Cover image for Spectral evidence : the photography of trauma
Spectral evidence : the photography of trauma
Baer, Ulrich.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
viii, 210 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


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TR187 .B34 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this contribution to photographic criticism and psychoanalytic literature, Ulrich Baer traces the hitherto overlooked connection between the experience of trauma and the photographic image. Instead of treating trauma as a photographic theme, Baer examines the striking parallel between those moments arrested mechanically by photography and those arrested experientially by the traumatized psyche-moments that bypass normal cognition and memory.

Author Notes

Ulrich Baer is Associate Professor of Germanic Language and Literatures at New York University.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Applying psychoanalytical theory to photo criticism, Baer (German, NYU) makes comparisons between the notion of the photograph's "arrested moment" and how the human psyche processes trauma. He draws from Freud, Barthes, Benjamin, and Charcot, as well as recent studies in trauma, to prove that images representing a traumatic history lack the concept of "future" and forward movement that characterizes conventional documentary photographs. Traumatic memory, like the camera, freezes the moment and removes it from the forward motion of linear time. Instead of sensational images, as the title might suggest, Baer uses seemingly commonplace photographs to illustrate his ideas, thus placing the viewer in the role of witness instead of innocent onlooker. Ultimately, Baer is able to support his premise by establishing the connection between the concept of trauma and the development of the photograph, making this research original as well as timely. Baer is the editor of No One Bears Witness for the Witness: The Culture of Memory and Historical Responsibility after the Shoah and the forthcoming 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11. The current volume contains an extensive bibliography and notes and is recommended for graduate and research collections. [Baer is an LJ reviewer. Ed.] Shauna Frischkorn, Millersville Univ. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Toward a Democritean Gazep. 1
1 Photography and Hysteria: Toward a Poetics of the Flashp. 25
2 To Give Memory a Place: Contemporary Holocaust Photography and the Landscape Traditionp. 61
3 Meyer Levin's In Search/Mikael Levin's War Story: Secondary Witnessing and the Holocaustp. 87
4 Revision, Animation, Rescue: Color Photographs from the Lodz Ghetto and Dariusz Jablonski's Holocaust Documentary Fotoamatorp. 127
Conclusionp. 179
Notesp. 183
Indexp. 207