Listening to Images by Tina M. Campt
In Listening to Images Tina M. Campt explores a way of listening closely to photography, engaging with lost archives of historically dismissed photographs of black subjects taken throughout the black diaspora. Engaging with photographs through sound, Campt looks beyond what one usually sees and attunes her senses to the other affective frequencies through which these photographs register. She hears in these photos—which range from late nineteenth-century ethnographic photographs of rural African women and photographs taken in an early twentieth-century Cape Town prison to postwar passport photographs in Birmingham, England and 1960s mug shots of the Freedom Riders—a quiet intensity and quotidian practices of refusal. Originally intended to dehumanize, police, and restrict their subjects, these photographs convey the softly buzzing tension of colonialism, the low hum of resistance and subversion, and the anticipation and performance of a future that has yet to happen. Engaging with discourses of fugitivity, black futurity, and black feminist theory, Campt takes these tools of colonialism and repurposes them, hearing and sharing their moments of refusal, rupture, and imagination.
"Listening to Images captures the sight, sound, and frequency of the tenses of black life and the possibilities that emerge in and from the everyday black practices of refusal. Tina M. Campt's rich and generative work rethinks black diaspora in the photographic, sonic, and haptic registers while having profound implications for the ways we see, read, and hear images as well as the ways we touch and are touched by them." — Christina Sharpe, author of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
"Tina M. Campt's Listening to Images is an innovative, ambitious, and evocative work that offers a fresh approach to photography and opens up state photographic archives to new forms of analysis. By identifying state archives as sites of quiet refusal that hold complex records of the everyday lives of people of the African diaspora, Listening to Images has the potential to become a methodological touchstone in photography studies for years to come." — Shawn Michelle Smith, author of Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture