- Frank Jewett Mather Award, College Art Association, 2023
512 pp., 6 x 9 in, 88 color illus.
- Published: October 26, 2021
- Publisher: The MIT Press
A generously illustrated training manual for reading images, discussing work by Félix Nadar, Roland Barthes, Fazal Sheikh, Susan Meiselas, and others.
Paper Graveyards is neither a work of traditional art history nor one of literary criticism. It is not strictly a history of ideas either, notwithstanding its very obvious erudition. Rather, in drawing upon all of these methods and approaches—and with extraordinary attention to language and style—Cadava's writing examines the spectacular explosion of images during the last twenty years as a prompt to discuss not simply specific images but the role and place of these images in our everyday life.
Considering work by Félix Nadar, Roland Barthes, Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, Fazal Sheikh, Susan Meiselas, and others, Cadava delineates different modes of reading that, taking their point of departure from the conviction that the past, the present, and the future are always bound together, provide us with a training manual of sorts for understanding visual material in the twenty-first century. In the process, these generously illustrated essays actively expand our sense of literacy by reconstructing the networks of relations that inhabit the plural worlds of images, and create a critical genealogy of what we still call “an image,” even when, with every day that passes, we perhaps understand less and less what this might mean.
“Eduardo Cadava's Paper Graveyards is one of the most relevant statements on the theory of photography and photographic art to have emerged in the twenty-first century thus far. It is innovative in terms of its method, its argument, and its readings, and it will generate significant conversations in art and literary criticism, and in the theory of photography. One could also say about it what Kant said about his Critique of Pure Reason, namely that it had to be extended for if it were even a bit shorter, it would take way too much time to read. It moves seamlessly, attending to every single detail and preempting every single question.”
Branka Arsic, Charles and Lynn Zhang Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
“This magisterial collection of essays provides readers with a series of extraordinarily rich and revelatory readings of photographic history and of the philosophical questions that arise from such readings. It gives us an exemplary and often exquisite performance of what can be accomplished through the close reading of images. Most importantly, it offers a compelling theory of the image, writ large, as always already photographic, overturning the theories of media specificity that have dominated so much thought about technologized modernity over the last century.”
Rosalind C. Morris, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
“Cadava's new work bristles with the poetic precision, conceptual lucidity, historical concreteness, and ethical commitment that are uniquely his. His work is one of the great resources for our fragile times.”
Gerhard Richter, University Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature, Brown University