Toxic Portraits: Resisting Multiple Invisibilities in the Environmental Justice Movement

Joshua Trey Barnett

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13 Scopus citations


This essay conceptualizes “toxic portraits,” close-up, in situ photographs of people in toxically assaulted places. Toxic portraits articulate the multiple invisibilities attending environmental injustice through a series of visible indexical signs. As a result, toxic portraits enable spectators to see the precariousness of life as dramatized in human relationships to the environments in which we live. Drawing on the “subjunctive voice of the visual” as a rhetorical heuristic, I conceptualize the productive space created by toxic portraits and ultimately argue that these images invite an ethically inflected response to the dangers of living in a polluted world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-425
Number of pages21
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©2015,National Communication Association.


  • Environmental Justice
  • Pollution
  • Portraits
  • Subjunctive
  • Visual Rhetoric


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