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Neither/Nor: Unfaithful Images in Photography and Preservation


If photography and historic preservation share a common ground, it is that each is necessarily bound by its relation to another, whether another time, another place, or another thing. Each is an image, a placeholder for something not present. Given this affinity, the disciplinary possibilities for historic preservation might be better understood through those of photography. For photography, these possibilities have been found between two poles—between the objective (mechanical photography) at one end and the pictorial (art photography) at the other. The objective presents a countenance of fact but fails to fully describe, while the pictorial prefers dissemblance as a means for arriving at a greater truth. Between these two ends, the unfaithful, or relentlessly false, offers an alternative. This essay looks at four categories of unfaithful methods in photography: erasure, censorship, substitution, and translation. While these categories are far from exhaustive, they serve as a starting point for tracing the broader field of preservation.