Memory of Fire: The War of Images and Images of War
My first thought on reading the requirements for this exercise was ‘why?’; what does writing a press release have to do with photography anyway? However this reaction was before I read the two essays in the BPB brochure, and now I have read them I see more of a reason for trying this. It now seems to be a rather clever way of getting us (students) to synergise and differentiate the two points of view described in these essays. I still think that writing a press release is a different discipline than just blog posting; I have tried to follow this requirement but I’m not convinced I could get this published!
Photography has had an uneasy relationship with conflict since it first emerged, from the photographs taken in the American Civil War and the Crimean War right through to modern day wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Photographers throughout this time have sought new ways to depict the effects of warfare, both to circumvent technical limitations and to express a particular vision. This may involve having to suppress artistic independence in support of a desired political narrative, or it may be the photographer’s intention to work against this.
Artists have worked to find new ways to depict conflict and warfare in ways that can both engage the viewer and avoid softening the impact. On display here are works varying from Frank Hurley’s sometimes composite World War 1 images, through Philip Jones Griffiths’ depictions of the after effects of the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam conflict, Harriet Jones photographs of Afghan women under Taliban rule, and to contemporary ‘late’ works by Broomberg and Chanarin, Simon Norfolk and Paul Seawright.
Accompanying the works on display are two essays by Julian Stallabrass and Sarah James. In ‘The Power and Impotence of Images’ Julian Stallabrass investigates how the US Military found ways to counteract the often negative imagery that arose during the Vietnam war, and used this to evoke a sanitised view of warfare during the Iraq conflict. Sarah James in ‘Making and Ugly World Beautiful? Morality and Aesthetics in the Aftermath’ looks at the problematic aesthetic nature of ‘late’ photography.