“You can’t photograph everything”: The acts and arts of bearing witness in Joseph Rodriguez’s Still Here: Stories After Hurricane Katrina (2009).

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Joseph Rodríguez re-creates and represents African American experiences which yet remain hidden or elided in mainstream memorializations of Hurricane Katrina. Intent upon giving “a voice to the voiceless,” Rodríguez relies upon an aesthetics of rupture and juxtaposition to create multiple narratives resistant to any reformist impetus towards cathartic trajectories of moral uplift. Fragmented and elliptical, his photographs, diary entries and textual captions operate in slippery relation to one another to signify upon unimaginable traumas. Rodríguez's subjects maintain agency by engaging in political, cultural and social acts of resistance. Signifying on the documentary mode, he creates self-reflexive compositions which rely on a symbolic visual language to challenge white mainstream tendencies towards depicting African Americans as types rather than as individuals. Refusing to objectify, appropriate or colonize private black testimonies by documenting the black body as a spectacular site of suffering, he turns instead to individual identities as intertwined with family histories as the only effective way in which to begin to explore the atrocities enacted in the aftermath of Katrina. Anti-explication, anti-exhibition and anti-sensationalism, Rodríguez's Still Here is a work of disjuncture, reimagining and experimentation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-552
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of American Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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