Negative images : on photography, causation and absences

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Source Publication

Perceiving Light: Shadow, Image, Transparency Workshop

Publication Date



Many photographs seem to be images of privations, lacks and absences. Umbo’s The Mystery of the Street, for example, is primarily a photograph of shadows, and if shadows are absences of light, this image is a photograph of absences. In a different way, some photographs of Manhattan’s skyline, taken after 9/11, would seem to be photographs of the absence of the Twin Towers. But the very idea of photographs of absences is paradoxical, or at least puzzling. Photography is commonly held to be an essentially causal medium, and it is unclear how, or even if, absences can be causally efficacious. So can there really be photographs of absences? In this paper, I investigate various ways to unravel the puzzle.



Recommended Citation

Pettersson, M. (2014, March). Negative images: On photography, causation and absences. Paper presented at Perceiving Light: Shadow, Image, Transparency Workshop, Durham, UK.

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