On October 2nd, the German Peace Prize for Photography was awarded to the Nigerian photographer Emeke Obanor’s photo series ‘Heroes’. In his project, Obanor photographically engages with the stories of young women and girls who have been abducted by the Boko Haram sect.
In a moment dominated by critical investigations of the history, continuation, and resurgence of colonial thought patterns and practices – embedded in continuing interest in questions of identity, history, and memory – scholars and artists alike have rediscovered the archive as one of the places where the above issues come together and condition one another. Archives help us, among other things, to define who we are individually and collectively, who we want to be, how we became what (we think) we are, and how we want to be seen by others. However, archives are also structures of exclusion, invisibility, and marginalization and, as such, structures of power and violence that must be approached critically.
Frank talks to Alice König and Nicholas Wiater, the principal investigators of the Visualizing War project at the University of St Andrews, about the constructive function of social conflict; the visibility of peace in a world seemingly dominated by violence; the social impact of peace photography; the everydayness of peace photography and the – relative – peacefulness of everyday life; different ways to visualize peace; and the relationship between war photography and peace photography, among other things, in a podcast recorded May 25, 2021.
How can arts in general and photography in particular contribute to peace? Scholars commonly approach this question through two different lines of thinking: While, for instance, our research rather focusses on the contribution of the artistic outcome, others engage more with the production of art and the artistic process itself. This is also the focus of Imaging Peace, a research project led by Dr. Tiffany Fairey at King’s College London.
“’Images of peace’ … They are indeed hard to find. Or better: they are easy to find, but hard to sell,” the filmmaker and photographer Wim Wenders observed in January 2006 in a long conversation with the writer and philosopher Mary Zournazi, documented in Inventing Peace (p. 38).
When images of peace can easily be found, what do they look like? And what do Wenders and Zournazi mean by peace?
Archives are “structures of meaning in process” (Roberts 2014: 114), always in the process of becoming, linked as much to the past (which they claim to represent) as to the future (which they inevitably shape). We can learn much about societies by looking at what is included in archives but also by searching for what is excluded from them, without assuming that everything that is included in archives is equally relevant for the ways societies see themselves and want to be seen by others. Archives structure politics and societies, and they do so with regard to the past, the present and the future.
So far, 2021 has not been an easy year for many of us. You, too, might have started the year with quite high hopes as the vaccination campaigns started in many countries, promising an end to ever extending lockdowns. Yet, such hopes came too early in various countries, leaving us instead to experience seemingly never-ending physical distancing and continuing working at kitchen tables or in bedrooms. Some of us might have experienced – or still suffer from – a phenomenon termed ‘brain fog’ or ‘languishing’. We at imageandpeace.com continued to be forced to spend even more time in front of our computers, developing some sort of ‘zoom fatigue’. All these things have also not passed us going unnoticed. Although we managed to publish regular blog posts, imageandpeace.com has become somewhat quieter in 2021 with emphasis put on more traditional academic work in terms of reading, thinking, writing (not necessarily in this order).
Written at the occasion of the 80th commemoration of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941
“Human suffering. Will it be remembered in centuries to come? … Tears and whispers, a cry of pain and despair, the last sighs and groans of the dying – all this disappears along with the smoke and dust blown across the steppe by the wind,” Vasily Grossman muses in Stalingrad (2020: 550).
Image & Peace proudly presents Reimpressions by Ana Catarina Pinho, the third artwork commissioned by and displayed on imageandpeace.com.
Reimpressions, a photography and video installation, is, in the artist’s words, “the first chapter of a wider investigation on photographic practices, memory, representation and discourse. This ongoing visual essay explores vernacular photographies and its potential towards reframing pre-established categories, knowledge regimes and discursive reconstructions.”
War is the negative reference point for peace narratives, and peace is the positive reference point for war narratives. As such, there is an intimate relationship between peace narratives and war narratives. War photographers, for example, visualize peace negatively by showing its absence. They do so, not to celebrate war but to show, in photographer Don McCullin’s words, that “war is bad” and that it should be abolished as a means of dealing with conflict.
Because of the intimate relationship between war narratives and peace narratives, we would like to introduce the project Visualizing War: Interplay between Battle Narratives in Ancient and Modern Cultures at the University of St Andrews.