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What we require of the photographer is the ability to give his picture the caption that wrenches it from modish commerce and gives it a revolutionary useful value. But we shall make this demand most emphatically when we—the writers—take up photography.

—Walter Benjamin

There is a photograph of Jewish deportees in Auschwitz-Birkenau, taken probably by the SS Sergeant Ernst Hoffman in late May of 1944, where you see the freshly arrived Hungarian Jews and sense their uncertainty and their loss. As you observe the child clutching his father's lapel, and the eyes of the men and women around him, the look you encounter is one of implacable distance, mixed with fear and curiosity. In the faces of the people I have photographed in the land of my birth, India, I have tried to locate a record of memories and expression that were never the domain of the documentary interests of the state or the dominant media. The photographs you see here are a small part of that extended, ongoing project. [End Page 59]

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When I speak of art specifically, away from the scene of crisis, my take is a schoolteacher's take: art and literature and music for me are audiovisual teaching aids in the construction of cases.

—Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

I use the photographs I've taken in various parts of the world to provoke my students to think not only about the invisible worlds within the world they live in, but also about the connections between those worlds. This globality is a local practice; it is linked to an alert awareness of the particular histories one inhabits. In that sense, the active meanings and uses of these images largely lie with you. [End Page 69]

Amitava Kumar

Amitava Kumar teaches in the English Department at the University of Florida, Gainesville. He is a member of Impact Visuals, a New York based progressive photo co-op. Amitava Kumar's photo journalism and poetry have appeared in both Indian and American publications, including the Indian Express, The Times of India, Samar, The Guardian, Z Magazine, Rethinking Marxism, and Artpaper.

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