Authored by: Karen Cross

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138665569
eBook ISBN: 9781315619811
Adobe ISBN:


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Photography has long been viewed as the medium par excellence of social forms of communication. This is evident right from the moment of its invention with such key figures as Fox Talbot (1944) describing it as a form of ‘light writing’ right up until the time when it became an object of popular and political fascination (Benjamin 1931, and more recently Azoulay 2012). Later still, and the transition of the camera to the mobile phone focused attention on the rise of ‘the networked image’ (Rubinstein and Sluis 2008), along with the emergence of citizen forms of witnessing. Following this history, it is clear that photography is deeply rooted in the experience of the citizen who invests in photography as a means of creating social change. This entry will consider the role of photography in providing voice to citizen perspectives, including such global uprisings as the so-called Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement. It will also reflect upon the way that the camera phone has been used to documents the immediate aftermath of events where professional photojournalists were not present, such as in the case of natural disasters and terror attacks. In relation to these, the entry will also reflect upon how such productions have come to signify the renewal of a form of documentary ‘truth’, which both provides a departure from institutional concerns but also articulates new relations of power and politics of representation that begs for a renewed critical theorizing in relation to the production and circulation of photographic images.

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