Photography and Its Many Labels
By Hans Durrer
Mar 24, 2014, 10:49
||Right: Picture from "Sudafrikas Kuste" copyright Jorn Vanhofen
In an interview with Spiegel Online,
photographer Jorn Vanhofen described himself as a political landscape
photographer whose goal it is to create ambiguous images for he wants to
force the observer to not only consume the photographs but to really
Pretty ambitious, isn't it? And not very probable that he will
achieve his goal for the ones who spend time with photographs usually do
with them as they deem fit, regardless of what the photographer's
||But first things first: In my view, all images are
ambiguous. In other words, ambiguousness needn't be created because it
is already there. More precisely: images are neither ambiguous nor not
ambigous, they simply are. It is our reading of photographs that may
result in ambiguousness. Just think of the Russian proverb He lies like an eye-witness.
||Vanhofen's goal was to show the political, cultural,
social life after Apartheid. The problem with this seems obvious for it
is characteristic of photography that it cannot show something as
abstract as politics, culture or society. Even more problematic is of
course to photograph "a political landscape" for there is no such thing.
||Left: Whisper of the Wind. Entry by Dave Brosha
also, I learn, astronomy photography (how does one photograph
astronomy? I wonder). Well, I guess it is probably best to show you an
example of what some people have decided to call astronomy photography.
It is a truly beautiful shot and one of the entries for the competition
entitled "astronomy photographer of the year 2010," held at the Royal
Observatory in Greenwich.
There's another category I did not know existed: crime photography.
In 2009, The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, an educational
charity based at Kings College London, organised a photographic
competition, sponsored by the Wates Foundation, which asked for visual
answers to the question "What is Crime?"
||Here's what The Independent penned:
||"Rather than traditional images of criminality and
justice, such as prison bars or policemen, the competition organizers
asked for photographs that would "stimulate thinking about harm,
injustice and crime". The exhibition contains a series of powerful
images in three categories - Environment, Finance and Violence - all of
which ask the viewer to recalibrate their sense of what is, or isn't,
criminal. Open to anyone, the competition attracted participation from a
range of amateur and professional photographers"
(The Independent, 4 June 2009).
||Although I find many of the labels that people come up
with helpful, I think them also problematic for they attempt to give
direction to my seeing.
||The simple fact is that photographs trigger emotions,
how and why this is we do not, and probably cannot, know. It is however
not the image that defines how it will be perceived, it is what we
bring to it. For, as the Talmud says, We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.
||2014 copyright Hans Durrer / Soundscapes|
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