This essay considers Florence Henri's interwar photographic project from the standpoint of phenomenology. In doing so, it displaces the disinterested formalist framework that generally straightjackets her work to look askance at the terrain of subject-object relations that was urgently being rethought by Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Hellmuth Plessner, among others, in the turbulent decade after World War I. Composed in a cultural context in which the boundaries between self and other and between individuality and collectivity were being renegotiated, Henri's photographs materialize human-object kinships that query the operations of sovereign subjecthood in the postwar world. Ineluctably drawn to the dynamics of isolation and empathy, Henri exploits the paradox of photography's simultaneous objectivity and intimacy, staging subject-object encounters whose apparent technological, material rationality is subtended by volatility, contingency, and groundlessness. Allied with Bauhaus precepts, Henri's photographs amount to a set of investigations about subjecthood in a material world that propose new pathways of Being in modernity.

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