Invisible Presence of the Past

Hauntology of Photography

Invisible Presence of the Past

Hauntology of Photography

Michał Grochowiak, Breath, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

Photography has been associated with the specter, spirit, and the apparition ever since the theory of photography first emerged. André Bazin and Edgar Morin saw the spectral features of photography as the basis for phenomenological interpretation. However, the most creative exposition of ghosts in photography is linked to Jacques Derrida’s concept of hauntology. Nowadays, hauntology is often cited in relation to nostalgia – longing for “the lost futures”. However, when Derrida wrote Specters of Marx in 1993, he was interested in the ontological repetition of ideas through history. Photographs created by two contemporary Polish photographers (Michał Grochowiak and Nicolas Grospierre) are an excellent illustration of the French philosopher’s thoughts, as their works focus on the same theme – architecture of the socialist era. The recurring specter of the past manifests itself through it. Grochowiak’s photographs from the Breath series (2010) depict the interior of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw – fragments of a monumental memorial from the socialist era. In turn, Grospierre’s series of photographs titled K-Pool and company (2011) documents modernist buildings in the post-Soviet republics. In the article, the reference to hauntology allows me to discuss photography as a carrier of eeriness as well as an invisible tool of disclosure. What’s more, it seems that hauntology may explain the role of photography in discussing the political and social contexts of the past.

You must be a subscriber to view the main content of this page. Please subscribe to an option that fits your needs and get access to core content! If you are already a subscriber just sign in below. If you have purchased a subscription via Offline payment, the content will be unlocked upon receiving your payment.

Varied versions of hauntology, such as the Polish ‘duchologia’ or ostalgia describe the state of mind in which the view of the past and its material object clash with the present. The specters live in everyday life, they are not really unusual.
Reading time: 15 min.


sign up

and get the latest news and calls for papers & projects

Our site uses cookies to improve our services. As an user you need to agree to the usage and accept our conditions. We are currently using only necessary cookies for normal web page functioning. For more information visit our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. For more information on the cookies that we use please check the list below.  

This cookie is native to PHP applications. The cookie is used to store and identify a users’ unique session ID for the purpose of managing user session on the website. The cookie is a session cookies and is deleted when all the browser windows are closed.

I consent to the cookie usage, agree with the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy and want to continue using the web-page.