Generative Negatives: Del LaGrace Volcano’s Herm Body photographs

E.A. Steinbock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The most recent exhibited work of photographer Del LaGrace Volcano is a triptych from the series Herm Body (2011–), which presents Volcano's front and back torso conspicuously pared down, headless, and nude. Whereas in conventional film photography, negatives are used in the darkroom to make positive images (photographic prints), in the outmoded medium Polaroid 665, which Volcano employs, the positive image is used to make a (unique) negative. The generativity of the Polaroid 665 negative in Volcano's hands is not purely photographic; it is also affective. My essay explores the questions, what are the stakes and what are the consequences in a (photographic) negative generating and reflecting the artist's self-image? I attend to the vulnerabilities of the technical process as well as the strong formal and conceptual references to intersex bodies in medical photography and to aging bodies in images from John Coplans. In short, I propose that the Herm Body series shows how negative affect is productive and political, even when it appears to suspend agency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-551
JournalTransgender Studies Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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