The Book


Today, in the age of CCTV, drones, medical body scans, and satellite images, photography is increasingly decoupled from human agency and human vision. In her book Nonhuman Photography (MIT Press, 2017), Joanna Zylinska offers a new philosophy of photography, going beyond the human-centric view to consider imaging practices from which the human is absent. Zylinska argues further that even those images produced by humans, whether artists or amateurs, entail a nonhuman, mechanical element—that is, they involve the execution of technical and cultural algorithms that shape our image-making devices as well as our viewing practices. At the same time, she notes, photography is increasingly mobilized to document the precariousness of the human habitat and tasked with helping us imagine a better tomorrow. With its conjoined human-nonhuman agency and vision, Zylinska claims, photography functions as both a form of control and a life-shaping force.

Zylinska explores the potential of photography for developing new modes of seeing and imagining, and presents images from her own photographic practice. She also examines the challenges posed by digitization to established notions of art, culture, and the media. In connecting biological extinction and technical obsolescence, and discussing the parallels between photography and fossilization, she proposes to understand photography as a light-induced process of fossilization across media and across time scales.


“Wherever Joanna Zylinska is, there’s the cutting edge.”
—Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU; author of How to See the World

“The twenty-first century has found many ways to turn back, often uncritically, to life, bodies, matter, affect, and the real. Joanna Zylinska, having already contributed in profound and challenging ways to our understandings of ethics, media studies, and animality, now offers this remarkable book on nonhuman photography—a text that is as mindful of the camera’s place in deep time as it is of the nonhuman eye’s capacity to generate futures. This is an important and provocative book that will change the way we think about images.”
—Claire Colebrook, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English, Philosophy, and Women’s and Gender Studies, Pennsylvania State University; coauthor of Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols


Joanna Zylinska is Professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. The author of six books on technology, culture, art and ethics, she is also is an artist and a curator. For more information, visit Joanna's website.


Interview on nonhuman photography after the ECREA keynote, November 2016.

Interview, in Spanish, on nonhuman photography at ISEA and Festival Internacional de la Imagen in Colombia, June 2017. (Apologies for the errors...)

Talk "Photography After Extinction" at the Center for 21st Century Studies After Extinction Conference, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. May 2015.

Talk "Photography after the Human" at the After the Spectacular Image: Art, Architecture, and the Media of Climate Change Environmental Humanities Symposium, Princeton University, 2016.