Eclectic Grounds

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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Iranian propaganda move gone wrong

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(Notes on) Politics, Theory and Photography sums up a propaganda battle that is underway in Iran between the government news agency and government critics. It’s a brilliant piece about the power of images, symbolic resistance and gender roles.

The government fired the opening salvo when the state news agency Farspublished photos of a student leader – Majid Tavakoli – who has been arrested and remains in custody. In the photographs Tavakoli, who is highly critical of the regime, was forced to wear Islamic chador andmaghnaeh, the female headscarf.

What the authorities apparently intended as a means of humiliating a critic had a surprising effect – it generated Internet solidarity, as scores of Iranian men posted pictures of themselves on various social networking sites wearing headscarves.

[…] the veiled men in the photos make clear that the images are intended as a rebuke to the official practice of compelling Iranian women to wear the chador. Perhaps the regime has made a massive mis-step here.

Full story here

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Written by henrik

December 15, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Western images of the ‘Muslim world’

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A great post by Robert Hariman published at Sociological Images. Hariman compares two photographs of the Iranian New Year celebrations in Afghanistan and Iran. Like I described in a previous post, this example also reveals how western orientalist preconceptions are reflected in photography:

Photograph 1:

Hariman writes that:

That image is one of throngs of working class men massed together in the street. What little business is there is in the open air markets lining each side of the densely packed urban space. We see small batches of everyday goods on display–probably to be bartered for, no less. The open baskets of food are a sure marker of the underdeveloped world.[…] Everything fits together into a single narrative, but the masses of men and boys make the scene politically significant. This is the place where collective delusions take hold, where mobs are formed, and where unrest can explode into revolutionary violence and Jihad.

Photograph 2:

Here he writes:

In this photo, there is no Arab street nor Iranian masses dominated by Mullahs and demagogues. A middle class tableau reveals that so much of what is in fact ordinary life for many people in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East is never seen in the US. And it isn’t seen because it doesn’t fit into simplistic categories, outdated stereotypes, and a dominant ideology. All that is shown and implied in the cliches is of course also there, but it is there as part of a much more complex and varied social reality.

Written by henrik

March 27, 2009 at 11:50 am

Israelis against the war in Gaza

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An image that is almost invisible in the Western media: Israelis protesting against the war in Gaza. Is it because the Israeli peace movement is so insignificant that it is not worth reporting about it? Or is it rather a way of manufacturing consent for the war in Gaza by making it appear a natural move with universal support; something no Israeli would dare to criticise?

Peace now for Arabs and Jews

A Jerusalem Post article from December 30 (before the ground invasion started) gives an overview over the activities of the peace movement in Israel and its stance toward the army’s activities in Gaza. It sums up the campaigns of Meretz and Peace Now as moderate criticism of the army (“no anger of fury at the government yet”), while advocating diplomatic alternatives and pointing out the dangers of getting stuck in Gaza.

Photo from guardian.com, found here.

Written by henrik

January 4, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Photography and “Normal” Africa

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I came across an interesting article by Okwui Enwezor on the power of photography in Africa. Enzewor laments that our image of Africa is shaped by Western photography, which “seems often to evoke pathological images of disease, corruption and poverty”:

“No other cultural landscape has had a more problematic association with the photographic medium: its apparatus, various industries, orders of knowledge, and hierarchies of power. The act of photographing Africa has often been bound up with a certain conflict of vision: between how Africans see their world and how others see that world. In a way, this is a clash of lenses, a struggle to locate and represent Africa by two committed but disparate sensibilities — one intensely absorbed in its social and cultural world, the other passing through it, fleetingly, on one assignment or another.”

Okwui Enwezor is curator of “Snap Judgements”, an exhibition of contemporary African photography. It was presented in 2006 in Miami. Here is a slideshow of some of the photographs that are part of the exhibition.

The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung recently had an online photo gallery that presented the pity, infantilisation and paternalism Enwezor brings up. The gallery is juxtaposed with parts of Uzodinma Iweala’s essay “Stop trying to ‘save’ Africa“. 

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PS: Why this post on the image of Africa in photography? The IFA Gallery in Berlin currently displays a selection of the Bamako biennal “African Enounters of Photography”: Spot on … Bamako

Written by henrik

December 23, 2008 at 1:09 pm