What do images tell us about ourselves?

Photo by J. R. Eyerman (1952)/Life Magazine/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.” ― Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Assuming an anthropological lens, this essay will consider what images can tell us about ourselves through their conceptualisation and subsequent creation. It begins with a consideration of what “image” is, and will go on to apply Hans Belting’s (2003) theory to Christopher Wright’s (2013) ethnography on the use of skulls and photography in Roviana to demonstrate how images use media. It will be argued that the West, obsessed with rationality, represses its feelings – especially desire and fear – illustrated by a portray of women in cinema, with focus on the phenomenon of femme fatale as proposed by Marry Ann Doane (1991). Finally, the essay will consider Guy Debord’s The Society of The Spectacle (1967) in relation to Barbara Kruger’s work. It will be argued that what images can tell us is the state of the society that we live in, because images are the society.

About the author:
Magdalena Paczocha graduated Goldsmiths, University of London with a BA in Anthropology and Visual Practice in 2018. She is a filmmaker interested in visual, material and museum anthropology.

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