Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights


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The Living Dead — An Independence Framework

By Shane Chalmers*

Centre for International Governance & Justice, RegNet, ANU

‘Untitled, 1960’ (Photograph: Joseph Moise Agbodjélou, published by The Guardian)

‘Untitled, 1960’ (Photograph: Joseph Moise Agbodjélou, published by The Guardian)

This studio portrait was taken in 1960 by the Beninese photographer Joseph Moise Agbodjélou, within months of Benin gaining independence from France. What is remarkable about the photograph is its critical-representational style, that is, its self-conscious use of the representational framework of the art form to create the art work.

The art form is studio photography, which in its traditional mode was developed to create an idealised image. The result is supposed to be a representation, of the family for instance, that one can hang in the entrance of the home as a reminder of its real nature; thus the reality of family life is the one on display in the photograph and not the dysfunctional one on display in everyday life.[1] In this way, the traditional mode of studio photography uses the representational framework uncritically to create a fantasy portrayed as reality. Continue Reading →