Early Snapshot Photography and Queer Representation
My research currently examines the relationship between early snapshot photography and gesture as a means of representing and interpreting sexuality. The technology of photography in the 1920’s advancement to hand-held cameras allowed a wide range of casts could create their own images. The affect of photography on the general public was immense but the technology’s affect on those engaged in same-sex affection was ten-fold. Desires or relationships that could not be publicly expressed could be unabashedly indulged with snapshot photography, creating sexual agency and the documentation of desire. The subjects in these images rebelled against status quo by acting out desires that, if found out, would have definitively affected their lives and livelihoods.
This research further explores the notion of gesture and technology through Roland Barthes theory of punctum and studium. This paper attempts to challenge his theories with an introduction to the possibility of a queer punctum by engaging with images beyond simple speculation. As some of the discussed images were researched from LGBT archives, other are images from personal archives. By combining historical knowledge of the subjects (through both oral histories and written texts) and subjective narratives, the paper straddles between historical documentation and the fictitious nature of images reproduction. The sexuality and desire displayed in these images are contested ground, as the restriction of time and language do not strictly adhere the subjects to gay, lesbian or bisexual categorization. While remaining cognizant of the contemporary implications of the terminology, the terms queer and queered are used throughout the paper as a means of discussing the subjects as outside normative sexual practices of the era. In doing so, the research shown remains faithful to the struggle and empowerment expressed by the subjects.
Keywords: Photography, Queer, Gesture, Snapshot, Early Photography, Roland Barthes, LGBT
PhD Student in Visual Culture, Visual Arts, Visual Culture, Art History, University of Western Ontario