The visual commons
Counter-power in photography from slavery to Occupy Wall Street
in Image operations
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This chapter explores the formation and dissemination of what the author has called the ‘visual commons’ in photography. The visual commons can be explored through photography because photography has become the medium of the commons and it is today perhaps the first universal medium. Several key moments in this history are explored, beginning with the first use of the term ‘photography’ in the Americas by Hercule Florence in Brazil in 1832. Florence overwrote the existing visual commons with photography’s scene of representation. Soon after British Chartists were photographed on Kennington Common, London, in 1848, the first such image of mass political action emerged, reclaiming the visual commons. The chapter then concentrates on the visual commons after slavery in North America, culminating in the 1968 encampment known as Resurrection City in Washington D.C. as photographed by occupier Jill Freedman. A final section notes how this legacy was important to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Image operations

Visual media and political conflict

Editors: Jens Eder and Charlotte Klonk


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