Traces of the Unseen
Photography, Violence, and Modernization in Early Twentieth-Century Latin America
Imprint: Northwestern University Press
A richly illustrated examination of photography as a technology for documenting, creating, and understanding the processes of modernization in turn-of-the-century Brazil and the Amazon
Photography at the turn of the twentieth century was not only a product of modernity but also an increasingly available medium to chronicle the processes of modernization. Traces of the Unseen: Photography, Violence, and Modernization in Early Twentieth-Century Latin America situates photography's role in documenting the destruction wrought by infrastructure development and extractive capitalist expansion in the Amazon and outside the Brazilian metropole. Combining formal analysis of individual photographs with their inclusion in larger multimedia assemblages, Carolina Sá Carvalho explores how this visual evidence of violence was framed, captioned, cropped, and circulated. As she explains, this photographic creation and circulation generated a pedagogy of the gaze with which increasingly connected urban audiences were taught what and how to see: viewers learned to interpret the traces of violence captured in these images within the larger context of modernization.
Traces of the Unseen draws on works by Flavio de Barros, Euclides da Cunha, Roger Casement, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Mario de Andrade to situate an unruly photographic body at the center of modernity, in all its disputed meanings. Moreover, Sá Carvalho locates historically specific practices of seeing within the geopolitical peripheries of capitalism. What emerges is a consideration of photography as a technology through which modern aspirations, moral inclinations, imagined futures, and lost pasts were represented, critiqued, and mourned.
Chapter 1 - Corpse: The Nation in a Decomposing Portrait
Chapter 2 - Scars: Humanitarianism and the Colonial Point of View
Chapter 3 - Debris: The Indigenous Past in an Ethnographer’s Dream
Chapter 4 - Shadows: The Amazonian Worker and the Modernist Traveler
“Traces of the Unseen is an innovative study on the role of photography in revealing the violent underside of modernization in Brazil. Through a careful analysis of visual records about key events in the country’s history—the Canudos massacre, the Amazonian rubber boom and its aftermath—the author shows how photographers including Claude Lévi-Strauss, Roger Casement, and Mário de Andrade drew attention to forgotten communities, victims of Brazil’s stride toward progress. A must-read for those interested in the iconography of Brazilian modernity.” —Patrícia Vieira, author of States of Grace: Utopia in Brazilian Culture