Picturing the city : photography and the presence of the gaze
This thesis is an examination of the ways in which city-life photography can provide insights into the structuring conditions of urban spectatorship during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To this end, the thesis will involve a survey of some of the uses of photography in the representation various cities during this period. However, the aim of this survey is not simply to collate a range of 'images of the city'. Instead, the central theme of this work is a discussion of the ways in which photography structures our perception. Fundamental to this discussion is a reformulation of what constitutes a photographic archive. It is as a means to redefining this archive that the notion of the gaze which will be employed to refer both to structures of subjectivity and vision and to particular regimes of representation. As a consequence of this reading, the archive will not be defined in terms of individual photographers, styles or genres. Instead, it will be read as a structure of repetition and displacement, of identity and difference: in short, as a system of signification which both offers and denies positions of security, knowledge and pleasure to the viewer. As a means of pursuing this reappraisal of the archive the thesis will be organised around a series of readings of texts from post-structuralist and psychoanalytical theory as well as from critical commentaries on urbanism, modernity and social space. Following from these readings will be an analysis of photographs with reference to the intersection of the psychical and the social which will not be cited as two distinct registers of experience but will instead be seen as being mutually inflected. It is within this theoretical framework that photographs will be viewed as images which both summon and disrupt the presence (as stable identity) of the viewer and the presence (as unmediated literal transcription) of the objects and scenes which they represent.