Aftermath and Aesthetics-some thoughts and reflections

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Outposts- © Donovan Wylie

Aftermath photography is a very different approach to issues such as war and conflict. It takes a very oblique and less obvious perspective in order to explore theme of conflict. As Booth 2015 suggests:

‘contemporary versions of this form are usually devoid of people and engender a pensive mindset in the viewer’ pp28

A range of artist have employed this approach with Paul Seawright, Chloe Dewe Mathews and Donovan Wylie being exponents of this type of work that I am most familiar with. The image above by Wylie, from his work ‘Outposts’, explores the architecture of conflict through what to me is a very evocative landscape style. The serenity and loneliness of the image challenges the viewer to imagine the implications of the structure and the landscape in which it sits. It is the thoughts of the viewer that must make the link to the  conflict that look place at this location. It might be argued that the contrast between the desolate and lonely landscape and the history of conflict in the area create a tension between what is seen in the image and what we know bout its past.

Company’s essay ”Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of “Late Photography”” makes a very compelling argument for a shift in the way way still photography has been repositioned in the light of other visual and new media, perhaps summarised by his statement:

‘the still cameras are loaded as the videos cameras are packed away’

Campany describes how still photography was one present at the time of an event, it is now much more likely to be deployed in the aftermath to make a pun on Joel Meyerowitz’s slow and steady study of the aftermath of 911. Campy uses this to lustre the place of still images in contemporary society, photography as a summarises or account rather than the principle media for reporting in real time. this is far more often done with television and video. This was quite a deep and philosophical essay stringent the concept associated with memory and meaning and I Company makes a challenging link between whether memory is influenced by still images or do still images shape merry more than the actual event or video footage of it

A key learning point for me in this essay and my wider reading around aftermath and aesthetics is that in an age of fast real time video information, still photography still has a vital and perhaps even more impotent place than when it was to the principal media for transferring information in the pre video era.

I have for some time been interested and intrigued by the work of Paul Seawright.  the image in the course matures which I think is a classic example of aftermath photography is an homage to and earlier work by Roger Fenton. I think the comparison which i know will have been made many times reveals something about the power of late photography and most importantly that the concept to some extent existed at the dawn of the medium and is not in any sense new!

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Roger Fenton- Valley of Death 1855

Valley+BC

Paul Seawight – Hidden Series, Afghanistan 2002

References

Campany, D. (2003) Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of “Late Photography”

Wylie Image found at: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/PlanAVisit/Exhibitions/DonovanWylie/ImageGallery (accessed May 2016)

Fenton image found at: www. artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/123407 (accessed May 2016)

Seawright Image found at:www. paulseawright.com (accessed May 2016)

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