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From the series Shelter by Henk Wildschut. From a shortlist of six photographers’ projects, Wildschut won the 20,000 Euro DUTCH DOC AWARD.

Last weekend was the Dutch Doc Festival.

The theme for this years Dutch Doc Festival is the slow type of journalism, which “focuses on long-term projects that frequently involve a strong personal commitment and steer clear of passing fashions. Projects that revisit a (pre-documented) subject in a sequel or to create a new sequence in follow-ups after set periods of time.”

Photoblogging duo Mrs. Deane were involved in the festivities and asked other bloggers and I to pitch in. They emailed:

To underline the relevance of the online community in shaping the contemporary debate, we would like to invite a number of what we consider ‘distinct voices’ to contribute to the festival via our presence. We would tremendously appreciate it, if you could select three photographic projects that you feel should be considered when discussing what’s needed right now, what people should be looking at, what has been forgotten, or what new projects are leading the way in the field of documentary photography (especially the kind that is also moving within the confines of the fine art galleries).

Ignoring the last criteria, I unapolo­get­i­cally picked three very polit­i­cal projects. Mrs. Deane posted my response over there, and I cross-post here for good measure.

THREE NEEDED PROJECTS

At a time when images rifle across our screens and reti­nas usu­ally serv­ing the pur­pose of illus­tra­tion or cor­po­rate pro­pa­ganda, the resolve of pho­tog­ra­phers to cre­ate bod­ies of work that deal with pol­i­tics — and often large nar­ra­tives too — can be read as either fool­hardy or enlight­ened. I’ll pick the latter.

Kevin Kunishi’s work in Nicaragua, Joao Pina’s doc­u­men­tary in South Amer­ica and Mari Bastashevski’s doc­u­ments from Chech­nya explore to varying degrees, “what has been for­got­ten.” Pho­tog­ra­phy is art and art should be polit­i­cal. If we con­sid­ered remem­ber­ing and mem­ory the first act in resis­tance against injus­tice then these three projects are high art.

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From los restos de la rev­olu­cion © Kevin Kunishi

Kunishi’s Los Restos de la Rev­o­lu­tion is a poignant look at the remains and the sur­vivors of the Nicaraguan civil war. The por­traits fea­ture both for­mer San­danista rebels and former US-sponsored Con­tras. The mun­dane every­day details along­side deep psy­cho­log­i­cal scars fol­low­ing con­flict can be easy to turn ones back on when the bombs stop light­ing up the skies. And it is easy to for­get the US’s impe­r­ial pol­icy and med­dling in this con­flict. One won­ders if Afghanistan will ever have a cush­ion of a sim­i­lar period of peace­ful time to be part of a sim­i­lar look back at the expe­ri­ences and actions of its cit­i­zenry amid con­flict.

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From File 126 © Mari Bastashevski

Mari Bastashevski’s File 126 doc­u­ments spaces pre­vi­ously inhab­ited by abductees who were “dis­ap­peared” dur­ing the Russian/Chechen con­flict. Bas­ta­shevski says, “the abducted are incor­po­real, as if they never were. They are no longer with the liv­ing, but they are not listed among the dead.” This is a par­tic­u­larly brave project given the state forces complicit in the depar­tures are still in power and their reac­tions to Bastashevski’s incon­ve­nient con­science are unknown.

JoaoPina.jpg

From Oper­a­tion Con­dor © Joao Pina

Joao Pina’s Oper­a­tion Con­dor expan­sive work across South Amer­ica, wants to both doc­u­ment and “pro­vide evi­dence” for ongo­ing mem­ory and tri­als into cases of of extra­ju­di­cial tor­ture, kid­nap and mur­der by the var­i­ous Right-wing Mil­i­tary Jun­tas in South Amer­ica dur­ing the 1970s and 80s. Like Nicaragua [and Kunishi’s work] the US had a strong influenc­ing hand in either estab­lish­ing or prop­ping up many of these hard­line gov­ern­ments. The crimes of thirty years ago are barely on the radar of the West­ern world how­ever. How quick we for­get! Pina is cur­rently rais­ing money for the next phase of his project at Emphas.is.

Colin and Joerg’s Selections

Mrs. Deane got a couple of other expert opinions.

Colin Pantall selected Third Floor Gallery, Timothy Archibald and Joseph Rock.

Joerg Colberg plumped for Brian Ulrich, Milton Rogovin and Reiner Gerritsen.

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Self Portrait of the Artist as a Weeping Narcissus (free after Olaf Nicolai) © Norman Beierle, 2010.

A vicious ostrich, wedding mania in India, Nagatani’s Chromatherapy, scanner-hacked “pittance-cameras” and the scoop on the hottest new starlet of war photography; it’s fair to say that Norman and Hester are presently on top form.

Their generous sharing of finds along “the won­drous lanes and stray paths in the ter­ri­tory that comes with photography” often leave me gazumped and thinking afresh. Everyone knows I love Mrs. Deane, so it was great to read their take on what (photo) blogs do and where they might go if we choose to decide.

I hope you (and they) will tolerate such a large quote. It’s solid gold.

Blog posts are left as mark­ers for the flock, to indi­cate where inter­est­ing fod­der my be cached, where new projects can start, where ques­tions can be engen­dered or where the ground becomes unsta­ble. Each blog post can be viewed as a flag on the map, a point of inter­est for the visual tourist, for the data miner, for the visual entre­pre­neur, for the honey seeker. It can offer valu­able infor­ma­tion, or it can be a dead end, a tromp de l’oeil. At least it is an invi­ta­tion to spend your time, how­ever brief, with the text, the links, the visu­als.

Aren’t we in a sense like hook­ers along the dig­i­tal high­way, point­ing our fin­gers down in a come hither motion? I take it that in blog-land, reg­u­lar vis­i­tors do their rounds, like we used to do our rounds on the flea mar­kets, the used book fairs, the yard sales, the pho­to­graphic equip­ment fairs in run down com­mu­nity cen­ters. Now most of that now takes place on the eBays, Craigslists and Etsys of this world, and these com­pa­nies profit from it, as do all par­ties, but the com­pa­nies most of all by pro­vid­ing the com­mod­ity, the plat­form, the pipeline. Sim­i­lar high­ways start to evolve for the photo world, does that mean we can soon expect the first blog equiv­a­lent of the chain stores?

More thoughts start to sur­face, do we want our blo­gos­phere to become a mar­ket place? Do we com­mer­cial­ize or not, or maybe just a lit­tle bit? Or where will we find the means to sup­port our ide­al­is­tic and wil­fully naive notion of a free exchange between equals? Of course, when given the choice, I pre­fer the vita con­tem­pla­tiva, but I am forced to sur­vive in the vita activa, where there is no such thing as free love, and where every­thing either has a price or is con­sid­ered worth­less. If I would want to change that, I should be will­ing to fight for that, but am I, are we? (Photo) Blog­ging is seen by many as a fun thing that we do in our free time, not as a seri­ous activ­ity, or even as what it is also, a polit­i­cal act.

Not to pro­mote arro­gance, but maybe the hard core con­tent blog­ger ought to be more self con­scious about the role he/she could play. Some­times — and curi­ously enough many of these some­times occur when I visit places like Al Jazeera — , I feel as if we sim­ply have been pussy foot­ing for too long. What are we wait­ing for? Let’s go and make things happen!

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