Listening to Images

Book Pages: 152 Illustrations: 136 photographs (inclu. 30 in Published: May 2017

Author: Tina M. Campt

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Art and Visual Culture > Photography, Cultural Studies

In Listening to Images Tina M. Campt explores a way of listening closely to photography, engaging with lost archives of historically dismissed photographs of black subjects taken throughout the black diaspora. Engaging with photographs through sound, Campt looks beyond what one usually sees and attunes her senses to the other affective frequencies through which these photographs register. She hears in these photos—which range from late nineteenth-century ethnographic photographs of rural African women and photographs taken in an early twentieth-century Cape Town prison to postwar passport photographs in Birmingham, England and 1960s mug shots of the Freedom Riders—a quiet intensity and quotidian practices of refusal. Originally intended to dehumanize, police, and restrict their subjects, these photographs convey the softly buzzing tension of colonialism, the low hum of resistance and subversion, and the anticipation and performance of a future that has yet to happen. Engaging with discourses of fugitivity, black futurity, and black feminist theory, Campt takes these tools of colonialism and repurposes them, hearing and sharing their moments of refusal, rupture, and imagination.


"Listening to Images provides a powerful set of theoretical and methodological tools for historicizing and unpacking the kinds of photographic archives of which [Sandra] Bland’s images are a recent, prominent, and disturbing example. . . . Tina Campt’s stimulating new work is a must read in a flurry of exciting work at the intersection of Black Studies and visual culture." — J. T. Roane, Black Perspectives

"[Campt's] work is particularly noteworthy for her ability to translate still images into moving narratives, to carry the reader through the image. Campt’s archive for Listening to Images is made of photos that one might pass over when looking for a more spectacular story. These include modes of identification photography—mugshots, passport photos—that reveal the apparatus of state control without its spectacular action or violence. These images are the low-tech precursor to the current proliferation of biometrics, the practice of tracking unique identity markers like DNA. Campt’s turn away from crisis brings the spectacle into perspective. She attends to the long backdrop of the eruptions of supposedly exceptional violence that is far too often overlooked, but is always present."
  — JB Brager, The New Inquiry

"Fugitivity, according to Campt, is a form of refusal defined by a commitment to survival, in which one enacts, through a performance of a future that has not yet arrived, the conditions which will have sustained and valued black life. Listening to Images not only provides the grammar to articulate this fugitivity, it also attunes our senses to listen for it." — Jacob Breslow, Feminist Review

"Scholars of Africana Studies, Cultural Studies, Visual Culture, Art History, and Gender Studies will no doubt find Campt’s archival research, innovative methodology, and evocative theorizations of a grammar of black feminist futurity to be generative and rich. . . . Campt’s work importantly recalibrates readers’ capacities to glean from images the complex grammars of black fugitivity, refusal, and futurity that resonate from and within identification photographs." — Doria E. Charlson, Women & Performance

"Campt has written a succinct book of intensive propositions. . . .  Listening to Images is an intricate text expounding on the theoretical interplay among archiving, seeing, and listening to visual materials that are in plain sight but not in sight. Thus, the sounds that they generate are quiet and have gripping agentive frequencies." — Jerry Philogene, CAA Reviews

"Listening to Images skates along the surface of images, listening to their resonances. . . . This method allows Campt to create unexpected juxtapositions. . . . It is a testament to the book’s many points of connection between archives and time periods that I was left wanting more." — Jocelyn Fenton Stitt, Meridians

"Listening to Images captures the sight, sound, and frequency of the tenses of black life and the possibilities that emerge in and from the everyday black practices of refusal. Tina M. Campt's rich and generative work rethinks black diaspora in the photographic, sonic, and haptic registers while having profound implications for the ways we see, read, and hear images as well as the ways we touch and are touched by them." — Christina Sharpe, author of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being

"Tina M. Campt's Listening to Images is an innovative, ambitious, and evocative work that offers a fresh approach to photography and opens up state photographic archives to new forms of analysis. By identifying state archives as sites of quiet refusal that hold complex records of the everyday lives of people of the African diaspora, Listening to Images has the potential to become a methodological touchstone in photography studies for years to come." — Shawn Michelle Smith, author of Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Tina M. Campt is Claire Tow and Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Africana and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women at Barnard College, and the author of Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Listening to Images: An Execise in Counterintuition  1
1. Quick Soundings: The Grammar of Black Futurity  13
2. Striking Poses in a Tense Grammar: Stasis and the Frequency of Black Refusal  47
3. Haptic Temporalities: The Quiet Frequency of Touch  69
Coda. Black Futurity and the Echo of Premature Death  101
Notes  119
Bibliography  127
Illustration Credits  131
Index  137
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6270-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6255-5
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