Photography, writes Ariella Azoulay in Civil Imagination, is an event and an encounter, irreducible to its end product: the photograph. This shift in focus to the practice of producing photographs (the "Copernican Revolution" in studying photography) brings to light how images can both reinforce and resist power regimes. Azoulay engages with Arendt and Benjamin, arguing that art-world concerns regarding authorship, intention and frameworks should be replaced with a discussion of what can be seen, and where the imagination can break through political boundaries. Showing how photographs from the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank recognize or deny the Palestinian disaster, Azoulay reconstructs the narrative of the responsible, ruling regime - and in so doing, also demonstrates how its power can be renegotiated through acts of imagining. Packaged beautifully with many color photographs, Civil Imagination is a provocative argument for photography as a civic practice, capable of reclaiming power for the purposes of critique, freedom and resistance.
ARIELLA AZOULAY teaches contemporary philosophy and visual culture at Bar Ilan University. She is the author of From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction and State Formation, 1947-1950, The Civil Contract of Photography and Death's Showcase.