Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

The Post-Humanist Gaze: Reading Fanie Jason's Photo Essay on Carting Lives

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

The Post-Humanist Gaze: Reading Fanie Jason's Photo Essay on Carting Lives

Article excerpt

Summary

This article proposes a post-humanist reading of Fanie Jason's photo essay on carthorses in Greater Cape Town. When social realist photography includes nonhuman animals, they tend to be relegated to the margins of representation: sentimentalised, sensationalised, denigrated or ignored, both metaphorically and literally, they all but disappear. Jason's photographs, however, pose provocative questions about the carthorse body and its intersomatic connections with the human body. The horses demand attention, often looking back at the camera lens and the viewer. Conventional anthropocentric theories of photography offer nothing to a methodology which seeks to engage with the visual non-human animal, but theories of animals in art and in film contribute valuably to such a methodology. A post-humanist gaze not only subverts the human and non-human as necessarily inimical realms, but analyses how the photographs themselves extend the purview of social realist images. Post-humanism--in its denial of the exceptionalism of the human subject in relation to the non-human animal and in its discounting of the humanist preoccupation with consciousness, language and individual agency--theorises human-non-human animal relations in new ways. Thus, a post-humanist reading of Jason's photographs considers the embodied commonalities of human and horse. It eschews a humanist celebration of agency on which the notion of subjectivity is predicated, preferring instead to regard agency as relational and exterior--as Jonathan Burt suggests in his discussion of the "visual animal" (2002: 31).

Opsomming

Hierdie artikel bied 'n post-humanistiese interpretasie van Fanie Jason se foto-essay oor tuigperde in Groter Kaapstad. Wanneer sosiaal-realistiese fotografie niemenslike diere insluit, is dit geneig om hulle na die grense van verteenwoordiging te relegeer. Sowel metafories as letterlik sentimentaliseer, sensasionaliseer, denigreer of ignoreer dit hulle, sodat hulle byna verdwyn. Jason se foto's stel egter tergende vrae oor die tuigperd se liggaam en die intersomatiese verbindings daarvan met die menslike liggaam. Die perde dring aan op aandag, en kyk dikwels terug na die kameralens en die kyker. Konvensionele antroposentriese teoriee van fotografie lewer geen bydrae tot 'n metodologie om by die visuele niemenslike dier betrokke te raak nie, maar teoriee van diere in kuns en in rolprente lewer 'n waardevolle bydrae daartoe. 'n Post-humanistiese blik ondergrawe nie net die menslike en niemenslike as noodwendig skadelike terreine nie, maar ontleed hoe die foto's self die omvang van sosiaal-realistiese beelde uitbrei. Die post-humanisme--in die ontkenning van die uitsonderlikheid van die menslike onderwerp in verhouding tot die niemenslike dier en in die weerspreking van die humanistiese beheptheid met bewustheid, taal en individuele agentskap--teoretiseer op nuwe maniere die verhoudings tussen menslike en niemenslike diere. 'n Post-humanistiese interpretasie van Jason se foto's handel dus oor die beliggaamde gemeenskaplikhede van mens en perd. Dit sku weg van 'n humanistiese viering van agentskap waaraan die idee van subjektiwiteit toegeskryf is en verkies eerder om agentskap as verwant en ekstern te beskou--soos Jonathan Burt aanvoer in sy bespreking van die "visuele dier" (2002: 31).

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Fanie Jason's photo essay on carthorses and the humans who work with them in Greater Cape Town documents trans-species affiliations, contrary though some may be. The skilfully adept photographs depict a number of scenes: humans on the Cape Flats begin the day with their horses, who emerge from stables accessed through domestic spaces, and then wait quietly to be harnessed. A horse too young to be working yet is poised beside two children on a couch. In a large stable yard a woman owner, unusual in the carting industry staffed almost entirely by men, waits with her horses who will be hired out to pull the vehicles for collecting scrap. …

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