Thursday 19 August 2010

Photography in a frame versus photography on a page

I was eager to see the World Press Photo 2010 exhibition currently on display in the Lippincott Room of Smith and Caughey's building. We hardly ever see large group shows of international photography so I rushed along at lunchtime.

The exhibition's staff told me that it was best to move about the space clockwise and I followed their instructions. I didn't imagine that I would get such a wallop from the viewing.

There is something unnerving about looking at medium-scaled images of dead and dying people that never fails to shock me. Unlike seeing them in web-pages, newspapers, magazines and books, when they are framed and displayed on walls many scary issues can well up. It is not the shock value of the images that gets me but the way they are taken from their much more familiar territory of a news context. Their complex adjacent labels never mention the date when the photograph was made, sometimes they note a month but thier place in time is still confusing.

My experience of the show became even more complex when I studied the accompanying publication. The effect of the images was totally disimilar in the context of the book. Less elegaic and more controllable.

Visiting the exhibition only served to reinforce my belief that the context of the reception of a photographic image always affects how we react to it. On the walls, some of the photographs felt utterly transgressive. Not as evidence but as reportage of humanity's ability to be destroy life.

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