Photography and camouflage have a long history of a contested relationship in which changes in one continuously cause adaptations and developments of the other. Employed by repressive state apparatuses as advanced technology of surveillance, photography has been countered by the increasingly sophisticated techniques of camouflage (concealment, mimicry, mimesis, countershading, disruptive colour and pattering, dazzling, disguise). On the other hand, photographers have continuously sought to conceal their cameras, their presence or the act of photographing itself. This too has led to the development of new photographic technology and various techniques of camouflage. These technological developments of course extend beyond photographic technology to the arms industry, highlighting the proverbial connection between photographic camera and weapons – between the two types of shooting. Camouflage is deeply embedded in the history of the social (identity, theatre, art, masks, costumes etc.) and is yet always related to its place in the natural world as it evolves around the notion of visibility, around the ability to remain unseen while been looked at or while looking. It foregrounds the issues of revealing and concealing, of surface and essence, of unmediated access to reality and the potential for hiding. The dual relationship between photography and camouflage seems only to accentuate this relationship. In contemporary image saturated and hyper photographed reality, camouflage opens up not only questions of power and surveillance, or their increasing corporatisation and commercialisation, but more and more the right to be unseen, the right to control one’s photographic representation and the (un)ability to resist photographic representation. But this (un)ability is far from being grounded merely in the practical – there is something magical, charm-like in photographic representation as it is in camouflage that draws us to both with unrelenting aesthetical and political power.
Artists and Projects
The article is a critical analysis of the work of Finnish photographer Iiu Susiraja based on her series Good Behaviour / Perfect Everyday Life and conversation with the author. Susiraja places herself and her personal life at the centre of her work. Her humorous and (self)ironical portraits can be seen as a critical reflection and a sarcastic commentary on socially desirable and to a large extent stereotypical ideas of femininity, beauty ideals, social roles such as being a housewife etc. and the relations of power that are implied in them. Her critique is on the one hand directed at conservative and patriarchal social values, but she at the same time poses a mirror to women who perpetuate these values by obsessively investing into their bodily beauty and who uncritically accept the traditional roles assigned to them. Her work thus addresses the question of the definition of “normality” – which because of her specific humorous approach – is best described as a solo comedy.
The article that aims to analyse the artistic production of photographer Bojan Salaj is based on conversations and reviews of his archive. Among Slovenian photographers, Salaj is the one who has been seen as an embodiment of the decisive shift in perception of the photographic medium that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He has never worked as documentary photographer or photojournalist; his authorial practice has always been primarily focused on the context of exhibition and against unconventional solutions. Salaj is one of those photographers who are characterized by the deep reflection of the meaning and perception of image from different, mainly philosophical, viewpoints, while at the same time following the objectivistic principles of photography. At a glance, his practice is extremely eclectic and post-modern, which is due to the fact that he is not looking to find an individual and recognizable artistic voice; he dedicates his focus to individual projects, bringing into his work various different references and themes. Nevertheless, a central motive can still be perceived throughout his output. In the past 25 years, Salaj has mostly been attracted to the here and now; this includes the fundamental problems of representation of photography in mass media, iconography of power structures, models of construction of history, and ways of establishing national and cultural identities.
MEMBRANA 1 / 2016 • ISSN 2463-8501 • https://doi.org/10.47659/m1
publisher: Membrana, Maurerjeva 8, 1000 Ljubljana • tel.: +386 (0) 31 777 959
editorial board: Jan Babnik (editor-in-chief), Ilija T. Tomanić, Lenart Kučić, Emina Djukić
article contributors: Lisa Andergassen, Jan Babnik, Martin Bayer, Ksenija Berk, Miha Colner, Mark Curran, Emina Djukić, Jasna Jernejšek, Marjan Kodelja, Lenart J. Kučić, Andrea Mubi Brighenti, Matej Sitar, John Tagg, Ilija T. Tomanić
translation: Domen Kavčič and Tom Smith • proofreading: Tom Smith
image contributors: Alia Ali, Marion Balac, Martin Bayer, Matthew Barney, Filip Bearnek, James Bridle, Vanja Bučan, DigitalGlobe, Mishka Henner, Peter Hermans, Jure Kastelic, Simon Menner, Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Not a Bug Splat project, Jo Roettger, Bojan Salaj, Leonardo Selvaggio, Smalbutdangers, Steve Stills, Iiu Susiraja, Ana Šuligoj
design: Primož Pislak, LUKS Studio
printing: Collegium Graphicum • print-run: 500
All images and texts © Membrana, except when noted otherwise • Editorial Photograph: Leo Selvaggio, URME at ISEA 2015. Courtesy of the author. Last page photo: Compass Rose, near Edwards AFB, CA, USA, Google Earth screen capture.