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Distributed for DIAPHANES

Archive Matter

A Camera in the Laboratory of the Modern

Distributed for DIAPHANES

Archive Matter

A Camera in the Laboratory of the Modern

A journey through the United Fruit Company’s photo archive and its documentation of corporate expansion into the Caribbean.

The establishment of the United Fruit Company as a global political agent with its banana plantations was met with considerable resistance. Now the company’s photographic records are the focal point of Archive Matter as it examines photography’s historical and political impact through the argument that this overlooked, but important, archive made capitalist expansion into the Caribbean possible.

Author Liliana Gómez examines the images from within their “optical unconscious” and via the archive’s silences and omissions. The implication of these silences, Gómez argues, is the attempt to conceal the violence embedded within the realities of the plantations’ daily operations and corporate efforts to “modernize” the Caribbean.

400 pages | 62 color plates, 26 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 3/4 | © 2023

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Table of Contents


Forward by Jens Andermann


Archive matter and photography
Modern visual economy and agriculture
The chapters

1. Camera and Capitalism: The United Fruit Company
The corporation and its photographic archive
Camera and capitalism
Slow violence: capital, labor, technology
The archive’s chronotope

2. The Crossroads of Science and Discourse Networks
The crossroads of science
Colonialism and landscaping
Discourse networks
Company towns
Imperial debris

3. ‘The World Was My Garden’
The world as garden
Photography and botany’s modern materialities
The political economy of agriculture
Visual epistemology and botanical matter

4. Ethnographic Eyes and Archaeological Views
The archaeological expeditions to Quirigua
The Keith collection or the magic of the Company’s Pre-Columbian objects
Foundational images: "The Maya Through the Ages "(1949)
Animated materiality

Epilogue. Upheavals and the Resurgent Photographic Archive
Civil contract and the materiality of the image
The banana massacre and "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
The resurgent photographic archive or the ethics of seeing
The struggle for human rights

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