Second time round to Conflict, Time, Photography

Ultimately, then, when photographs are uncritically presented as historical documents, they are transformed into aesthetic objects. Accordingly, the pretence to historical understanding remains although that understanding has been replaced by aesthetic experience

(Sekula, 1991, p.123)

The quote above is part of a critical debate about documentary photography and one which we were asked to think about when we went round the Conflict, Time, Photography exhibition at Tate Modern a couple of weeks ago when the class went together.

Yesterday, I visited again, starting from the middle of the exhibition where I finished off last. There were a couple of series of photos that really stood out for me, which have the 'punctum'. One particular series was Hiromi Tsuchida's Hiroshima collection 1982-95. He photographed articles from the collection at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum 37 years after the event. These photos included text which gave a short description of the object and their owners. The physical photo of which they were printed in the gallery context was slightly bigger than A0 size and were gelatine silver print on paper.

conflict_1_0 Hiromi Tsuchida Hiroshima collection 1982-95

Due to the physical size of the print, I found the jacket image quite powerful as it was about human size printed and the imagination of what happened whilst you read the description is one that gripped me.

hiroshima jacket Hiromi Tsuchida Hiroshima collection 1982-95

In the accompanying text right next to the prints, it described the photos like 'a form of posthumous portraiture'. For me, the sense of calm of the simple images plays with the direct opposite of the historical event, one which we can only imagine. This really brings us back to the Sekula quote above.

Interesting enough, during my first visit, I chose the following photo, Shadow of a soldier remaining on the wooden wall of the Nagasaki military headquarters (Minami-Yamate macho, 4.5km from Ground Zero) by Matsumoto Eiichi as the photo which had the 'punctum'. This photo was taken approximately three weeks after the atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki.

conflict_3_0 Shadow of a soldier remaining on the wooden wall of the Nagasaki military headquarters (1945) by Matsumoto Eiichi

The photo affected me personally as what I had initially thought was a shadow were actually caused by the heat of the bomb and as these humans and objects was exposed to the blast, 'the intensity of the explosion had created 'burned in' shadows'. This image as compared to Tsuchida's Hiroshima collection documents the remains of a Japanese guard in its context. The gelatine silver print on paper image is roughly A4 size (315mm x 207mm) and much smaller compared to Tsuchida's images. It is very interesting to compare how these images were made at different times after the event and how both of them affected the viewer (i.e. me) differently.

One other series of photos taken 99 years after the event which stood out for me was Shot at Dawn by Chloe Dewe Mathews.

chloe dewe mathews 1

Chloe-D-M-R08F09-final-10x8 Shot at Dawn by Chloe Dewe Mathews

The images were the locations where WW1 British, French and Belgian soldiers accused of cowardice and desertion on the western front were executed. She 'took the images at the exact time at which the executions took place and as close as possible to the actual date'. If you looked purely at the images without reading the accompanying text next to the exhibited images, you see a landscape photograph. Once you read the accompanying text which states the names of the people executed there, the time and date of execution and the location, the viewer starts to see more in the image through the 'evidence' of the text.

Following the exhibition, I checked out the video where Chloe De Mathews talked about this body of work. She mentioned about the relationship of the text and the image which is like 'stamping the presence of the person back into the empty landscape', the point she is trying to make. It is the 'absence that is glaringly present'.

It is such an interesting exhibition and one where you need time to slowly digest and understand the different approaches the different photographers and artists choose to represent conflict.

Bohemians4Soho - not over until it is over.

20150202-Bohemians4SohowebP221 I kept refreshing hashtag #Bohemians4Soho on twitter last Monday waiting for updates as the protestors were still occupying the ex-12 bar. The #Bohemians4Soho had a community meeting that evening and "Frank Turner playing at 12 bar at 8pm" came up as a tweet.

When we got down to the venue, there was a buzz. People were walking into the building freely and musicians playing at the front door of the 12 bar. It was quite different compared to what we experienced the day before. Their barricade was pushed to the side, the lights were on and a somewhat lighter atmosphere filled the air.






The community meeting was held in one of the rooms within 12 bar and it was packed. Phoenix (@pheonixrainbow) was one of the activists leading the discussion in the room. On the other side, Dan was being interviewed and 12 bar seemed alive again on a Monday night. A few familiar faces like Mortecai played a big part in the discussions and there were several new faces who were keen to help out on the #savesoho front.





20150202-Bohemians4SohowebP223 Mortecai

20150202-Bohemians4SohowebP222 Danny, after encouraging the crowd to go on social media to tweet #savetinpanalley

20150202-Bohemians4SohoP2_web13 Pheonix being filmed

20150202-Bohemians4SohoP2_web15 The donation box being passed around to help the squatters






The night ended with Frank Turner playing and I overheard a woman ranting outside the crowded room going on about how it was "just f****** hipsters here to watch some famous musician and none of them cared about their cause..."

It was a matter of time before the riot police kicked the occupiers out and last Friday, it happened.


The day started out at the National Portrait Gallery, partly for a small university assignment as well as checking out the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize exhibition. After our visit, Ming Yang and I walked about to try and photograph anything that caught our eye. Nothing quite happened until after lunch when we walked down Denmark Street in Soho. It was a chance encounter at the front of the ex-12 bar and one of the guys, Dan from #Bohemians4Soho came up to say hi and we started chatting about what they were up to. Mordecai, another activist from the group told us about their protest against the gentrification of Soho by the big corporation, Consolidated Development, the owner of the building. Apparently, they have been squatting in the building for about two weeks. There is a Bohemians Manifesto online which tells you about what they stand for.

The group was kind enough to allow us into the Grade II listed building to check it out. Musicians have been invited to play once again in the venue. You can check out some of their videos here and on twitter, check out hashtags #Bohemians4Soho, #SaveDenmarkStreet, #SaveTinPanAlley and #SaveSoho.














If you have been passing by Tottenham Court Road station, you would have noticed the massive changes around the area.


Guardian's report about the protest here.