|| We deplore the disappearance of
the real under the weight of too many images. But let's not forget
that the image disappears too because of reality. In fact, the real
is far less often sacrificed than the image. The image is robbed of
its originality and given away to shameful acts of complicity. Instead
of lamenting the relinquishing of the real to superficial images,
one would do well to challenge the surrender of the image to the real.
The power of the image can only be restored by liberating the image
from reality. By giving back to the image its specificity (its "stupidity"
according to Rosset), the real itself can rediscover its true image.
So-called "realist" photography does not capture the "what is." Instead,
it is preoccupied with what should not be, like the reality of suffering
for example. It prefers to take pictures not of ~what is~ but of ~what
should not be~ from a moral or humanitarian perspective. Meanwhile,
it still makes good aesthetic, commercial and clearly immoral use
of everyday misery. These photos are not the witness of reality. They
are the witness of the total denial of the image from now on designed
to represent what refuses to be seen. The image is turned into the
accomplice of those who choose to rape the real (viol du reel). The
desperate search for ~the~ image often gives rise to an unfortunate
result. Instead of freeing the real from its reality principle, it
locks up the real inside this principle. What we are left with is
a constant infusion of "realist" images to which only "retro-images"
respond. Every time we are being photographed, we spontaneously take
a mental position on the photographer's lens just as his lens takes
a position on us. Even the most savage of tribesmen has learned how
to spontaneously strike a pose. Everybody knows how to strike a pose
within a vast field of imaginary reconciliation.
But the photographic event resides in the confrontation between the
object and the lens (l'objectif), and in the violence that this confrontation
provokes. The photographic act is a duel. It is a dare launched at
the object and a dare of the object in return. Everything that ignores
this confrontation is left to find refuge in the creation of new photographic
techniques or in photography's aesthetics. These are easier solutions.
One may dream of a heroic age of photography when it still was a black
box (a camera obscura) and not the transparent and interactive space
that it has become. Remember those 1940s farmers from Arkansas whom
Mike Disfarmer shot. They were all humble, conscientiously and ceremonially
standing in front of the camera. The camera did not try to understand
them or even catch them by surprise. There was no desire to capture
what's "natural" about them or "what they look like as photographed."
They are what they are. They do not smile. They do not complain. The
image does not complain. They are, so to speak, caught in their simplest
attire (dans leur plus simple appareil), for a fleeting moment, that
of photography. They are absent from their lives and their miseries.
They are elevated from their miseries to the tragic, impersonal figuration
of their destiny. The image is revealed for what it is: it exalts
what it sees as pure evidence, without interference, consensus, and
adornment. It reveals what is neither moral nor "objective," but instead
remains unintelligible about us. It exposes what is not up to reality
but is, rather, reality's evil share (malin genie) (whether it is
a fortunate one or not). It displays what is inhuman in us and does
In any case, the object is never anything more than an imaginary line.
The world is an object that is both imminent and ungraspable. How
far is the world? How does one obtain a clearer focus point? Is photography
a mirror which briefly captures this imaginary line of the world?
Or is it man who, blinded by the enlarged reflection of his own consciousness,
falsifies visual perspectives and blurs the accuracy of the world?
Is it like the rearview mirrors of American cars which distort visual
perspectives but give you a nice warning --"objects in this mirror
may be closer than they appear"?  But, in fact, aren't these objects
farther than they appear? Does the photographic image bring us closer
to a so-called "real world" which is in fact infinitely distant? Or
does this image keep the world at a distance by creating an artificial
depth perception which protects us from the imminent presence of the
objects and from their virtual danger?
What is at stake (at play, en jeu) is the place of reality, the question
of its degree. It is perhaps not a surprise that photography developed
as a technological medium in the industrial age, when reality started
to disappear. It is even perhaps the disappearance of reality that
triggered this technical form. Reality found a way to mutate into
an image. This puts into question our simplistic explanations about
the birth of technology and the advent of the modern world. It is
perhaps not technologies and media which have caused our now famous
disappearance of reality. On the contrary, it is probable that all
our technologies (fatal offsprings that they are) arise from the gradual
extinction of reality.
 A Translation of Jean Baudrillard, "La Photographie ou l'Ecriture
de la Lumiere: Litteralite de l'Image," in _L'Echange Impossible_
(The Impossible Exchange). Paris: Galilee, 1999: pp. 175-184.
 There is here a play on the French word "objectif." "Objectif"
means objective (adj.) and visual lens (subs.) at the same time.
 This term is in English in the original French version.
 An unsatisfactory translation of "la photo 'passe a l'acte du
monde' et le monde 'passe a l'acte photographique'."
 Capitalized by Baudrillard in the French text.
 "L'Aventure d'un photographe," in Italo Calvino, _Aventures_ [Adventures].
Paris: Le Seuil, 1990. Calvino's _Adventures_ (I Racconti in Italian)
have been published in several different books in English. For example,
"The Adventure of a Photographer" was published as part of Calvino's
novel _Difficult Loves_ (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1984), pp. 220-235.
 Translation borrowed from Italo Calvino, _Difficult Loves_, trans.
W. Weaver, p. 233.
 I use the term "real" (in quotation marks) in front of victims,
dead people and destitute to render Baudrillard's term "en tant que
tels" (which literally means "as such").
 Possibly Clement Rosset, author of _La Realite et Son Double_
(Reality and Its Double), Paris: Gallimard, 1996; and of _Joyful Cruelty:
Toward a Philosophy of the Real_. New York: Oxford University Press,
 In English in the French text.
 In English in the French text. Francois Debrix is a professor
in International Relations at Florida International University, Miami,
This article was translated in Miami, March 31, 2000.
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