This essay considers the place of abstraction in documentary photography, a genre whose primary aesthetic-political commitment is usually assumed to be on the side of figuration, denotation, and facticity. Taking up photographer Fazal Sheikh's photographic series Desert Bloom, which records natural and human-made disturbances in the Naqab/Negev desert, the essay considers artistic abstraction in relation to other forms of economic, juridical, and political abstraction critical to settler colonialism in particular and capitalism more generally. How might abstraction be the very condition of politics? What might this imply for our understandings of documentary aesthetics?
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© 2019 October Magazine, Ltd. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology
October Magazine, Ltd. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology