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Essay
We as photographers don’t have to go behind powerful imagery, rather, we have to find ways to take a good image that could be used to generate power.

Maruthar Gopalan Ramachandran (popularly known as MGR) was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu between 1977 and 1987. But before his famous tenure as a politician began, MGR had already cemented himself in the Tamil imagination through decades of playing the hero-saviour in blockbuster Tamil films, a suite of movies still re-watched with veneration today. Half a century prior to the pervasive social media environment we inhabit today, that turns on an equivalence between image and self, figures like MGR consciously used their star status to convert a fan following into a voter base. In this conversation, Balaji Maheshwar and Karthik Subramanian, two photographers from Tamil Nadu who are both making work exploring MGR’s legacy, open up questions around image worship, image deities and devotees, and the role of cinema in shaping our most intimate memories.

Photography was key to the regime’s propaganda and one of the most widely used tools to spread the ideals of the New State and of the ‘politics of the spirit’.

This essay describes an investigation into a family photographic archive that belonged to my grandparents and represent a period in Portugal’s past (1940–1975) scarred by one of the longest dictatorships in history. The research carries out an ‘iconographic’ analysis of the photographs in the family albums and on how these were influenced by the consistent and highly visual propaganda of the New State regime (1933–1974). It demonstrates how the iconography of this visual propaganda embedded itself into the family album, specifically regarding its propaganda strategy and its ideology and politics towards women. Later these findings were explored through performance photography, creating a photographic body of work. Focusing mostly on the figure of my grandmother and exploring pose and gesture, which were subsequently re-performed for the camera. The information contained within the archive images is re-written within the performance images.

Unlike in the material world in the social networks techno-capital rules, which places the master and an average human on an equal level.

The communication power of the social network Instagram is important to address due to its relaxed nature of presenting details from the ordinary lives of individuals. A comparison of the manners in which influencers and politicians represent themselves brings to front a changed dynamic of social power, as it is available online to anyone who can persuade followers to identify with them or to wish to do so in the future. Two ways of identification with an influencer are assumed, namely increasing and decreasing of distance between them and their followers. The text focuses on the latter, where politicians approach the people by showing the banality of their everyday lives. After reviewing the profiles of two Slovenian politicians, a noticeable pattern is that they most often do so with photographs of puppies and kittens.

The police were more interested in my professional-looking camera and tripod than anything I might actually be photographing, and ascribed to this equipment some magic power that the tourists with their compact point and shoots did not have.

Throughout its history, photography has been viewed as something imbued with magical qualities, able to detect the supernatural, or capturing a part of the identity of those it depicts. Even in more enlightened times, these beliefs linger, and security personnel and police officers often ascribe to photography an ability to capture and record dangerous levels of detail. In response to a series of encounters with such personnel, I began to travel to locations around the city of London equipped with a camera obscura, which I would then use to draw highly sensitive locations in meticulous detail, inviting a response. The aim was to draw these same security personnel and police officers into a discussion about their fears about photography, and to illustrate that the abilities we often associate with photography are not at all unique to it.

The magician-as-artist stands apart from the magician-as-trickster inasmuch as the former’s intention to deceive is plainly acknowledged beforehand, and conclusively reaffirmed in hindsight

Discovered during a media-archeological investigation into optical illusions, trick photography, and discarded memorabilia, the photo-multigraph technique opened the door to an enchanted world of cloned appearances orbiting in a self-reflective solar system. Shapeshifting into our preferred artistic medium, this turn-of-the-century photographic technique becomes the video-multigraph. It is bizarrely noteworthy that self-isolation would become not only the subject of the piece, but also – due to the unforeseen spread of a recently mutated virus – the prevailing circumstances under which the work was to be completed. In Verfünfungseffekt, we use the medium of video to create a kaleidoscopic portrait-in-motion where the perspective-shifting shards of ego are recorded in a synchronized performance of solipsist intersubjectivity. The video-multigraph allows for the compositing of tiny offsets in time-shifting delays applied to one, or several, of the mirrored selves – shattering the cloned perfection, as well as the conformity, of the multiple presences. This optical illusion necessitates reflection on how media alters our perceptions of time and space; it thereby arouses wonder about our place in existence.

Keywords: Photo-multigraph, fivefold-portrait, mirror photography, video-multigraph, crisis of presence

Whenever a wall is erected, there will always be “people arisen” to “jump the wall,” that is, to cross over borders. If only by imagining. As though inventing images contributed – a little here, powerfully there – to reinventing our political hopes.

Zigzagging through personal memory and historical episodes of great consequence – the fall of the Berlin wall, the Romanian revolution and the April 2018 protests in Nicaragua – the essay seeks points of connection between the personal and the political, exploring how the two are intimately and inextricably intertwined. The textual approach can be situated in-between historical analysis and auto-biographical fiction; the aim is to enable multi-layered narratives, and contrasting, conflicting temporalities to co-exist. Illustrative of this intent, Romanian artist Călin Man intervenes upon the more well-known documentary photographs referenced in the text, by conflating them with everyday snapshots from the city of Arad taken at different points along the temporal arc described.

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