The ability of videos to serve as evidence of racial injustice is complex and contested. This essay argues that scrutiny of the Black body has come to play a key role in how videos of police violence are mined for evidence, following a long history of racialized surveillance and attributions of threat and superhuman powers to Black bodies. Using videos to combat injustice requires incorporating humanizing narratives and cultivating resistant modes of looking.
A photographic image is said to provide evidence of a photographed scene because it is a causal imprint of reflected light, an indexical trace of real objects and events. Though widely established in the history, theory, and philosophy of photography, this traditional imprinting model must be rejected because it relies on a “single-stage” misconception of the photographic process: the idea that a photographic image comes into existence at the time of exposure. In its place, a “multistage” account properly articulates different (...) production stages, such as registering and rendering, that are relevant to understanding the relation between a photographic image and the photographed scene. By denying that any photographic image is a causal imprint, the multistage approach proposes a more demanding evaluation of photographic evidence. This has implications for documentary film and photojournalism, along with specialized applications such as forensics, surveillance, and face-recognition technology. (shrink)