Decolonising the Camera: Photography in Racial Time
This book examines how Western photographic practice has been used as a tool for creating Eurocentric and violent visual regimes, and demands that we recognise and disrupt the ingrained racist ideologies that have tainted photography since its inception in 1839.
Decolonising the Camera trains Mark Sealy’s sharp critical eye on the racial politics at work within photography, in the context of heated discussions around race and representation, the legacies of colonialism, and the importance of decolonising the university. Sealy analyses a series of images within and against the violent political reality of Western imperialism, and aims to extract new meanings and develop new ways of seeing that bring the Other into focus.
The book demonstrates that if we do not recognise the historical and political conjunctures of racial politics at work within photography, and their effects on those that have been culturally erased, made invisible or less than human by such images, then we remain hemmed within established orthodoxies of colonial thought concerning the racialised body, the subaltern and the politics of human recognition.
With detailed analyses of photographs – included in an insert – by Alice Seeley Harris, Joy Gregory, Rotimi Fani-Kayode and others, and spanning more than 100 years of photographic history, Decolonising the Camera contains vital visual and written material for readers interested in photography, race, human rights and the effects of colonial violence.
1. The Congo Atrocities, A Lecture to Accompany a Series of Sixty Photographic Slides for the Optical Lantern
2. Race, Denial and Imaging Atrocity
3. Violence of the Image
4. Decolonial Frames
5. Wayne Miller – ‘Black Metropolis’
6. Rights and Recognition
‘In this deft deconstruction of what is simultaneously before, behind and beyond the lens, Sealy teaches us how to understand photography within a broader system of social, and more specifically, racial control. His incisive critique challenges our understanding of what was, what might have been, and what could be.’
- Gary Younge
‘A vital contribution to the field, in which Sealy unpacks notions of power, alterity, the margin, and the construction of black subjectivity in the face of visual cultures built upon colonialist legacies. Decolonising the camera is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of race, identity, and photography.’
- Steven Evans, FotoFest Executive Director
‘Decolonising the Camera is an extraordinary contribution to the histories of photography and representation of the Other. Mark Sealy analyses a range of photographic practice, from the work of missionary-turned-documentary-photographer Alice Seeley Harris in the Congo at the turn of the 20th century to Wayne Miller’s portraits of black communities in Chicago after the Second World War. He reminds us that photography is an inherently racialized medium. The book presents a critical methodology for developing ‘other ways of seeing’ at a time of increasing divisions in society.’
- Yasufumi Nakamori, Senior Curator of International Art (Photography), Tate