Cadava, Eduardo. ‘Inscriptions’ Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (Chichester: Princeton University Press, 1997) 18-21


The prevalence of techniques of reproduction within the field of photography, for example, makes it possible to replicate any given negatives an indefinite number of times.

This capacity for reproduction and circulation undermines the notion of an artwork’s singularity, what Benjamin calls its “cult value”.

In so doing, it “detaches” the artwork from the history of a tradition that has always privileged the artwork’s uniqueness, that has always valued the concepts of genius, creativity, and originality.

Rather that be defined by its “cultic value,” the artwork is now characterized by its “exhibitional value,” by its ability to circulate and to be exhibited.


For Benjamin, the lesson inherent in the authenticity of the photograph is the link between the photograph and writing, between photography and the prevalence of inscription.

[In “The Author as Producer”] There, arguing that the photographer must learn how to underline his image with a caption that gives it revolutionary value, he suggests that this demand can be made more forcefully  only when writers break through the “barrier between writing and image” and “start taking photographs”.


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