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The Disciplinary Frame

The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning

John Tagg
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    The Disciplinary Frame
    Book Description:

    Photography can seem to capture reality like no other medium, wielding the power of proof. How can a piece of chemically discolored paper have such potency? How does the meaning of a photograph become fixed? In The Disciplinary Frame, John Tagg claims that, to answer these questions, we must look at the ways in which all that frames photography determines what counts as truth.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6622-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Violence of Meaning
    (pp. xix-xxxviii)

    It would seem there is something futile about writing about photographs, about saying what is there to be seen.

    In Winfried Georg Sebald’s scrupulous and disarming workThe Emigrants, photographs appear on the pages here and there, matter-of-factly and without attribution.¹ It is unusual, perhaps, to find photographs in what one might have taken for a novel, at least since the brief rise and fall of the photographic book at the turn of the 1930s and ’40s. But the photographs in Sebald’s text evoke no surprise.

    Someone’s father is said to have driven a Dürkopp in the twenties, and we...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The One-Eyed Man and the One-Armed Man: Camera, Culture, and the State
    (pp. 1-50)

    There is a dark room. A shutter opens. The room is flooded with light that threatens to bleach the interior white. Instead, it leaves a carefully patterned tracery on one wall, because, in entering the room in the only way it can, this light has been tempered, corralled, and organized, transposed from a flaring effulgence into a predictable series of rays, gathered and strung like wires or threads from the single aperture that opens to the outside. Across the darkness, the fall of light is thus graphed by the grid built into the window of the converging lens and the...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Plane of Decent Seeing: Documentary and the Rhetoric of Recruitment
    (pp. 51-94)

    “One of the favored words in the photographic literature of today,” wrote Edward Steichen in 1938, “is ‘documentary’”:

    It is used with particular glibness by writers who are in the process of patting themselves on the back that they have suddenly, and without any help from Papa or Mamma, discovered photography. They proceed to dissect and analyze the various phases and branches of photography, wrap up and tie them into neat little packages that they file away into convenient pigeonholes, and the one marked “documentary” usually contains the conclusion that the beginning of photography and the end of photography is...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Melancholy Realism: Walker Evans’s Resistance to Meaning
    (pp. 95-178)

    “It is characteristic of philosophical writing,” wrote Walter Benjamin, in the opening sentence of a book he was misled enough to hope would bring him academic preferment, “that it must continually confront the question of representation.”¹ We might equally substitute “historical” here for the adjective “philosophical,” though no doubt it will be insisted that this view is itself dated. Be that as it may, “the question of representation” survives both the 1920s and the 1970s, if not as the slogan of a particular project then as the marker of what, like some colonial administrator, Paul de Man once called “local...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Running and Dodging, 1943: The Breakup of the Documentary Moment
    (pp. 179-208)

    Everywhere and nowhere, the status of the photograph remains a sore point, as tempting as it is troublesome to the scratching of the critics, as likely to turn out a source of infection as it is to yield to the cures of the disciplines. Too open to diagnosis and too unresponsive to remedy, it seems to call for a stricter regimen, which is invariably what it receives and what I am bent on avoiding.

    Again and again in this book, I find myself detained by what may be made of a photograph. But that is not the same as being...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Pencil of History: Photography, History, Archive
    (pp. 209-234)

    Records, recruitments, riots, and resistance: The line I have drawn must seem to be one we can scarcely break off at the point I have designated “1943.” The line plots a path one might well feel compelled to extend through other points—1965, 1992—that stand like names, like markers in the ground, not least in the Los Angeles we have just left. But, for now, I want to make the line of argument double back on itself, double back not only on photography but also on the question of the disciplinary mechanisms of history and art history, which I...

  11. CHAPTER 6 A Discourse with Shape of Reason Missing: Art History and the Frame
    (pp. 235-264)

    “Reality,” writes Lyotard, “succumbs to this reversal: It was the given described by the phrase, it became thearchivefrom which are drawndocumentsor examples that validate the description.”¹ It is, then, this reversal that constitutes the regime of the instrumental archive and its evidential effects—a regime that, as we have seen, implicates not only a certain practice of photography but also a practice of history. It is this regime that gives this practice of photography and this practice of history their disciplinary authority to call on the “mute testimony” of the “document.” The regime is, indeed, the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 265-356)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 357-378)
  14. Index
    (pp. 379-392)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 393-393)