Brighton Photography Biennale 2008 – “Memory of fire the war of images and images of war”, Brighton, United Kingdom, Europe.
Memory of fire the war of images and images of war
A Biennale of photographic work depicting images derived from the theme of war, both past and present. Photographic prints and installation work.
The pieces in this exhibition combine an ample cross section of the good, the bad and the common ugliness that is so indexical to war. The subject matter on offer ranges from the generic to the sublime harnessing the exotic reigns of otherness coupled with the highly emotive charge which is essentially endemic to most photojournalism especially within the expanse of war. The artists feature: Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Andrew Stern, Antonio Turok, Ashley Gilbertson, Bruno Stevens, Don McCullin, Frank Hurley, Geert Van Kesteren, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Harriet Logan, Jonathan Moller, Julian Germain, Kael Alford, Larry Burrows, Paul Seawright Philip Jones Griffiths, Sebastiao Salgado, Simon Norfolk, Stephanie Sinclair, Susan Meiselas, Thomas Hirschhorn and Tim Page.
The subject matter
After reading the exhibition’s title one might be guilty for a moment of owning that the work may suffer the surfeit of unparalleled sameness and vapidity which can often occlude the reception and appreciation of photographic journalism as an art form. Nevertheless in this year’s Biennale, the artists are guilty of anything but that in fact their only crime is the obverse. Although the title may jar in one’s ear, the work on view is a clever combination of historical, modern and contemporary photography treated via traditional and non-traditional mediation.
Everyone one is equally other to another, it is the degree of this otherness by which we pronounce our similarity and derive ourselves. Nowhere save in the art of war does the concept of otherness (expounded by Edward Said), gain such momentum, and there is no other apparatus than the camera through which one is able to capture that alterity with such real-time immediacy and impact. At the moment the photographer releases the shutter a double retinal impact occurs both for photographer and posterity. However there should be a note that the public and the art world be careful not to venerate such images of harsh reality as (fine) art but rather use them as a reminder of how things should not be.
Photojournalism as art
The image of war in itself is conceptually no more interesting than images of anything else. Of course this does not mean that photojournalistic images lack quality in themselves, a good photo is a good photo after all and the majority of photojournalism is passing good. While it can be acknowledged as a form of art worthy of debate it should not be conflated with fine art. An artist can take photojournalism and from it build a formal structure by which he/she may create some true works of art, but in truth photojournalism cannot do the converse – this is because an artist constructs his art essentially by his own will and volition and in contrast a photojournalist’s mise en scene is preconstructed where his/her task is to record and document events.
A thought provoking and interesting collection of images which describe some of the horror, power, pain, destruction, injustice and nobility of war.
written by: Colin Humphrey