Never Look at Images Alone

Expert
Panel
Visibly Invisible

(Nicht nur die Bilder sehen)

The rise of right-wing populism has not happened despite the media but because the active agents within the broad coalition that makes up this populist movement (from Britain First to the GOP) have so effectively engaged with cultural production in all its diverse and most contemporary forms. The cultural field is now the battlefield and we are all on the front-line.

How do we, as image-makers, thinkers and activists, adapt to the new rules of engagement and the new sense of urgency?

The right-wing populist movement have co-opted the language of the avant-garde, a language that has always believed in the radicality of art to actually change the structure of society.They co-opted it and used it as cheap anti-authoritarian sound-bites to win votes.

It is time to reclaim that language but never to compromise it’s complexity. There can be no such thing as a populist left. The only thing we have to hang on to is our understanding of the complexity of every situation and also our sense of humour. These are the ground rules of any images we make, words we use and the platforms we engage to distribute them.

Adam Broomberg will explore these issues through a number of projects Broomberg & Chanarin have produced over the past 18 years of their collaboration.

Out of Syria, Inside Facebook. Syrian Wartime Life in the Social-Media Image Language of Amateur Photographers

Panel
Agents and Perspectives

(Out of Syria, Inside Facebook. Syrischer Kriegsalltag in der Social-Media-Bildsprache von Amateurfotografen)

How do people behave in times of war? How have they responded to, and processed, the bomb attacks in Syria? How are people there responding to terrorism on the part of armed individuals?

“Wars are now fought for and in the media.” Gerhard Paul

For my selection of a collection of images within the framework of this project, I wanted to show everyday life and the collective memory that is directly linked to it in the Syrian war zone. As mentioned above, I wanted to scrutinize just how this everyday life looks. Syria has been at war since March 2011. Many people are affected; many participate, yet life in war continues.
Because life continues, there is always a way for people to express themselves and to live in the virtual world of social networks in order to be present. This virtual world is one where, with a single click, people can share their entire lives in the real world of users. The people caught up in the war, especially younger people, see these social networks as an escape from the reality they must experience. People from all social classes share in current events by sharing their everyday lives in Facebook. Nowadays, social networks offer a virtual space for communication: Facebook is no different. Against the background of the real dangers of everyday life in war, many people are seeking alternatives. This deals both with perception and with everyday recognitions and their fleeting nature. On the one hand, Facebook offers a platform to reconstruct everyday life. On the other, it creates a critical distance to reality, a foundation for the visualisation of resistance. A new, qualitative dimension arises via the aesthetics of the images. In such a social situation, normal everyday life can no longer be lived. This platform offers many liberating possibilities that lead to the creative transformation of everyday life in war. This is how situations of war become socially and culturally aesthetic communication events or even transform themselves into a reflection of support, or even criticism, of the political situation. Pictures of everyday life in war reveal many details at both the personal and public levels. These images give us the impression that the lives of those living in the war zone have reduced themselves to this virtual world, and that they nonetheless try to reflect everyday life.
It is interesting to note that today’s picture motifs are no different from those of the past. Since the introduction of the camera, both professional photographers as well as amateurs have been interested in the same motifs. This phenomenon can be seen primarily in social networks – with a difference in technology. These days, anyone can be a photographer. Thanks to digital cameras and the new smartphones that offer good picture resolution, amateur photography has become quite popular. All experiences are documented and archived.

War Porn – Ethics and Photojournalism

Panel
Visibly Invisible

(War Porn – Ethik im Fotojournalismus)
Can working in war zones as a photographer be morally justified? Why are we all attracted to pictures of other people’s misery? Do we produce war pornography? Christoph Bangert works as a war-zone photographer for international media and often faces a dilemma. On the one hand, he tries to portray happenings faithfully as he perceives them. On the other, he has to come to terms with various levels of self-censorship. The first act of censorship takes place in the photographer’s head: Bangert has no memory of taking some of the photos in his book War Porn. The second level of censorship takes place with the publishing media; the third takes place within the viewer. In War Porn, Bangert conducted a daring experiment: he switched off his inner censor. In his book, he has compiled photographs of the last ten years from Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Lebanon and Gaza. The result is a raw, intense, controversial and shocking book. It is both extremely personal and honest in its endeavour to take a different type of look at the crises and wars of our time.

Generative Picturing: The Impact of Photographic Praxis in Situations of Cultural Difference

Panel
How to make images matter?

(Generative Bildarbeit. Die Wirksamkeit fotografischer Praxis in Situationen kultureller Differenz)
In my presentation, I consider photography as a form of action, dialogue and reflection. Referring to Paulo Freire’s work, I approach it as a generative praxis and assume the following theses: As soon as people use photography as a form of praxis, they enter a field of tension characterized by the relationships people involved have both to each other and to their respective living environments. When participants in this photographic field of tension are not fixated on only one role, but rather become equally active as photographers, motives and observers, then photography can serve as a field of mutual learning and research in order to better handle situations of cultural difference. Building on this idea, I present the methodological framework of generative picturing. This is a systematization of photographic praxis in order to make its impact useful for interactive work in situations of cultural difference.

Facts Matter, Images Matter

Panel
Nothing but the Truth

(Tatsachen zählen, Bilder zählen)
As human rights investigators with a mission to expose crimes and demand justice, Human Rights Watch uses images both to unearth and illustrate truth. We will discuss how we use photographs and video to sound the alarm and mobilize journalists, governments and the public, to build a case, and bring victims into the corridors of power. Perhaps the most dramatic way to undercut the routine denials of perpetrators is to show survivors speaking out. Whose images should we believe – photojournalists on assignment or citizens with a camera? How do we decide which pictures to use? What standards do we apply when gathering images? What are the challenges we face in visual documentation of human rights violations?

“No, it isn’t Dave (Burnett)!” – The truth about a photo that everyone knows.

Panel
Nothing but the Truth

(„Nein, es ist nicht Dave (Burnett)!” –  Die Wahrheit über ein Foto, das jeder kennt. )
In 1972, a photo went around the world that changed our image of the Vietnam War and of all wars. It was Nick Ut’s Napalm Girl. Since then, this press photo has represented the horrors suffered, particularly by civilian populations, in modern asymmetrical wars. In the more than 40 years that have passed since the photo was taken, it has been the topic of countless publications. However, as is often the case with iconic pictures like Napalm Girl, so many historical inaccuracies and misinformation regarding the photo are in circulation; these are repeated with obstinate ignorance. This in turn has led to a lasting change in the historical impact and reception of the picture.
Michael Ebert’s presentation is an attempt to reconstruct the events of 8 June 1972 and the role of those involved as comprehensively as possible in order to identify the roots of the later blurring. This presentation is supported by the personal statements and memories of all those involved who are still alive, as well as by a meticulous evaluation of all the complete material that is still available.

Violence from Within – Harun Farocki’s Serious Games

Panel
Nothing but the Truth

(Gewalt von innen – Harun Farockis “Ernste Spiele”)
Visualizations of war have been reshaped by the emergence of new imaging technologies continuously. Violence is therefore not only narrated, but also produced and fought by the apparatus of media. Harun Farocki’s filmic trilogy Serious Games explores these complex interrelations between imaging technologies and the military dispositiv, revealing how fictional scenarios of computer games are applied, both in the training of U.S. soldiers prior to their deployment in combat zones, and also in psychological treatment of troop members suffering battlefield trauma in the aftermath of warfare. The paper will situate this cycle of work in the context of Farocki’s larger oeuvre and in comparison with photographs of MOUT-environments and portraits of video game players by Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann. The connective trajectory of these examples is the idea that media representation and simulation does not merely depict violence; it is rather implicated within it, accompanying not only the soldier through every phase of combat from training through psychological treatment, but creating a topology of immersive militancy.

The Invisibility of the Frame. On the Politics of Images in Photojournalism

Panel
Visibly Invisible

(Die Unsichtbarkeit des Rahmens. Bildpolitiken im Fotojournalismus)
The lecture puts a focus on photojournalistic images and their complex and multidimensional interrelations with ethics and politics. Therefore the lecture interrogates current image productions in photojournalism and shows that seemingly authentic photographs are involved in image politics and mechanisms of power which themselves work to restrict the field of representability. The photograph is a performative act whose goal is not only to depict and convey events, but to produce these events in the picture and imbue them with meaning. For these mechanisms the question of how the fields of the visible and the invisible are separated as well as the structuring function of framing play an important role.

In the field of representation, meaning extends beyond what is visible in the frame. Just as each picture moves within the context of pictures and iconographies that already exist and either explicitly or implicitly refers back to them, the reception history of pictures is part of their sphere of meaning. The frame of each image restricts and excludes. But even what remains outside the frame becomes visible within the representation and is part of the sphere of meaning. What is excluded from the frame, the background of the depicted image which is not thematised, nevertheless belongs to its invisible organizational structure. Moreover, this means that the invisible is always part of the field of representation, but the mechanisms of exclusion are generally carried through without leaving visible traces. This is why in the photographic image observers are confronted with a presumably immediate depiction of reality. In classical photojournalism the belief in the photographic promise of reality is based on this invisibility of the frame. Yet this lecture asks whether current photographic image productions work on the frame and a shifting of the boundary between the included and excluded, the visible and invisible and thereby introduce a critical examination of the limitations which hang over interpretations of reality.

Atlas of Angst – A Journey through Germany

Panel
How to make images matter?

(Atlas der Angst – Eine Reise durch Deutschland)
We are at war. It said so in the newspaper one sunny day. And people are afraid; they are arming themselves and have started stockpiling provisions. Photographer Armin Smailovic and author Dirk Gieselmann set out in search of the nightmare that is threatening to become real, the war in people’s heads: German angst. From Bautzen to Duisburg-Marxloh, from Sylt to the Zugspitze: the authors drove right through the crisis area known as Germany. They have brought interviews, photos and videos back with them. What is now happening in a country so safe and rich? What are people afraid of? Smailovic and Gieselmann’s quest charts the Germany of the present time in a geographical survey of the various classes of our society. 100 places, 100 photos, 100 texts: the Atlas of Angst.

’Why Mister, Why?’ & Baghdad Calling. Art & Terror in the age of Twitter

Panel
Agents and Perspectives

(Warum, Herr, Warum? & ‘Bagdad ruft’. Kunst und Terror in Zeiten von Twitter)
Today, radical groups rely heavily on information technology, creating a virtual community of jihadis and sympathizers, and a global community of virtual witnesses to terrorism – a group of which we are nearly all members. But when and how did this phenomenon get started, and what to do with this ‘ocean of civilian-images’ for journalists and artists? This lecture examines the catastrophic consequences of the war on terror in Iraq that started 14 years ago while addressing the origins of terrorism in the age of twitter.

Photojournalists in Conflict. A Look Behind the Lens of Photojournalism in the Middle East

Panel
Agents and Perspectives

(Fotoreporter im Konflikt. Ein Blick hinter die Linse des Fotojournalismus im Nahen Osten)
Israel/Palestine is one of the most important production locations for international photojournalism. While the images produced in the region are often the subject of critical discussion, the agents and structures of photojournalism in the region are seldom examined. The phenomena that can be observed there allow conclusions to be drawn about photojournalism in general and conflict photography in particular. This presentation (Verlag transcript 2017) introduces a few crucial results arising from a study examining photojournalistic acts on the part of international, Israeli and Palestinian photojournalists in the production location of Israel/Palestine. The main aim is to present in detail the differences in the practices and routines of various photojournalistic professions and the effects of the Israeli occupying regime on the structures of photojournalism.

