The Politics of Visibility: Two Cases From the Pendleton Walks

Bratchford, Gary (2016) The Politics of Visibility: Two Cases From the Pendleton Walks. In: All Materials of Value. Institute of Urban Dreaming (IUD), Salford, pp. 44-47.

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The images and text that precede this introduction are responses to a guided walk around Pendleton, Salford, with Jane Brake and John van Aitken of the Institute of Urban Dreaming in October 2016. Informed by oral histories, policy, political and architectural theory, the guided walk was a mêlée of facts and interpretative readings that pointed towards dispossession, ruination and gentrification. In exchange for my participation, all that was asked of me was that I look. Shifting the lens of my viewfinder back and forth, producing over 300 images in four hours I knew I was not seeking the decisive moment but producing a photographic narrative. In the text that follows, I discuss the communicative capacity of photography as a way to stand in for a bigger narrative. In the second section I discuss my discomfort with photographing the Pendleton estate until I felt I was invited to look by one resident and one specific house. This invitation was not verbal nor was I physically gestured over, however the resident within had claimed what Nicholas Mirzoeff refers to as ‘the right to look’. Building upon the work of Jacques Rancière, the right to look is not voyeurism. Rather, it is an exchange of looks in which ‘all parties both look and are looked at in the mutual pursuit of an understanding of the other’ and in doing so, creates a space for political engagement to foster.

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