Susan Meiselas, Sandinistas at the walls of the Estelí National Guard headquarters: ‘Molotov Man’, Estelí, Nicaragua, July 16th, 1979 (1979)

Addressing History in the Image

Susan Meiselas, The Life of an Image: Molotov Man
Susan Meiselas, The Life of an Image: Molotov Man

Each of these elements demonstrates (some) of the vicissitudes of the original picture, but also provides at least a glimpse of the individual who took up arms in the cause of the revolution. Much more importantly, Molotov Man literally “re-frames” history in multiple ways. The past cohabits with the present; the history of the Sandinista revolution—now open to retrospective interpretation, the reference to the illegal American war against the Sandinista government (cf. the arming and funding of the contras), the fragility of historical memory—the list is easily enlarged. To do this work, Molotov Man required other media (video, objects, texts), a continued personal stake in Nicaragua’s ongoing history by Meiselas over several decades, and the demonstration that an “iconic” photograph is open to many uses and many meanings.

via 2. Boundary Problems: Addressing History in the Image.

Love love love this post. Reminds me of what I liked best about Princeton’s Itinerant Languages of Photography show (also featuring Meiselas) and how photos can change meaning and be reappropriated through context and history and culture. I’d love to see more shows and blogposts which investigate the life of an image as it travels through time.

“A key method of perception for the military”

This project came up a while ago in the New Landscape Photography blog:

by Rebecca Sharplin Hughes, from "Greenham Common Landscapes"
by Rebecca Sharplin Hughes, from “Greenham Common Landscapes”

Greenham Common is land that was once heavily used by the Ministry of Defense and the US air force throughout World War II and the Cold War. Abandoned in 1997, it was left open for the public to roam….

Methods of perception in the military are just as important as physical weapons used for destruction, with infrared film being a key method of perception for the military. Therefore I photographed using infrared film to express the invisible happenings that occurred on the landscape. With rumors of nuclear activity and other unknown activities, it is a landscape that stands witness to many undisclosed goings-on.

Rebecca Sharplin-Hughes | New Landscape Photography

This is one of those cases where I’m rather more interested in the statement than the actual photos. Two things grab my attention: one, infrared, because I ❤ infrared, and two, deliberate investigation/redployment of the mediation of perception by technology. Very cool, in principle.

However, these don’t appear to be characteristically infrared images. They look like regular black and white, perhaps with a red filter. It may be that Sharplin-Hughes is using a modern infrared film without a strong IR filter.1 In any case, while it’s an interesting idea to use infrared as a sort of magical invocation of military vision, without a visible connection to some variant of infrared imaging, it all seems sort of notional.

Also, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more interesting to use a more military perspective—for example, an aerial one. That being an even more fundamental method of military perception.

  1. Modern infrared films are basically just standard panchromatic films with some added sensitivity in the infrared, and without a filter that blocks visible light, they don’t produce particularly “infrared” results. 

Deconstructing the Selfie

The rise of digital technologies witnessed the exponential growth of photographic production and, in particular, photographic self-portraiture…The instantaneity of digital photography is one of the key drivers in the rise of the selfie. In the past a person posing for a family photograph would see the results with a significant delay – in most cases the subject in the image would rarely see the results at all as photographs were archived in the family album. Digital photography changed our relationship to photography completely: the results are instantly visible and photographs can be deleted and retaken if the subject or the photographer cares to do so.

Deconstructing the Selfie | Visual Culture Blog.

That rarest of photography writing twists: a legit case of digital difference.

I also really like this bit about self-portraiture as performance, going back to the early days of the medium:

Since the very inception of photography in the mid-19th century, photographers have habitually used the camera to represent themselves. Perhaps one of the best-known examples of an early photographic self-portrait is Hippolyte Bayard’s photograph titled Self Portrait as a Drowned Man from 1840. Crucially, like in the modern day selfies of the 21st century, Bayard elects to perform to the camera and act out an alter ego – a dead man in this case. While photography is a medium that is predominantly associated with ‘reality’ or ‘truth’, self-portraiture always allowed a degree of performance or acting for the camera. It was, perhaps, the photographers’ opportunity to create a version of him or herself that stands in contrast to the ‘realness’ most photographs are associated with.

Hippolyte Bayard,

Entire, Indivisible