As a photojournalist I grapple with a number of problems: can a realistic medium such as photography ever really show the underlying causes of social problems? A mechanical recording instrument has a limited capacity to convey a point of view, or express an author’s emotional response. How might we picture subjects that almost can’t be photographed, such as personal history, the memory of an absent loved one or the big themes such as poverty and war? These paradoxical problems are not new. In the 1930s the playwright Bertolt Brecht, exclaimed that “less than at any time does a simple reproduction of reality tell us anything about reality”. He argued that in order to confront the audience with uncomfortable truths, the artist had to ‘show that he was showing’ by making the process of representation explicit, thus revealing these relationships as constructed.
Could re-purposing documentary photographs by placing them in an art gallery context, question this notion of the news event as an accurate record of social history and thereby force a change in the condition of the viewer?
Empire of Memory: Post War Remembering and the Archive is an attempt to collate disparate photographic fragments using novel strategies to prompt a debate on memory and the representation of war and conflict. ‘Temporary Contemporary’ places art in vacant spaces within a market in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. It is an interdisciplinary, collaborative initiative which also acts as a testing ground for experimental ideas from researchers, artists, designers and businesses but also has a remit to appeal to a wide spectrum of visitors.