Amelia Jones’ essay The “Eternal Return”

Amelia Jones’ essay The “Eternal Return”: Self Portrait Photography as a Technology of Embodiment (2002) is an analysis of the mode of self-portrait and self-performance opening up fresh ways of seeing sexualized and gender-based discussions. Jones notes that most people who practice modern photography are women who do not fit in the Eurocentric splendor habits. Through self-imagining subjectivity is established.  Jones argues that the self-portrait is a format that comes up with subjects a technology of personification. In one way or another, we might already be dead even though we do not realize it. The photographs are taken to represents the past in the present but are fails to do this. The picture therefore represents the unstoppable mortality that is not escapable.  Jones therefore sees photography as a way that is supposed to represent the past but it does not. It just shows a junction between life and death.

The questing raised from this essay is does a picture retain its initial meaning or does it form new fascinations as times goes by as Jones suggested? “The photographic self-portrait is like history or the memory that forms it: it never stands still but, rather, takes its meaning from an infinite stream of future engagements wherein new desires and fascinations produce new contours for the subject depicted,” (Jones,975). This quote simply means that a picture does not represent the past. It simply represents a memory that formed it. With its continued existence, new meanings are formed about the picture and the initial meaning is lost within time. People at different stages of life will view and interpret the picture differently. As times, go by then the picture gain different desires and admirations from the future.

Many are the times that the interpretation of a photograph is put upon the consumer of the picture or the producer. It is always about what the producer wants to communicate or how the consumer interprets the picture. W.J.T Mitchell what do Pictures “Really” Want (1996) is an essay that was written posing the question not to the producer or to the consumer but to the image itself. What does the picture really want to be interpreted or how does it want to be viewed. The viewer should do away with strategies of viewing rather he should he should learn to interpret the strategies deeply on what they really mean. Simply put the question suggests that we should understand how we look, not to come up with better ways of looking but to relate how we look with how we perceive and relate to the world.  Pictures do not know what they want and they have to be helped to realize what they want. According to Mitchell pictures, want “an idea of visuality adequate to their ontology.” They also want to be used to update history like books and film.

How do pictures want to be interpreted? Do we interpret them as they wish? This is a question that I would like raised in class.  “The painting’s desire, in short, is to change places with the beholder, to transfix or paralyze the beholder, turning him into an image for the gaze of the picture in what might be called ‘the Medusa Effect,’” (Mitchell, 76). When a viewer is completely attracted to a picture, they tend to lose themselves as they admire the picture, which means the picture has some type of “Medusa Effect” on the viewer. The pictures I turn would want to have this kind of power over the viewer. Trade places with the beholder by transfixing him to the effect of the picture.







Amelia Jones the “Eternal Return”: Self Portrait Photography as a Technology of Embodiment journal of Women in Culture and Society (2002) vol.27 (4): 947-978

W.J.T Mitchell what do Pictures “Really” Want October 77 (Summer 1996):77-82

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