The re-release of Allan Sekula’s seminal book critiquing the bond between capitalism and representations of material culture. Photography has. Ohio Arts Council. ERRATA Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data Page For Read Sekula, Allan Photography against the grain x, line 29 an overt a covert. Photography against the grain: essays and photo works, Front Cover. Allan Sekula. Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design,
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Allan Sekula coined several neologisms to characterise his work and its method. Instead, a claustrophobic maritime space ensues. The sinking set seems to slip out of sight behind a crane, mounds of dried, cracked earth and a now all-too-brilliant polychrome landscape.
The film absolves us of any obligation to remember the disasters that followed. Quick as a wink, cartoon-like, the angel of history is flattened between a wall of steel and a wall of ice.
This storm is what we call progress. Progress, not regress, leaves one disaster after another in its wake. Part of the title of his publication Photography Against the Grain: There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a garin of barbarism. And just as such a document is not free of barbarism, barbarism taints also the manner in which it was photograhy from one owner to another.
A historical materialist therefore dissociates himself from it as far as possible.
He regards it as his task to brush history against the grain. It is with this difference in mind that we can consider the neologism framing Waiting for Tear Gas: For most, photojournalism is simply synonymous with mainstream media. It is spectacular photography, with all the insidious connotations of the popular understanding of that agaknst. Yet the question that remains, and the question that will be posed here, is as follows: After all, it was the photo-essay or a choreographed sequence of photographs that emerged as the means of reportage on the pages of the newly illustrated press in the s and s and which was deemed outmoded the very year Sekula began to work in its form.
It was ingrxin year Sekula completed Untitled Slide Sequencethat the most important and popular American illustrated magazine, Lifestopped printing.
With Waiting for Tear Gas Sekula did not return to this form. After all, as Sekula acknowledges on the pages of the same essay in which he condemns the mass-circulation picture magazine, the photo-essay was also a radical platform for disseminating information and the news.
Sekula offers readers the productions of the Workers Film and Photo League as one important example. On the page and photogfaphy film — in motion, that is — a multiplicity of views ensued fig. Never static or given, subjects were social, even socialised, through the page and the sequence, in time. In turn, it is worthwhile asking: The death of photojournalism may just be photogrwphy of those myths, much like the end of work and phtoography promises of free trade, which Sekula also sought to counter.
In fact, its codification coincides with the production of Waiting for Tear Gas. It was in the late s that photographers, both new and seasoned, were forced to confront the fact that the page was no longer the means for circulating their work. This was not, as we have come to believe or have been told, simply because the screen replaced the page as the site for the circulation of news.
It was because mainstream magazine editors radically reshaped the organisation of the news on the page and in print. Instead of publishing lengthy photo-essays offering extended, in-depth and multiple perspectives on war and famine, the subjects of much of the s news cycle, they allaj editorials around one or two iconic shots. Photojournalism did not die in the s, nor pyotography it necessarily outmoded by new technologies, be they television or the internet. Rather, it was revamped or reshaped into a form more conducive to the myths of neoliberalism.
In the Shadow of History skeula. The death of photojournalism may be a myth, but it still buoyed the definition of photojournalism as synonymous with the iconic shot. Notably, we see this nowhere more clearly than in the media response to the protests in Seattle.
A case in point was the organisation of the Independent Media Center Indymedia.
In short, it operated in direct opposition to the top-down, hierarchical structure of mainstream media outlets. The myth of the death of photojournalism and its simultaneous spectacularisation has, in other words, been incredibly generative. Not despite but because of the neoliberal revamping of the media, individuals can now make, record and circulate the news.
Photography Against the Grain: Essays and Photo Works 1973–1983 by Allan Sekula
It is easy to imagine that Sekula would have supported these new media platforms and promoted the proliferation of the news through collective and grassroots organisations.
Yet Waiting for Photogrsphy Gas offered a wholly different response to the mainstream mythologies. Grqin worked alone, in his studio and with analogue technologies He also circulated his work, for the most part, in books and museums or galleries. He produced a different history of media. This history, like his work, begins in the s and not the s.
It begins when the pages of magazines, even those magazines wholly associated with corporate culture and cultural imperialism such as Lifecould be read counter-culturally and critically.
As numerous historians of journalism have argued, the television did not simply replace the page in the s, such that the collapse of Life cannot be accounted for through histories of technological innovation. Although there has been much debate about whether or not the circulation of photographs and footage from te war zone instigated the change in public support for the war effort or simply confirmed it, the photographic representation of violence in the mainstream media altered the future of photojournalism.
Iconic images ruled, but that was not all: Unlike many on the left and working in new media, Sekula did not negate the myths about photojournalism or seula. He did not seek to provide new truths — to set the record tbe about what actually happened in the streets of Seattle.
That is, with his sequences of eighty-one slides, he did not tell another or other stories, the task of the citizen journalist and the independent media organisations that multiplied online in the wake of the Arab Spring —12 and of the emergence of the Occupy movement in He re-told the same story — the myth — differently. Evocative here is another photo-essay Grqin finished the year Life stopped printing: Two, three, many… terrorism fig.
Instead of calling for an end to the violence, he called for more fighting and more collective action.
More revolution was necessary, Che argued; more struggle against imperialism needed to be enacted, supported and recorded. The young man dressed up enacting war manoeuvres in La Jolla, California, around suburban golf courses and swimming pools, is hidden in plain sight. As Martha Rosler argued in her seminal study of the way in which war is mediated, Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful —72, war takes place at home and without much disturbance fig. This is not simply because it is beamed into the home through the television screen or flipped through in the pages of the glossy magazines.
Sekula does not disrupt or correct the blindness; he re-enacts and reproduces it. As in Waiting for Tear Gasin much of his work Sekula examines, meta-critically, the way media works. We hear that television trumps aaginst page, and the internet outdoes, even undoes, televisual news.
Photography against the grain: essays and photo works, – Allan Sekula – Google Books
Yet neither story gets us to the core of the matter — namely that technology does nothing and that left-wing politics does not have a single form. For Sekula, as for Benjamin, brushing history against the grain required taking stock of the exhilarating as well as the destructive uses of media. Likewise, they are — or can be — re-imagined and re-used. Main menu additional Become a Member Shop.
Allan Sekula, Allan Sekula: Essays and ReflectionsHannah Arendt ed. For a history of Lifesee Erika Doss ed. The literature on this aspect of journalism is vast. Terri Weissman develops this last point in her contribution to this project, emphasising the ways in which Waiting for Tear Gas develops a critique of the fetishisation of cyberspace as the place for radical politics.
See also Lisa M. Elegant wrote the controversial book How to Lose a War: See Paul Virilio, Desert Screen: War at the Speed of Lighttrans. Both volumes were first published in French in War without Bodies was first published as a photo-essay in the November issue of Artforum. Notably, photographs of the front and back covers of the 18 March issue of Life magazine in which General Schwarzkopf embraces prisoner of war Melissa Rathbun Nealy bookend the photo-essay.
The installation was first exhibited in Dismal Science: For a summary of these changes to policy with regard to war journalism, see Fred Ritchin, Beyond the Frame: To quote Guevara in full: