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Student Research Profile: Danielle VonLehe

Danielle VonLehe
Danielle VonLehe, BA 2015
Student Research Profile: Danielle VonLehe

Thesis: The Dialectical Photograph: Redefining the Historical Process Using the Photography of Eugène Atget.
Although working in separate mediums, the theorist Walter Benjamin and the photographer Eugène Atget found in the image sphere the tools necessary for collective political action. My thesis applies characteristics of Walter Benjamin's theory of the dialectical image to selected photographs by the late 19th-early 20th century photographer Eugène Atget. I define the primary characteristics of the dialectical image - an intuitive moment that results in historical understanding - as the following: unique temporality, ur-form, cognitive suggestiveness, and visceral affectivity. Supported by photographic criticism from Roland Barthes, John Swarskowski, and Annette Kuhn, I merge these characteristics with that of Atget's photographs to show how the photographs emancipate their objects from aura, allowing the images to be read as dialectical images. This is an active gesture that questions both how interpretation of selected photographs as dialectical images reacts against the misconception of the historical process as progressive and, further, how the photographic medium on a broader level is able to represent history and the present moment as actuality. I argue that, if the problem of the historical process is that aestheticism, as exemplified by Paris in the mid-19th century, hides the true decay and/or stagnation behind the emblems of progress, then the image is a way to penetrate reality and unveil the historical process as an unprogressive one.

BA in English: Language and Literature, 2015
BFA in Art: Photography, 2015
UW English Department Honors


  • Phi Beta Kappa, 2014
  • University of Nevada Reno Undergraduate Research Institute, 2014


  • "Emily, 2014," Visual Arts & Design Showcase, University of Washington Undergraduate Research Syposium, Seattle, 2014.
Status of Research or Work: