Annemarie Schwarzenbach and the Margins of Visibility in the American South

Kara Charles Felt


On road trips across the globe, Annemarie Schwarzenbach made photographs illuminating different cultures and giving visibility to marginalized communities. Her time in the U.S. presents a uniquely rewarding focus for a reassessment of her photographic practice. She worked there during the pinnacle of American documentary photography, producing photographs and reports during three visits to the Eastern U.S. between September 1936 and February 1941. My article investigates the unexplored connections between her American photographs and images created by photographers working for the Farm Security Administration, especially regarding issues of race and class. I focus on a photograph Schwarzenbach made in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1937 and draw on Édouard Glissant’s theory of opacity to explore how she wielded perceptual instability to preserve her subjects’ agency. By placing Schwarzenbach within a network of photographers, I ultimately seek to clarify her position among socially conscious image-makers in the 1930s. (KCF)

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