Listening to Images
Tina M. Campt is Claire Tow and Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Africana and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women at Barnard College, and the author of Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe, also published by Duke University Press.
Haptic Temporalities: The Quiet Frequency of Touch
This chapter stages an embodied encounter with two archives of convict photos, quiet photographs intended to literally “arrest” the movement of a class of individuals deemed criminal. Engaging photographs taken between 1897 and 1907 at Breakwater Prison in Cape Town, South Africa, and mid-twentieth-century mug shots of African American Freedom Riders in the US South, it analyzes the sonic frequency of images. It defines the haptic as multiple forms of touch, which create alternative modalities for understanding the archival temporalities of images: the grammar of the archive. What is crucial to the listening practice developed here is a conception of photographs as deeply affective objects that implicate and leave impressions upon us through multiple forms of contact: visual contact (seeing), physical contact (touching), psychic contact (feeling), and most counterintuitively of all, the sonic contact (frequency) that requires us to listen to as well as view images.