Killing Fields: Conflict and The Photobook (I disagree)

The conflict photobook offers the viewer evidence and can hint at both causes and effects. It can document the rise and fall of powers such as capitalism and communism (both forms of imperialism who waged war by proxy countries). But they can be [are] partisan and biased in their approach and choice of imagery whether official and embedded or and unofficial and independent or a citizen reporter

“Documentary photography can no longer – if it ever could – hit the viewer between the eyes. The complex issues surrounding the contextualisation of reportage photography have resulted in a postmodern photojournalism, where photographers are obliged to consider the context of their imagery” p188

The authors argue that personal citizenship photography is often unmediated and so crucially different from the professionally mediated because it can present itself as a source of information but its uninformed information.

You could tell that this chapter was written by people who make their living from images. While most of the chapter’s introduction was about context the last part was an explicit critique of the amateur photographer who posts images unmediated onto the Net. The authors argue that the danger is of such images informing the uninformed without being mediated (contextualised) through professional informed organisations.

I just don’t agree with that view. Images are voices and the mainstream professional image makers are focussed for the most part on popular issues. The photobook – especially the self published photobook – offers a niche place and space for alternative voices to be heard and seen through the imagery of anyone with a camera. Moreover, I think the danger is that mediation is less about contextualisation and more about politics and getting people to look, see and understand from a particular point of view: not an informed point of view but rather an established point of view. Isn’t that how hegemony works?

G. Badger, and M. Parr, (2014) The Photobook: A History Volume III Published by Phaidon Press


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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