The class smile : Portrait photography and the culture of expressivity

Abstract. Although frequently debated, the phenomenon linked to the development of the smile in twentieth-century portrait photography has always defied explanation. The present article draws on the conventional aspect of the portrait to describe this evolution through the prism of an historical adaptation to a social norm: the shift from a culture of restraint to a culture of expressivity spanning the 1930s […]

Public Violence: Viral Images Give the Alert

Abstract. With the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) crisis the debate about police violence emerge as a major example of a counter-narrative, mainly relying on the online circulation of viral images. This article analyses the conditions for the emergence in public debate of a minority narrative thanks to digital media. Apart from activist communication, faced with powerful denial mechanisms, an autonomous alert process […]

The viral image as proof. Videos of police violence in the Yellow Vests crisis

English version of: André Gunthert, “L’image virale comme preuve. Les vidéos des violences policières dans la crise des Gilets jaunes», Communications, n° 106, juin 2020, p. 187-207 (version française). Abstract. At first denied by the government and blanked in the mainstream media, the theme of police brutality as part of the Yellow Vests conflict emerged on social networks in December 2018, through […]

The Consecration of the Selfie: A Cultural History

Abstract (French version, Spanish version). The term ‘selfie’ corresponds to a late process of identifying a set of photo or video reflexive practices, related to the emergence of an aesthetic of subjectivity. Exploring the articulation between autonomy of shooting and participation in the action, as well as the take-off produced by conversational uses, this article shows that a media controversy triggered this […]

Visual Journalism, or the Hidden Narration

Abstract: Despite the publication of hundreds upon thousands of photographs in the press, most analyses of photojournalism focus on iconic photographs and iconic images in photography. This chapter aims to highlight how such news icons have lost their status as transparent conveyors of information to take on that of upgraded graphic forms, produced by a self-fulfilling institutionalization process. Iconic images comprise a […]

This is not a narrative, or how images tell a story

Abstract. A contribution to the debate on the effects of images, the study of the March of Progress (Rudolph Zallinger, 1965) replaces it into its industrial context. The autonomy helped by the loss of source informations transforms an educational illustration into a universal icon. The understanding of this image does not depend on interpreting its motif, but relies on the evolutionary theory […]

Reading images: Narrative imageries

Abstract (French version). Examining the interpretative visual logic at work in popular culture, this article proposes to recognize as a heuristic tool the iconographic group formation process, called narrative imageries, on the model of narrative identity by Paul Ricœur. Dynamic sets generated by commercial success of a representation, these imageries are characterized by a productivity identified as a social signal, an effect […]

The conversational image: New uses of digital photography

Abstract (French version, pdf). Favored by connected tools and social media, the second revolution of digital photography is that of the conversational uses of image. Since the advent of cinema or television, this mutation profoundly transforms our visual practices. Photography was an art and media. We are contemporaries of the time when it reaches the universality of a language. Integrated via versatile […]

The defeat “We are Charlie”

(French original version) The most important French mobilization since the Liberation, can Sunday’s Unity March be considered a «magnificent enthusiasm» of a people who lift up their head in the face of barbarism? I would like to believe it. But the extreme confusion which characterizes the «Republican» reading of the Charlie affair only deepens my sadness and anxiety. I could be wrong, […]