When one visits the rooms dedicated to Velásquez in the Museum of Prado, it is extraordinary how portraits of kings and those of jesters and peasants are laid side-by-side. The nobility and dignity given to the lower members of the court exemplifies an early example of a revolution in the politics of representation. In the antipodes of this example, we analyse how the campaign of the millionaire Michael Bloomberg to be the Democratic Candidate for the 2020 elections hired companies to produce nonsense memes and digital propaganda. Our hypothesis is that on the center of its strategy the goal was to create an image of Bloomberg that besides viral would be relatable and humorous. The article overviews the evolution of the portrait as an element of political of representation and reflects on how the development of modern and contemporary art transformed the art of political portraiture. Furthermore it deliberates on the two-way appropriation of representation techniques between art movements and political movements.
India’s Independence from the colonial rule saw the nation’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru emerge as a powerful visual presence. At the peak of his popularity, in June 1955, he made a highly publicised 16-day visit to the USSR. This visit, made in the backdrop of the Cold War and the impending Big Four Conference, was covered in detail by the Indian and foreign press, as well as both government’s official photographers and camerapersons. Paper addresses an official album made after this iconic visit to investigate the role of photography within India-Soviet diplomatic networks. Casting Nehru as the Master persona, it delves into the function of photography in recasting his image as an international traveller, a crusader for peace, a negotiator, and a friend of the Soviet. Considering India’s and Soviet’s differing political stance and international position in that period, the article questions what does the presence of these official photographs reveal about emerging trans-national networks and if there were there any deviations in this careful reconstruction of the Master and his ally.
Financial domination (findom) is a fetish practice in which a submissive derives erotic pleasure from sending money to a dominant or a cashmaster. Cashmasters produce photographs meant to elicit this desire in cashslaves, essentially arousing the desire to send money. This essay approaches this emergent genre of seemingly self-promotional photography as a genre of photographic performativity (Levin 2009). Rather than the desire to capture or represent (Batchen 1999), these images evidence a choreography of photographic performativity including both masters (as makers) and slaves (as viewers). Though the compliance with form and economic practice tempts the interpretation that masters are now slaves, this essay suggests that these images invite performances of domination, submission, and critique into wider performatives of arousal and elicitation. What critics and social analysts perceive as power (economic, erotic, or otherwise) are, in fact, desire at its seams, in the process of active and cooperative composition.
Parallax Error is a found photographic image collection scavenged from well-known art history publications in bookstores in Cairo between 2012 and 2014. What makes the series distinct are the forms and styles of censorship used on the original images ahead of sale and public distribution. The altered images involve some of the leading figures in the canon of Western photographic history and these respected photo works enter into a process of state censorship. This entails hand-painting each photograph, in each book edition, in order to obscure the full erotic effect of the object of desire, i.e. parts of the human body. The position of photography within Egypt and much of the Arab world is a contested one shaped by the visual formations of Orientalism created by the impact of European colonial empires in the region. This archival project examines the intersection of visual cultures embedded behind the series of photographic images that have been transformed through acts of censorship in Egypt. This frames how these doctored photographic images impose particular meanings on the original photographs and the potential merits, if any, of iconoclastic intervention. Parallax Error examines the political and aesthetic status of the image object in the transformation from the original photograph to censored image. The ink and paint marks on the surface of the photograph create a tension between the censorship act and its impact on the original. These hybrid images provide a political basis to rethink visual culture encounters in our interconnected and increasingly globalised contemporary image world.
This paper investigates the conditions in which photojournalistic images of the past are becoming iconic and it also traces the ways in which such images actively negotiate the meanings of particular events. Starting from Robert Hariman and John Lucaites’ iconic photography methodology (2007), this research aims to clarify how iconicity operates in specific situations defined by cultural and digital circumstances. The proposed case study analyses the photographs of the events known as Miners’ Raids that took place in Bucharest, Romania in the aftermath of the December 1989 Revolution. First, through a close reading of the aesthetic qualities of the photographic composition, I investigate how images themselves are sites where meaning is produced and how they have the power to sustain multiple and sometimes contradictory semiotic transcriptions. Second, I trace the circulation and appropriation of these photographs to argue their capacity to generate debates and absorb new meanings in the course of their afterlives. The purpose is to understand how photography can work as a distinct category that can articulate complex ideas, judgments, and dialogue.
The work of an Austrian artist Lukas Birk can be connected to some dilemmas of documentary photography. If the critique of the classical documentary photography stresses the responsibility towards the photographed subject and the problem of the exoticization for the western view, Birk’s work is often developed, displayed and distributed in the place where his projects are created. Therefore, the first audience of his projects are locals and are, in that way, maybe more closely connected to the project itself. He co-founded the Austro Sino Arts Program in China and founded a residency program SewonArtSpace in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The project Afghan Box Camera, which he developed with the ethnographer Sean Folley, focuses on the photographic praxis in Afghanistan, mainly on the type of a simple instant camera, which was traditionally used there but its use is now in decline. They investigated the origins, techniques and the many personal stories of the photographers using or having used this type of camera and also made instructional videos on how to build or use one. Attention to the overlooked photographic practices, history and contexts marks also his current project The Myanmar Photo Archive, a growing collection of Myanmar photographs that were created during and after the colonial period – the work of local photographers from that period has namely remained unknown until today.
John Tagg is one of the most prominent contributors to critical theory and history of photography. In the interview, he talks about the contemporary relationship between (photographic) image and governmentability, on the asymmetrical distribution of power relations that it implies and on the possibilities of resistance to the omnipresent social surveillance. Within the contemporary apparatuses and machineries of surveillance, the image often represents only a nodal point for collection of nonvisual information. As the value of the image within these machineries shifts away from their representational character, the image is increasingly becoming weaponized and is in the final instance, destined to become a trigger rather than visualisation device of the apparatuses of social control. Therefore purely visual strategies of resistance, such as camouflage, are not sufficient to fight against the increasingly automated machineries of social control and changed conditions of governmentability.