Photographic Flashes: On Imaging Trans Violence in Heather Cassils’ Durational Art

E.A. Steinbock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


This article examines the aesthetic strategy of flash photography to visualize everyday violence against trans people in the visual art of Heather Cassils (2011-14). In addition to using photographic flashes to blind audiences, these works reference violence on multiple levels: institutional discrimination through the location in an empty archive room, killings through martial arts choreographies, and nnicroaggressions in aesthetics of defacement. However, the rigorous physical training undergone for his body art also suggests a productive mode of violence in that muscles must fail in order to grow. I trace the recurrence of the spasm across these different forms of embodied violence to show its generative as well as destructive property. This body of work opens up questions about the historiography of photography: What is the temporality of photographic violence? How can the body's resiliency be pictured? Does a trans body experienced as a punctum indicate queer anxieties?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-268
Number of pages16
JournalPhotography & Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Heather Cassils
  • flash photography
  • punctum
  • sensation
  • temporality
  • transgender

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