The First Photos of Enslaved People Raise Many Questions About the Ethics of Viewing

Fabrizio Amoroso/Aperture

Since their rediscovery in 1976, the Zealy daguerreotypes-- which are believed to be the first photographs ever taken of enslaved people in America--have provoked pertinent questions about how they should circulate in society. Should even be shown? In this feature for The New York Times, literary critic Parul Sehgal, explores the the complicated notions of 'regard,' that surround these images.

"Is there a correct way to regard these images? Should one view them, or any coerced image, at all? To whom do they belong? Do they quicken or numb the conscience? Does displaying them traumatize the living? Is it care or cowardice to keep them concealed? What do we owe the dead?"