My thesis raises existential questions about identity and the construction of meaning using language as a premise and platform to provoke inquiry about the distinction between various classifications of viewer. A reexamination of the term bystander compelled me to create violently themed imagery in order to locate boundaries within viewership roles. Although it shares similarities with the roles of observer, spectator, and witness, in terms of the bystanderʼs visual observance of an event, there are unclear connotations that allude to varying degrees of lucidity and sentience among these roles. The agency of the viewer is evaluated by his/her level of cognizance and participation in the observed event. The French philosopher Jacques Rancière referred to a heightened state of a viewerʼs self-awareness as an ʻemancipation of the spectatorʼ. This is where the viewer abandons their passive role of observation for one that is rational and presently engaged. Following Rancièreʼs argument, my thesis suggests that the bystander is transformed by the context and circumstance/s of his/her surroundings (violence) and elevated or ʻemancipatedʼ to a status of selfawareness that exceeds all other kinds of viewership roles. Thus all other forms of observation are rendered obsolete as the bystander achieves a new status —an alterity that surpasses his/her own inert physical presence in the world.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Photography, Artistic--Themes, motives; Violence in art; Photography--Psychological aspects
Department, Program, or Center
School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (CIAS)
Van Hoy, Paul D., "Bystander" (2008). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus