Heidegger identified the great anxiety of the modern age as “the anxiety before thinking”—a preoccupation shared not only by some of his contemporaries but also, one could argue, by critics today. In an era of digital technology and proliferating networks of social media, ever-increasing tensions between modes of production and obsolescence, pervasive systems of surveillance, and the obsessive capturing, documenting, and recording of all human activity, how are we to not only think but perhaps more importantly look at the world? How does the ubiquity of images shape our everyday reading practices and how does that, in turn, change the very way we think and experience the world? How might photography help us grapple with not only the anxiety of thinking but also with what we could call the “crisis of looking”? Conversely, in what ways might our image-saturated culture perpetuate the very production of anxiety that it seeks to escape? This talk takes these questions as a point of departure for exploring photography in a moment of double-crisis: on the one hand, the medium at a crossroads, at once sustained and threatened by our overexposure to images, and on the other, representations of crisis that complicate and challenge the political, aesthetic and ethical implications of our reading practices.
Drawing on examples from the contemporary Spanish context, and in particular looking at photographs of Spain’s current economic crisis, this talk engages with recent debates in photography studies and argues that photography can open spaces for thought, intervention, and action.