Photography and What It Means to Be Anti-Racist
Photography is often considered “objective”—a technology with the ability to capture people, things and places as they were during one moment in time. The art form has a long history of depicting race powerfully in America, both in disproving difference across racial divides and in evoking emotion and depicting the gravity of tragedy. For The Nation, Matthew McKnight puts two books of photography—John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste Marie-Bernier’s Picturing Frederick Douglass and James Allen’s Without Sanctuary—in conversation with Karen and Barbara Fields’s Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. McKnight argues that attempts to defeat racism on its own intellectual terrain are ineffective. If race is a socially constructed fiction, then building an analysis off any sort of foundation that considers it “objective” reinforces rather than remedies racism.