Photography --

photo essay
losing consciousness
on vacgaytion
how to hurt with tenderness
women’s strength

artist portraits

Lilian Mauthofer

My work combines my interdisciplinary interest in both, photography and political philosophy.  I believe that my being as part of a larger society presupposes that each person’s thoughts are concerned with the presence of other people. The relationship between self and other is important to me in the context of my work as a photographer and as a researcher.
As a photographer, the camera embodies the need for an understanding of the relationship between my self, behind the camera and the other, in front of the camera, combined in the moment we trustfully share with each other: the image. There might also be a third subject, which is the observer of the image.  Though each person is enclosed in an envelope of skin and understands the movements and expressions of the body as ’mine’, we also constantly create a we-space, the moment when self and other meet. I believe that the photographic image is the product of this created we-space and consequently, my work, whether it’s an image or written words, evolves around certain aspects which I, based on my own experiences, find meaningful.

I am aware that taking photos, just as organizing information, or doing research, is an inherently political act. I therefore tried to understand, and am still in the process of understanding, my own biases. What we choose to prioritize, reduce, or exclude is not simply a way of creating stories, nor is it a tool of telling the objective truth. It is, in fact, a way of making a world. Accordingly, knowledge production can never be separated from the experiences and position of an individual in society. It is in this sense, that coloniality and eurocentrism are not only abstract forces but deeply personal questions arising from our experiences. To promote visibility as a counteract to eurocentric blindness is not enough because social ignorance and oppression are not just a lack of sensual capacity. The necessity to overcome injustices in social interactions also requires defeating cognitive and interpretative failures on a personal and structural level.  There is no objective gaze, no universal truth which is detached from my experiences.

This triggers my reflection about the responsibility we have towards each other.   I want to hold on to the words of the Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi who said: “Pessimism is the luxury of the powerful” and combat any push towards moral paralysis with a commitment to reflexivity.

Reflective practices require sensitivity, relations of partnership, solidarity, and care – all of which serve as tools to stand up against oppressive power structures and threaten to destroy them. I see the potential of reflective practices as the basis for a new version of a post-neoliberal and radical queer feminist reality.

copyright © 2022 Lilian Mauthofer