nel yang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. Their research engages the areas of ordinary finance, models of subjectivity (self, user, analyst), the semiotics of desire, and experimental ethnography. Current projects include investigations of digitally mediated transaction (of which findom is one), subjectivity-models in the field of user research (UX), and Taiwanese claw machines (娃娃機). Other media they work with include free verse, “lyric ethnography”, 35mm (color), and digital performatives (tweets).
The power struggle that findom photography presents is actually just a hook, and the images do exactly what they set out to do. The free critic, by critiquing masculinity’s repetition and contrivance, is recruited into the performative duty of sustaining the eroto-economy.
Financial domination (findom) is a fetish practice in which a submissive derives erotic pleasure from sending money to a dominant or a cashmaster. Cashmasters produce photographs meant to elicit this desire in cashslaves, essentially arousing the desire to send money. This essay approaches this emergent genre of seemingly self-promotional photography as a genre of photographic performativity (Levin 2009). Rather than the desire to capture or represent (Batchen 1999), these images evidence a choreography of photographic performativity including both masters (as makers) and slaves (as viewers). Though the compliance with form and economic practice tempts the interpretation that masters are now slaves, this essay suggests that these images invite performances of domination, submission, and critique into wider performatives of arousal and elicitation. What critics and social analysts perceive as power (economic, erotic, or otherwise) are, in fact, desire at its seams, in the process of active and cooperative composition.