Between 1986 and his death from AIDS-related causes in 1989, the Boston- and Jersey City–based photographer Mark Morrisroe produced a series of cameraless photographs with heterogenous material including fabric, pornography, and X-rays. This essay argues that these photograms move away from a dominant understanding of photography that celebrates stasis, legibility, and indexicality in favor of one concentrating on activity. Morrisroe’s photograms cast the photograph as a process: the image unfixable and always under development, its matter flexing, sputtering, and shifting over time. For Morrisroe, this project was inextricable from an understanding of desire itself as processual. The essay positions Morrisroe’s processual and desirous conception of photography as an instance of what has recently been theorized as queer formalism’s capacity to galvanize queer politics and resist social violence. Morrisroe’s formal experimentation with the medium and unorthodox use of darkroom materials countered mainstream, pathos-ridden representations of AIDS and imagined alternatives to the epidemic’s fragmentation of queer worldmaking projects. Through intertextual readings with Morrisroe’s contemporary Hervé Guibert, the essay shows how Morrisroe’s anti-indexical and processual cameraless photography demonstrates the medium’s potential as a vehicle for currents and transmissions knitting together spectators, bodies, and queer communities in flow.
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Research Article| March 01 2023
Photographic Process as Desire: Mark Morrisroe’s Late Photograms
Nicholas C. Morgan
Nicholas C. Morgan
Nicholas C. Morgan is a postdoctoral lecturer in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University.
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Afterimage (2023) 50 (1): 24–48.
Nicholas C. Morgan; Photographic Process as Desire: Mark Morrisroe’s Late Photograms. Afterimage 1 March 2023; 50 (1): 24–48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/aft.2023.50.1.24
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