Uncanny Exposures: Mobility, Repetition and Desire in Front of a Camera

Giorgia Alu


Abstract

In this article I discuss some of the uncanny characteristics of photographic portraits by turning attention to photographs representing Italian migrants in Australia. These are images of mobility through time and space. These photographs also reduced spatial distance, transporting migrants’ own desires and unknown faraway lives into the imagination of the viewers at home. The migrant’s desire is for both a new life (as it will be mostly discussed here) and for familiar affects. It is also—in Lacanian terms—a desire from the Other: the desire to be the object of the Other’s desire, emotions and gaze.In particular, I will analyse studio photographic portraits produced in Australia during the initial period of the Italian diaspora from the end of the nineteenth century to the first three decades of the twentieth century. By drawing mostly from Freud’s definition of the uncanny and Barthes’s reflection on photography, I will look at these photographs as uncanny visual traces—and promoters—of emotions, desire and of a journey to a multi-faced identity.

 


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