The notion of being human revolves around our perception of what it means to be an animal or beast – and this relationship is constructed through the medium of photography (among other media). Photographs of animals always held a significant presence throughout the history of the medium, a testimony of particular fascination and desire to either decode or ascribe meaning to the non-human. The sheer number and diversity of photographic representations of animals (and non-photographic pictorial tradition of representing imaginary beasts) testifies of co-dependency of the relationship. Whether used as commodities for exchange, marketing tools for commodification, tools of scientific research or tokens of domestic familiarity, silent trophies from exotic places or city zoos, the images speak of a certain process of domestication of both a sign and a referent. Nowadays there seems to be a shift from the old photo-humanistic belongingness of The Family of Man to the growing disillusionment of Anthropocene. A certain demand for a new kind of responsibility, a new kind of belonging arises – not only trans-cultural but also trans-species.
Artists and Projects
Macinnis’ photographs of various groups of animals are so striking because all the animals assembled in front of the camera seem to be most willing to accept the camera’s gaze and the power relation implied. Animals are usually hard to photograph, because they are not particularly collaborative, unpredictable in their movements, and tend to flee the frame. Macinnis’ protagonists pose and look straight into the camera. They appear tame, pacified, ‘civil’, patiently awaiting their pictorial equivalent. As in all well-managed and representative group photos, there are no obvious signs of disorder or potential subversion. Macinnis’ patchwork families look friendly and demonstrate unity and a sense of aesthetic order. Macinnis’ photos allow for a reflection on group photographs and their specific arrangements. At the same time, they make one painfully aware of the disciplinary nature of the photographic act. Posing and freezing in front of the camera is a cultural practice that had to be trained and appropriated. Narratives from the beginnings of photography prove that. By looking at Macinnis’ fully disciplined animal models, one realizes how much of our own unruliness we had to give up to fit into the photographic system.
The article analyzes the artistic process of the Berlin-based photographer Vanja Bučan, who always manages to maintain at least some recognizable expression despite her varied approaches. Her works are visually rich, carrying complex meanings and associations. She chooses not to directly reflect the collective and the individual everyday life but depicts universal existentialist motifs where the social perspective is usually shown through metaphors and allegories. The centerpiece of her work is the relationship between culture and nature and between humans and their environment, as well as the ontology of image in mass media circulation. Her photography requires a considerable degree of cerebral activity and intuition in order to sense some of the fundamental questions of humankind in the Anthropocene.
MEMBRANA 6 / 2019 • ISSN 2463-8501 • https://doi.org/10.47659/m6
publisher: Membrana, Maurerjeva 8, 1000 Ljubljana • tel.: +386 (0) 31 777 959 • email: firstname.lastname@example.org
editors: Jan Babnik (editor-in-chief), Ilija T. Tomanić
editorial board: Mark Curran (Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland; Freie Universität Berlin, Germany), Ana Peraica (independent researcher, educator, Croatia), Witold Kanicki (UAP Poznań, Poland), Miha Colner (International Centre for Graphic Arts, MGLC, Ljubljana, Slovenia), Lenart Kučić (independent journalist, Pod črto, Slovenia), Emina Djukić (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Jasna Jernejšek (independent researcher, curator, Slovenia), Asko Lehmuskallio (University of Tampere, Finland), Devon Schiller (independent researcher, USA), Robert Hariman (Northwestern University, USA) • advisory board: Alisha Sett, Andreia Alves de Oliveira, Iza Pevec, Matej Sitar
contributors: Carole Baker, David Bate, Emina Djukić, Miha Colner, Joan Fontcuberta, Jasna Jernejšek, Panos Kompatsiaris, Lenart J. Kučić, Montse Morcate, Andreia Alves de Oliveira, Jani Pirnat, Urška Savič, Monika Schwärzler, Maja Smrekar, Nezaket Tekin
translations: Sonja Benčina, Graham Thomson • proofreading: Tom Smith
image & projects contributors: Joan Fontcuberta, Lenart Kučić, Aleksandrija Ajduković, Bojan Mijatović, Clare Benson, Vanja Bučan, Borut Peterlin, Manuel Vason, Anže Sekelj in Hana Jošić, Sandra Odgaard, Manca Jevšček, Dagmar Kolatschny, Artur Kucharczak, Marko Stojanović, Hendrik Zeitler, Rob Macinnis, Montse Morcate, Nobuyoshi Araki, Michael Ackerman, Nezaket Tekin, Anja Carr, Klaus Pichler, Alexandra Soldatova, Daniel Szalai, Maja Smrekar
design: Primož Pislak
printing: Cicero • print-run: 400
all images and texts © Membrana, except when noted otherwise • editorial photograph: Marko Stojanović, Oases XI, Amsterdam, 2016, courtesy of the author • last page photo: Central News Photo Service, Equipt (sic) for the trenches, (1914–1918). Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington.