The Civil Contract of Photography is a groundbreaking book by Ariella Azoulay that looks at the ethics of photography and it’s relation to society and history.

Her chapter ‘Has anyone ever seen a photograph of a rape?’, directly relates to what I am focusing on in my presentation. I have been reading it in depth and making notes on how it relates to my current research and what opinions and thoughts it has caused me to have in relation to rape culture and photography.

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Points I have taken from Ariella Azoulays writing: 

  • We see images of murder and violence and they become iconic. Be images of rape do not. Because people consider them sexual instead of violent.
  • Excuses for the lack of imagery of rape revolve around protecting the victim from further harm or concern for the images being used for pornographic purposes.
  • ^ Both reasons reinforce the sexual aspect of rape and ignore the violent aspect of it.
  • You cannot photograph the whole moment of rape, just parts of it. The before, after or during.
  • If you show images of rape is won’t eradicate it, but will perhaps change public opinion of it.
  • Rape is not an imageless crime, the public gaze on rape is what is missing.

How is relates to my other research


  • There is ‘an unwritten prohibition on showing ‘real’ images of rape’, while, ‘’staged’ rape images are freely shown…’
  • rape is not in principle devoid of image – the public gaze on image of rape is what’s missing.’ with this in mind, the images of glamourised rape we see in advertising are giving society a one sided, distorted, view of what rape is like
  • the glamorised images we are subjected to ignore the violent elements or rape and purely enforce the sexual

Real rape

  • ‘Breaking the taboo on showing images of rape will challenge the clear demarcation between images that are allowed to be shown and those that are not – the line of demarcation that distinguishes rape from the other horrors that afflict humanity and preserves women as the exception to the rule.’
    So showing real images of rape in society would combat the distorted view of rape reinforced by rape culture. And while it would not necessarily stop rape from happening, it would make society more understanding of the violence and trauma of rape.
  • Why the Steubenville rape photo is important
  • Nanking – research this! There are pictures in the book, and Azoulay talks about it as a rare moment of rape images being publicly available.