Craig Owens
[Writer and critic, b. 1950, d. 1990.]

 Representation, then, is not—nor can it be—neutral; it is an act—indeed the founding act—of power in our culture. 
 Photographs are but one link in a potentially endless chain of reduplication; themselves duplicates (of both their objects and, in a sense, their negatives), they are also subject to further duplication, either through the procedures of printing or as objects of still other photographs... 
 As an allegorical art, then, photography would represent our desire to fix the transitory, the ephemeral, in a stable and stabilizing image. 
 The postmodernist critique of representation undermines the referential status of visual imagery, its claim to represent reality as it really is—either the appearance of things or some ideal order behind or beyond appearance. 
 Photography and film, based as they are on single-point perspective, are transparent mediums; their derivation from the Classical system of representation is obvious, yet remains to be investigated critically. Artists who deal with such images work to expose them as instruments of power. Not only do they investigate the ideological messages encoded therein, but, more importantly, the strategies and tactics whereby such images secure their authoritative status in our culture. For if such images are to be effective tools of cultural persuasion, then their material and ideological supports must be erased so that, in them, reality itself appears to speak.