When Benjamin reflected on these issues, he chose to equate the reproductive capacities of photography with the processes of mass production, and thus with the most basic operations of capitalism itself. For Benjamin, these processes are fraught with an inherent contradiction, an alienating inversion of social and commodity relations, such that reproduction is simultaneously capitalism's lifeblood and its poison. Photography, he suggested, contained within it this same contradiction, being equally capable of sustaining capitalism and of destroying it. Reproducibility is, in short, a political capacity that can be either exploited or suppressed but should not be ignored. Of course, most commentaries on Benjamin’s famous essay are content to try and define what he meant by ‘aura,’ perhaps the most misunderstood word in the photographic lexicon (with the possible exception of ‘punctum’), thereby displacing attention from the essay’s larger political concerns. I see the conjuring of aura—“a strange tissue of time and space: the unique apparition of a distance, however near it may be”—as Benjamin’s attempt to account for the effects of commodity fetishism, such that unequal relations of power are experienced by individuals in very real, if invisible, phenomenological and psychological terms. The endless reproduction of the Mona Lisa brings this painting close to us, but at the cost of the commodification of our relationship to it; in reproduction form it is near, physically and temporally, but its cult value has been exponentially enhanced by this same reproduction, this preventing us from having any kind of authentic relationship to it. In other words, the waxing and waning of aura is but one of the (political) effects of reproducibility.