Photography and Film as Ambivalent Instruments of Power

By Cécile Cuny, Héloïse Nez

This paper addresses the role of photography and film as mechanisms for the redistribution of power, an important challenge for experiences of institutionalized participation and social movements. It shows that these images can be used as instruments of power, but they are in fact ambivalent. In the hands of elites, they enhance their power, whereas when used by dominated social groups, they contribute to subverting social or political hierarchies. The paper opens with a review of the literature, emphasizing two ways of using photography and film in participative processes, namely making the invisible visible and serving as means of identification. This allows for a discussion of the use of these images in a scientific context.


  • photography
  • film
  • participatory democracy
  • town planning
  • social movements
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