Traces of humanity? Carl de Keyzer and Johan Lagae’s Congo Belge en Images

Cécile Bishop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Focusing on the 2010 project Congo belge en images, in which the photographer Carl de Keyzer and the historian Johan Lagae exhibited and published a selection of pictures from the colonial archives of the Tervuren museum, this article examines the shifting presence of the human in photographs of the Belgian Congo. Debates surrounding the use of photographic archives have often emphasized the necessity to recover photographs’ original meaning in order to counter their potential instrumentalization. Building on recent interventions such as Ariella Azoulay’s The Civil Contract of Photograhy (2008), this article proposes an alternative approach, in which the tension between photography’s status as historical proof and its openness to reinterpretation is in fact central to the ethical function of the medium. It is indeed through this tension, as this article shows, that Congo belge en images offers a visual reflection that moves beyond previous humanist or humanitarian discourses and interrogates our very ability to recognize the presence of the human.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517–540
Number of pages23
Journal International Journal of Francophone Studies
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013

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