How to make images matter? The search for new narrative forms in the field of photojournalism and documentary photography – stretching perspectives beyond the conventional understanding of the documentary form – was a central motivation behind Images in Conflict / Bilder im Konflikt. In image/con/text we delve further into the possibilities of the documentary and the development of visual narrations that subvert stereotyping and traditional viewing habits. The contributions in image/con/text focus specifically on the textuality and contextuality of documentary practices and on explorations of their bounds, in particular the relationships between art, documentation and journalism.

In Photography Against the Grain (1984), Allan Sekula wrote: “„Against the photoessayistic promise of ‘life’ caught by the camera, I sought to work from within a world already replete with signs.” Treating photographs as autonomous, self-explanatory windows on the world does justice neither to the complexity of reality nor to the intricacy of our systems of representation. Given that any mode – whether photographic or text-based – is liable to suffer intrinsic inadequacies, documentary practice tends to be most productive where multiple forms of representation synergise. image/con/text builds on this idea of complementarity. Journalistic images in particular utilise – and require – context to convey meaning. Often this means captions. But accompanying images and/or documents can also accomplish the same effect. As well as revealing the complex relationships between visual and verbal mediatisations, this also creates a layering and nesting of meaning that is increasingly employed by documentary storytellers to narrate and contextualise hidden stories.

image/con/text examines image/text relations in notable contemporary and historical projects, focussing particularly on the medium of the photobook, but also encompassing film, multimedia and the comic genre. The strategies examined bring together journalistic, artistic and activist positions, weaving fact and fiction to reveal the constellations of power in the process of representation. Photographic narrators are increasingly employing the possibilities of deliberately generated context, not least to expand the scope of the narratable.

“With a variety of voices and practices, image/con/text. Documentary Practices Between Journalism, Art and Activism adds to the so much needed discourse on today’s documentary photography. During the symposium, which served as the ground work for this publication, it became once more apparent how important it is to be aware of one’s perspective and position as documentary photographer.”

Iris Sikking, curator, lecturer and author for photography, film and digital art

With visual and verbal essays by: Laia Abril, Crofton Black, Edmund Clark, Susanne von Falkenhausen, Joan Fontcuberta, Karen Fromm, Sophia Greiff, Thomas Helbig, Eva Leitolf, Regine Petersen, Max Pinckers, Peter Puklus, Malte Radtki, Fred Ritchin, Anja Schürmann, Alisha Sett, Anna Stemmler, Florian Sturm, Friedrich Weltzien.

image/con/text. Dokumentarische Praktiken zwischen Journalismus, Kunst und Aktivismus
edited by Karen Fromm, Sophia Greiff, Malte Radtki and Anna Stemmler
Reimer Verlag, Berlin 2020
with texts in German and English
352 pages, 168 figures, 29,90 EUR
ISBN 978-3-496-01646-5

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