Photographers in the age of catastrophe
May 25, 2021 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography
Monday, May 31, 2021 at 11 AM MDT
Riga Photomonth invites to a discussion with Tanvi Mishra (Caravan Magazine, India), Nina Berman (Noor Images, USA), Shiraz Grinbaum (Activestills collective, Israel), moderated by Karolina Gembara (Archive of Public Protests, Poland). The event will be held in English and broadcasted live on Facebook and Riga Photomonth web page.
“This is a war we don’t know,” said Anne Applebaum, a political writer, when describing Russian paramilitary activities in Eastern Ukraine in 2014. This war was slow, masked, intrusive, without spectacular actions and rapid victories, almost invisible, almost silent but persistent and insidious. It was something we have to learn and recognise, she added.
In 2021, this description could be used in reference to many problems the world is facing. Some catastrophes happen abruptly, but others drag and lurk: the rise of the far right, the dismantling of democracies, fake news, climate change. There are catastrophes so old, forgotten, and normalised that no one wants to hear about them any longer.
Photographers, since the invention of the medium, have been present as witnesses. But their role is changing just like the nature of catastrophes has evolved. Even though capturing events will always be crucial, photographers also have to adapt by recognising tactics and premises, using images, animating, ‘being there’ with the communities instead of just photographing them. Today visual artists document protests and ‘post-photojournalistic’ photographers make art books; some run photography workshops for children in conflict-torn neighbourhoods. But can we say that photographers have embraced the social and ethical turn?
During the discussion we will look at the nature of different visual practises in the context of everyday catastrophes. Remembering Jo Spence’s words about photographers being always immersed in politics, we’ll reflect on their changing role in today’s world.