An Analysis of ‘Rich and Poor’ Photography Series by Jim Goldberg in the Light of Deconstruction Theory of Jacques Derrida

Sinem Tas

Palavras-chave: Text; the Other; Deconstruction; Jacques Derrida

Participação: presencial

This paper aims to make an analyse of the relation between photography and the otherness in the context of deconstruction theory of Jacques Derrida within interdisciplinary approach. Therefore it proposes an analysis of ‘Rich and Poor’ series by Jim Goldberg in the light of related theory of Derrida, in order to understand how the images contribute to remove the constructed hierarchies between two subjects and how the combination of images and text can contribute to create a more equitable world.

In the contemporary age, we are constantly exposed to look at excessive amount of visual images in our daily lives as a means of communication. The complex world of visual culture holds the power to construct biases, stereotypes and it carries the means to impact the viewer. Therefore, the visual culture is an important way of creating the image of the Other and documenting the otherness.

Jim Goldberg is a photographer who uses photography and text, to document the otherness in his photography series of ‘Rich and Poor’. The artist exhibits the photos of his subjects along with their handwritings documenting the stories of people who live in conditions of wealth and poverty in United States. The images are composed with subjects in their living environments allowing to the viewer to witness their daily lives, the state of minds along with their vulnerability and fragility.

The photographer reflects the feelings, disappointments, inner conflicts of the subjects via these images and texts. On one hand each material (image, text) has its own duty on transmitting the feelings on the other hand, each art piece achieves decentring the centred side of this socially constructed binary structure.

Derrida’s problematisation of the binary hierarchy self/other constitutes the philosophical basis of the practical component of this analysis. According to Derrida, binary oppositions are dangerous because they generate a dichotomy between positive or negative. Derrida argues that the binary hierarchies of presence are always ‘violent’ (Derrida, 1967). The stability that is (temporarily) achieved is always at the cost of suppressing the Other.

Deconstruction theory does not have one certain definition. However, it is possible to emphasise that the theory focuses on the binary oppositions which are constructed in Western discourses aiming to deconstruct them. The theory reveals how these opposites are posited: One is privileged while the other is marginalized, one is centred while the other is ignored or repressed.


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Sinem TAS is recently a PhD student at Multi Media Art, at the Fine Arts Faculty of Lisbon University. Researcher at CIEBA Research Center since 1st March, 2022. After finishing her bachelor degree in International Relations at Uludag University in Bursa in 2013, TAS worked as photojournalist at a local journal covering news and protests in Izmir, Turkey. She has worked as a freelance photographer and filmmaker in Lisbon since 2014 and took part in projects of KINO DOC film courses in Portugal. She completed her master's degree in Multi Media Art / Photography at the Fine Arts Faculty of Lisbon University. In 2017 TAS directed her first documentary film "My Kaaba is HUMAN" which was screened in several film festivals in different countries. The documentary inspired her ongoing project AUTRUI (previously named My Kaaba is HUMAN) where she takes photos and documents stories of people from different cultures and countries. Stories are published by (in Portugal), published by (in Turkey). TAS participated group exhibitions in Portugal and Turkey, had solo exhibitions in Portugal, Turkey and Morocco.