Truth: The First Casualty of War (and Photography)

Panel
Nothing but the Truth

(Wahrheit: Das erste Opfer des Krieges (und der Fotografie))
Digital photography looks much the same as photography as we’ve known it for 160 years and we approach it with similar expectations: we recognize photography as a factual medium that conveys truth by such simple functions as “witness” and “evidence”. But the medium transformed with the development of digital processes. Whereas the traditional analogue image shows what the photographer saw the digital image instead represents what the computer in every camera thinks we’d like to see. The modern photographic image is the product of computational algorithms and the imprint of light onto the photosensitive surface is no longer the end of the process, it’s only the start. Consequently we’ve learned to fear the digital process for its ability to distort and deceive but we’ve not learned to love it for the added richness that it offers. Our understanding reaches only to knowing that pixels can be manipulated and we haven’t begun to recognize the implications of working with the complex knowledge systems that are intrinsic with every digital image. Trying to accommodate the digital image in the same conceptual framework that helped us understand the analog image is like trying to store water in a woven basket – the basket might have the shape of a water bucket but it’s simply the wrong structure for the task and we lose all the benefits of the old process and deny ourselves the opportunity of the new. Facts and truths are no longer married in the image and it’s time to pronounce the divorce publicly and with confidence.

Stephen Mayes discusses how digital processes change the representation of factual information and explores the relationship between facts, alternative facts and truth in modern photographic imagery.

The Collapse of Reality? On the Relationship and Status of Picture and Viewer in Images of Terrorism by the So-Called Islamic State

Panel
Agents and Perspectives

(Realitätenkollaps? Zum Verhältnis und Status von Bild und Betrachter bei Terrorinszenierungen des sog. IS)
We are all facing a common problem that is, to a large extent, picture-based: when it concerns the presentations of terrorism by the so-called Islamic State, the media cannot agree whether such acts of violence should be disseminated in the media or simply ignored. In particular, when the mediatisation of an act of terrorism becomes an intentional act of terrorism itself, media reality and life reality form a complex set of conditions and partial relationship of competition. Moreover, this leads to questions concerning the complicity of media organisations. All the same, it is necessary to criticise the picture-producing civilians on the scenes of these acts who use their smartphones to record the acts themselves, or their consequences, and disseminate them internationally. Potentially everyone everywhere will photograph, film, share or view both real and medial acts of violence on the part of the ISIS, creating an indifferent mass of perpetrators, victims and those seemingly uninvolved. As a consequence, the dimensions of media reality and life reality are just as fuzzily delimited as the distinctions among the parties of perpetrators, accomplices, victims, protectors, aggressors and non-combatants. ISIS’ pictures, and above all their use in public media, confuse any clear boundaries.
An old paradox must again be discussed: repulsive scenes are agents of attraction. This outlines a phenomenon that can be identified but not easily explained. A method of collective psychology that assumes an intersubjective perception among the world’s population is not suitable from a scientific point of view, for not everyone is equally shocked, horrified, attracted or repulsed by ISIS’ images of terrorism. The idea of a collective psyche would mean the loss of a view to the potential efficacy and meaning of the images themselves. It is the visual products that transform our reality not only medially in the realm between repulsion and attraction, but that also organise our perception by means of stimulation, thus generating, in a perfidious way, an alternative reality that dissolves the difference between picture and body as well as the medial and real worlds. While this newly generated reality – particularly in the case of indexical media such as photography and video – can be received in a slightly naïve way, the rest is often difficult to perceive in terms of the distinguishing marks between everyday life and images of terrorism. It is essential to work through this rest – the exposure of artificial pictorial means and elements that generate ISIS’ power – that simultaneously instil fear and attract recruits – by examining two examples: a video of a burning released by ISIS’ own media department and the video of someone being shot by ISIS, filmed by someone who was seemingly uninvolved. Both examples demonstrate that their medial portrayedness is formally visible, but that this portrayedness can be removed in effective aesthetic terms in the short term.
By means of pictorial science-based approaches to an explanation, the first distancing options can now be made visible and the urgent need for pedagogical pictorial reporting strategies can be shown. Anyone who duplicates pictures from an organisation that strives to use media bombardment to control public opinion in order to create disorientation and separate society into good and evil should report about the reasons that certain pictures are publicly shown, the potential they have and what power readers and viewers have when it comes to allowing their everyday lives to be infected by portrayals of terrorism as little as possible.

