All colonized and subjugated people who, by way of resistance, create an oppositional subculture within the framework of domination, recognize that the field of representation [. . .] is a site of ongoing struggle.
bell hooks’s essay examines the importance of family photographs to African-American families particularly during the Civil Rights struggle in America. Before the advent of portable cameras (or before they were affordable by black families), the representation of African-Americans would have come primarily through the dominant (white, male) ideology. The ability for African-American families to picture themselves, and to represent themselves and each other as people rather than as caricatures formed a site of resistance that hooks calls a “disruption of white control of black images.”
The walls of family photographs came to function as a gallery of sorts, a space for images made by black people to be consumed by black people, since “white” galleries would not display such images. Photography allowed African-Americans to escape the colonizing gaze to which they were often subjected and represented as “types.” When a colonizer, or anyone who has power over another group, controls the representation of a minority, the minority will never gain power. Snapshot photography provided the African-American community one way to attempt to correct the mis-representation to which they had been subject.