a tradition that stretches back to the early years of photography. Writers have been integrating photographs into their work for as long as photographs have existed, producing rich, multilayered creations; and photographers have always made images that incorporate, respond to, or function as writing. On Writing with Photography explores what happens to texts—and images—when they are brought together.
From the mid-nineteenth century to the present, this collection addresses a wide range of genres and media, including graphic novels, children’s books, photo-essays, films, diaries, newspapers, and art installations. Examining the works of Herman Melville, Don DeLillo, Claude McKay, Man Ray, Dare Wright, Guy Debord, Zhang Ailing, and Roland Barthes, among others, the essays trace the relationship between photographs and “reality” and describe the imaginary worlds constructed by both, discussing how this production can turn into testimony of personal and collective history, memory and trauma, gender and sexuality, and ethnicity.
Together, these essays help explain how writers and photographers—past and present—have served as powerful creative resources for each other.
Contributors: Stuart Burrows, Brown U; Roderick Coover, Temple U; Adrian Daub, Stanford U; Marcy J. Dinius, DePaul U; Marianne Hirsch, Columbia U; Daniel H. Magilow, U of Tennessee, Knoxville; Janine Mileaf; Tyrus Miller, U of California, Santa Cruz; Leah Rosenberg, U of Florida; Xiaojue Wang, U of Pennsylvania.
Karen Beckman and Liliane Weissberg
1. From the Birth of Photography to the Death of the Author
Marcy J. Dinius
2. Picturing the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell and the Divergent Paths of Art
and Science in the Representation of the Colorado River and Utah Canyonlands
3. “Watch How Dem Touris’ Like Fe Look”: Tourist Photography and Claude McKay’s
4. Captured Things: Man Ray’s Object Photography
5. Photography’s Linguistic Turn: On Werner Graeff’s Here Comes the New
Daniel H. Magilow
6. The Power of What Is Not There: James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
7. Playing Doll
8. Situating Images: Photography, Writing, and Cinema in the Work of Guy Debord
9. The Generation of Postmemory
10. Picturing the Specter of History: Zhang Ailing’s Visual Practice
11. Sphinxes without Secrets: W. G. Sebald’s Albums and the Aesthetics of
12. Nothing to Say: The War on Terror and the Mad Photography of Roland Barthes