Complete Story

GALLAGHER, Victoria and ZAGACKI, Ken

Spring 2007, 37:2, pages 113 - 135

Visibility and Rhetoric: Epiphanies and Transformations in the Life Photographs of the Selma Marches of 1965

In this article, we contribute to scholarship on visibility and rhetoric by examining the way in which photographs published in March 1965 issues of Life magazine functioned rhetorically to (1) evoke common humanity by capturing moments of embodiment and enactment that challenged the established images of blacks in the minds of whites and held up for scrutiny assumptions and power relationships that had long been taken for granted; (2) evoke common humanity by creating recognition of others through particularity; and (3) challenge taken-for-granted ideas of democracy, reminding viewers that a large gap existed between abstract political concepts like democracy and what was actually occurring in American streets. We conclude by considering the transformative capacity of photojournalism as it mediates between the universal and the particular, and enables viewers to experience epiphanic moments when issues, ideas, habits, and yearnings are crystallized into a single recognizable image.

Printer-Friendly Version