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Patricia Hayes (University of the Western Cape)
About the lecture
A democratic way of life raises the question of who is visible and whose views matters. White privilege, Souleymane Bachir Diagne notes, is »the privilege of seeing without being seen.« According to the Senegalese philosopher, it is about »considering oneself to be the norm while the others are different or particular, and that one represents a certain form of norm and universality.« There is a suggestion that whiteness is about not being looked at.
When Fanie Jason, a black press photographer in Cape Town, stumbled into the international paparazzi economy, these dynamics were laid bare. Initially barred from working for the newspapers under apartheid and struggling as a freelance in the 1990s, Jason was called in to assist British journalists obtain images of Earl Spencer (brother of Princess Diana) who had taken up residence in Cape Town after the democratic transition in 1994. The Earl resided in a gated community that kept journalists out. Jason donned overalls and went in through a service entrance with other black staff, his camera in a Tupperware, and managed to get a few fuzzy shots of the Earl pushing his child in a pram. These catapulted him to fame and resulted in a court case where he lost what little he had. The struggle continued with Jason getting an inside track on Spencer’s extramarital affair through the gift of a Gugulethu neighbour employed as their domestic worker.
When the photographic image in southern Africa is grounded in a history of whites looking through the viewfinder, Fanie Jason sought to shift this ground when, as Jean-Luc Nancy expresses it: »By taking the photograph, I fix an other in a suspended hesitation by which the image and its subject are both determined.«
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