This edited collection explores the complex ways in which photography is used and interpreted: as a record of evidence, as a form of communication, as a means of social and political provocation, as a mode of surveillance, as a narrative of the self, and as an art form. What makes photographic images unsettling and how do the re-uses and interpretations of photographic images unsettle the self-evident reality of the visual field? Taking up these themes, this book examines the role of photography as a revelatory medium underscored by its complex association with history, memory, experience and identity.

Table of Contents

Introduction, (Natalya Lusty and Donna West Brett); 1. Ontology or Metaphor? (Andrés Mario Zervigón); 2. Unsettling the Archive: The Stasi, Photography and Escape from the GDR; (Donna West Brett); 3. Dark Archive: The Afterlife of Forensic Photographs (Katherine Biber); 4. Hard Looks: Faces, Bodies, Lives in Early Sydney Police Portrait Photography (Peter Doyle) 5. Anticipatory Photographs: Sarah Pickering and An-My Lê (Shawn Michelle Smith); 6. Eli Lotar’s Para-urban Visions (Natalya Lusty); 7. The Presence of Video: Making the Displaced and Disappeared Self Visible (John Di Stefano); 8. Contemplating Life: Rinko Kawauchi’s Autobiography of Seeing (Jane Simon); 9. Suspending Productive Time: some photographs by Gabriel Orozco and Jacques Rancière’s thinking of modern aesthetics (Toni Ross); 10. Photography as Indexical Data: Hans Eijkelboom and Pattern Recognition Algorithms (Daniel Palmer); 11. Afterword: Photography Against Ontology (Blake Stimson).

Editors: Donna West Brett and Natalya Lusty (Routledge, 2018) Available to order from: Routledge


Friedrich Seidenstücker, Reste der kriegzerstörten Löwenbrücke im Tiergarten von Berlin, 1946. bpk, Berlin.

As a recording device, photography plays a unique role in how we remember places and events that happened there. This includes recording events as they happen, or recording places where something occurred before the photograph was taken, commonly referred to as aftermath photography. This book presents a theoretical and historical analysis of German photography of place after 1945. It analyses how major historical ruptures in twentieth-century Germany and associated places of trauma, memory and history affected the visual field and the circumstances of looking. These ruptures are used to generate a new reading of postwar German photography of place. The analysis includes original research on world-renowned German photographers such as Thomas Struth, Thomas Demand, Michael Schmidt, Boris Becker and Thomas Ruff as well as photographers largely unknown in the Anglophone world.

Donna West Brett, (Routledge, 2016) Available to order from: Routledge


Sarah Goodrum: Rezension zu: West Brett, Donna: Photography and Place. Seeing and Not Seeing Germany After 1945. Abingdon 2016 , in: H-Soz-Kult, 16.09.2016, <>.

"The book focuses on and theorizes images taken after the fact – of trauma, or simply of history – and “investigates how this kind of aftermath or late photography represents a dramatic rupture in the field of vision” (p. 2). The rupture in the visual field is tied, according to Brett, to the ruptures of 1945, caused by Germany’s defeat and the impact of the Holocaust, and that of 1989’s fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent German reunification. For Brett, these photographs of place tied to rupture present the viewer with a tension between seeing and unseeing – and astigmatic vision that conceals or diffuses as much as it seems to reveal (see particularly ibid., Chapter 3, p. 79).

This book gathers a fascinating collection of photographers and images, and addresses the idea of place in a way and to an extent that has not been done before in the history of German photography focused around the Cold War period and its historical roots. It offers scholars of photography, German History, and those interested in themes of memory, trauma, and landscape a useful assortment of theory and imagery and a body of discourse on these themes that contributes to the discussion of this material."

 Sarah Goodrum, BTK University of Art & Design, Berlin.