pervasive domestic abuse. Further, I do not wish to oppose Butler’s reasoning of how the torture
is continued through images but rather use Butler’s logic of continuation to re-situate the
camera’s gaze relative to the tortured subject and explore the implications of this positioning and
the agency it affords the victim. I believe that when the gaze is reclaimed by the surviving
victims, and they construct a photographic world that they can function in, is when the torture
victim can make it stop acting on them.
For this negotiation and expansion to happen, it is necessary that the images are born
from Girl, Departed’s personal subjectivity and visuality. That is to say the image must be taken
by her, of her, for her. Her images are her reality that she exists in, survived through, and
simultaneously, the conditions that caused her to kill parts of herself, or depart. Latoya Ruby
Frazier recounts her impulse to photograph at an early age: “I just knew I wanted pictures…
because we survived through high school.”
Nan Goldin also primarily took photos to
remember. When one can affirm, with a visual document of how they ended up alive, they can
begin to understand their resilience, strength, and endurance.Through this understanding of the
self, there is a certain humanity that acts on a level similar to an act of self-pleasure. An image
(or the visuality) of one’s reality has the capacity to bring someone an orgasmic burst of pride
and validation, where shame and guilt are released, even if just momentarily. In a single image,
one can “negotiate and contest” every facet of their personhood.
Specifically, when Girl,
Departed takes a photograph of herself, there is a secondary process also at work to bring her to
this psychological release: she takes pleasure in the act of self-harm associated with turning the
camera onto herself. This implicates her as a perpetrator of a two-fold violence by employing the
Ivashkevich, Olga. "Performing Disidentifications: Girls in Trouble".
Bey, Dawoud, and Latoya Ruby Frazier. "Latoya Ruby Frazier and Dawoud Bey: A Conversation (The Notion of Family, 2014)." Aperture Conversations: 1985 to Present (May 1, 2018), 152-158.