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Seen, seared and sealed: trauma and the visual presentation of September 11th

Pollard, Jennifer (2011) Seen, seared and sealed: trauma and the visual presentation of September 11th. Health, Risk & Society, 13 (1). pp. 81-101. ISSN 13698575

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Pollard, Jennifer

This article begins by questioning the ubiquity of the use of the word ‘trauma’ in reference to the terrorist attacks of September 11. The experiences of the many millions of indirect witnesses of the attacks, via broadcast media and photography, could be said to involve a particular kind of trauma; one that presents fundamental problems for the existing field of trauma theory. This is an unprecedented kind of distanced or ‘by proxy’ trauma that would not have been possible under earlier technological conditions: explosive and shocking images were repeated again and again, with such arresting immediacy that normal processes of seeing and understanding were disrupted. As language struggled to keep up, many testified that words seemed inadequate to express or explain this event, while images somehow came closer. This has led to attempts to grasp and understand it by trying to see and see again; returning to photographs that might help navigate a path back through the tangled web of elusive visual memories and halting words. The work of both Freud and Lacan is used here as a basis to re-examine trauma’s structural nature, and the ways in which the apparent dichotomy between words and images affects the discussion of such an overwhelmingly visual event. It has been argued that the structure of traumatic experience is analogous to that of the production of a photograph. This article examines how useful this theory might be when applied to an event that, as well as being defined as traumatic, can also be called one of the most photographed events in history.

Official Website: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/13698575.asp
Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: photojournalism, documentary photography, psychoanalysis
Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Routledge
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Communication
Date: April 2011
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1080/13698575.2010.540647
Projects or Series: Research Outputs Review (April 2010 - April 2011)
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2011 14:26
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2011 14:26
Item ID: 3108
URI: http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/3108

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