[3Feb22] We encountered Campany's essay, Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problem of “Late Photography" in C&N Part 1. This part opens with this quotation,
One might easily surmise that photography has of late inherited a
major role as undertaker, summariser or accountant. It turns up late,
wanders through the places where things have happened totting up
the effects of the world’s activity.”
David Campany, ‘ Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problem of “Late Photography”’
(2003) in The Cinematic (2007) MIT Press.
The essay is also in David Green's (ed.) Where is the Photograph (2003), which is to hand.
Recalling that the supposedly controversial landscape photographer Timothy O’Sullivan (Part 2) photographed the American Civil War too (along with Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner), the emulsions of the time were too slow for any pictures of military activity taking place and so were usually the aftermath of battles or soldiers at rest. And those aftermaths were sometimes rearranged for aesthetic or dramatic effect, as did Fenton at Crimea.
I undertook a brief review of war photography during I&P Part 3, noting the different approaches over time, resulting from various changes in technology, attitudes and sensibilities, and also the common thread of manipulation that rune through that history (see Military History Now, Famous Fakes – 10 Celebrated Wartime Photos That Were Staged, Altered or Fabricated, 2015). These changes, allowed photographs to be taken by troops in WW1, Capa's intimate images of the D-Day landings, McCullin's work on subsequent conflicts and the current practice of embedding the press with active troops.
In practical terms. viewers expect video coverage of dramatic live events, many newspaper stills are now taken from video "footage" † and, when the news team has moved on, stills photographers arrive to make more contemplative coverage. The cmat. states, "Campany includes a discussion of Joel Meyerowitz’s work made around Ground Zero in New York, and also mentions Richard Misrach, Sophie Ristelhueber, Paul Seawright and Willie Doherty, all of whom practice within the field of contemporary landscape photography"
† Writing in 2005, Campany states that "almost a third of all news photographs are frame grabs from video and digital sources. The proportion increases in the coverage of international conflict." (p.130 in the Green edition) but does not clearly state a source for this statistic.
Paul Seawright's Afghanistan shells in Valley (2002) from Hidden (2003) get another mention. This, along with the Fenton parallels and Terry Towery'sView of Crimean Battle Scene, 2006 were discussed in C&N. The LPE cmat. describes the Seawright series images as having, "a cool, Becher-like objectivity to them. By concealing as much
as is revealed in the photographs and their caption, tension is created" (p.111).
[6Feb, p.112] Campany referred again to late photography in Photography and Cinema (2008) which is not to hand as s/h copies are expensive. Here he cites An-My Lê’s series 29 Palms (2004) that documents US marines in training - once again at a remove from military action, though the cmat. fails to notice that this could be regarded as early- rather than late photography because they are training for future action.
Other exponents noted are Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (C&N Part 5)‡ in Chicago (2005), Israeli troops in training;
Paul Shambroom Security (2003−07), more training grounds;
and Sarah Pickering's Public Order (2005), which we met in C&N Part 1 and which reminded me of Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles (1974).
South Africa's Goodman Gallery has issued an obituary for the partnership of British-South African artist duo Broomberg & Chanarin. Adam Broomberg (b. 1970) and Oliver Chanarin (b. 1971) are still alive but their 23-year artistic partnership was officially terminated on the 20th of February 2021. Describing the 'death', Goodman Gallery said 'the duo have legally, economically, creatively, and conceptually committed suicide.' The funerary procession for the pair's extensive collaboration began in London in December last year when a 13-metre long articulated truck, loaded with crates containing the artist's entire archive departed for Barcelona. Their prints, negatives, intimate notes, sketches of unfulfilled projects, and catalogue of books, will be displayed at what Goodman Gallery calls the duo's first 'posthumous retrospective'. The exhibition, The Late Estate Broomberg & Chanarin, ran from 20 February to May 23, 2021 at El Centro d'Art Contemporani Fabra I Coats in Barcelona. The Goodman Gallery runs the artists' joint estate.
Broomberg & Chanarin
b: ? OCA - josh-allen.net Box C
from Nine former collieries in
img: LPE p.114
[8Feb. p.112] The concept of late photography (or ‘aftermath’ photography) can be extended beyond violence and training for violence. The cmat. gives the example of "OCA tutor Andrew Conroy’s Nine former collieries in South Yorkshire", exploring sites of battles between miners and police and "landscaped" slag heaps.
The cmat. refers to "the subsequent collapse and outsourcing of heavy industry in the UK … [ironic] aspirational housing estates … the erasure of working-class histories, the strategic and political uses of nature, and the accession to hegemony o f an aggressive form of post-Fordist capitalism".
A personal view: Thatcher's decimation of UK industry and castration of the unions was a turning point in our history, and not a good one. But as a native of South Wales, brought up in the 1950s a few miles from Aberfan, with a partner brought up in a former Nottinghamshire mining village whose father worked at the mine, there are upsides to the ending of this punishing and barbaric industry. And from personal experience of trade unionism in the 1970s and 80s, I can attest that they were not entirely forces for good.
Ultimately, it can be argued that the importance of a large proportion of photography rests in its suspension and recalibration of time, as Barthes argued in Camera Lucida (1980) where he identified the strengths and weaknesses and the fundamental dilemma of the medium (that the creators, handlers and viewers of images will never agree on their meaning, if any).
Campany might have invented the term "late photography", but its roots could be in "late capitalism", a Marxist concept, Spätkapitalismus first used in 1898, repurposed by Ernest Mandel in Late Capitalism (1974) and now used to mean, "anything thought unpleasant about life in western society" (Wordsworth, 2022).