“In Absentia: The Politics of Cameraless Photography”
(Please note the special day and location of this event.)
How can a photograph of nothing—of nothing discernable or apparently significant—be said to offer some useful political purchase on the world it inhabits? How can a photograph that represents, but does not depict, a given situation be freighted with historical knowledge and import? Confining itself to examples of cameraless photography, from the 1830s to now, this paper will ask these questions with a view to determining a politics for such photographs in the present. In fact, given our contemporary context, cameraless photographs assume that photography is always already a politics; to engage the visual and chemical grammar of the photograph is to dispute and challenge that fixity of that politics. To make such photographs returns photography to a unique, hand-made craft and away from global capitalism and its vast economies of mass exploitation. Not that these photographs are innocent; on the contrary they are often generated by actions that are toxic, radioactive, enigmatic, violent, dangerous. Nor are they “abstract.” Instead, I will argue, they redefine the nature of both photography’s realism and its potential as a political agent.
Professor Geoffrey Batchen teaches art history at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, specializing in the history of photography. His books include “Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography” (1997), “Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History” (2001), “Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance” (2004), “William Henry Fox Talbot (2008), What of Shoes? Van Gogh and Art History” (2009), “Suspending Time: Life, Photography, Death” (2010) and “More Wild Ideas” (forthcoming in Chinese, 2015). He has also edited “Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida” (2009) and co-edited “Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis” (2012). In April 2016, his exhibition, “Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph”, will open at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand.
Friday, May 29, 2015, 6:30pm
Level 3, Room 56
702-730 Harris Street, Ultimo