Useful? Effective? The Picture and Certainty

Panel
How to make images matter?

(Nützlich? Wirksam? Das Bild und die Gewissheit)
It would seem that we consume, produce, archive and forget pictures in (meaningless) massive floods. The status of the picture seems to have changed dramatically, accelerated by technical and sociotechnological developments over the past decades. In fact, it is possible that with the appearance of the ‘de-authored, reproducible and technically generated’ image, the whole world has changed.
However, the observation that certain pictures (beyond the artificial and so on) can surprise, inform, impress or convey knowledge opposes such a dystopian perspective. I would like to present and discuss a particular class of pictures as ‘useful’.

By useful pictures I mean selected pictures in (media) circulation. I mean pictures that are functional and can be functionalised, that are characterised by their ability to be understood as “true” in a specific sense. A certain canon of pictures is now attracting attention in current media culture: spiral strands of DNA, fractals, multispectral satellite images, PET scans and anatomical cross-sections have become part of popular visual discourse. At the moment of their appearance from the hermetically sealed worlds of laboratories, they become part of a common meaning. It makes no difference whether we first assume we are working with principally ‘virtual’ manifestations (such as glowing cross-sections of the brain, fractal geometry, artificially animated worlds) or with forms that have long been handed down (the ladder of the double helix, microscopic pictures of viruses and germs, maps or X-rays), all these images are unified by their original ‘creation’ as epistemological tools. Why should we devote our thoughts about the connection between media and knowledge to the object (or the practice) of the picture or the picture’s act of becoming? Perhaps because taking this perspective seems to be intuitively comprehensible and appears to need hardly any explanation: the (dominant and operative) status of the picture in a visual and/or medial culture seems evident. In such a way, the argumentation surrounding ‘useful pictures’ primarily concerns this experience of evidence. Why does it seem self-evident that we should accept pictures (or a specific class of pictures) as so crucial to the management and governing of culture, knowledge or education?

The project of useful pictures can be understood as a positioning in a pictorial-scientific debate that attempts to understand the concept of the picture as a materialisation of intersubjective knowledge and simultaneously understand the process of this intersubjectification as a discourse-based process of negotiation. Here – and this now seems to legitimise such a perspective of the question – the concept of orientation knowledge plays a central role. Within the framework of a discourse philosophy oriented towards Michel Foucault, and in the specific arrangement of critical discourse analysis (or in the sense of Siegfried Jäger or Jürgen Links), knowledge is always an intersubjectively valid, temporary “truth”, a regulatory function that is culturally and socially shaped and the product of processes of negotiation.
In this way, certain theoretical figures, as they are primarily thematised in critical discourse analysis, should be deliberately carried over into the conditions of pictorial or media-scientific access, above all because a symbolic system is evoked with the ‘subject’ of a picture that is further distinguished and stabilised in public, technological and communicative circulation. For such an approach, it is essential to analyse the distinct picture subject as part of a complex, multifaceted visual current. As it does in every discourse-analytical process, the question arises here as well: just how can the subject effects and dynamics of complex systems of knowledge be captured when the analysis of individual (picture) subjects must consistently fall short?

Architecture Of Conflict

Panel
Visibly Invisible

(Die Architektur des Konfliktes)
Utilizing a combination of conceptual and typological approaches, Wylie’s work interrogates the conceptual architecture of power, containment and war. Wylie’s photography is often described as ‘Archaeologies’, and stems primarily from the political and social landscape of Northern Ireland, where he grew up. His book The Maze, a photographic survey of the infamous prison in Northern Ireland, was published to international acclaim in 2004, and began Wylie’s ongoing photographic study of military architecture. His photographs look at the specific nature of modern military structures, and reveal the visual relationships they have to landscape. Wylie’s work engages in subtler concepts of history, transience and territory. This talk focuses on works from 2004 up to the present day.