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Curating Conflict Photos

This research project is focused on the presentation of conflict photography. The problem of the representation, memory and mediatisation of war extends the entire photo and media history, from the engravings in the printed press, to the first war photography, through television reporting and real-time streaming to alternative forms of citizen journalism on internet forums and social media today.

The research initially centers around a concrete case, namely making an exhibition about photography as an eye and a weapon in the First World War for the FotoMuseum Antwerp.

How to create an optimal framework for carefully looking at historical war photographs for a contemporary audience? How to present the chosen photographs in an 'autonomous' way without reducing them to visual sources or illustrations of the historical story, and without losing the balance between empathy and instruction? What is a 'correct' approach in dealing with historical photographs of victims (such as the photo books on the 'gueules cassées'), death and violence? How to avoid the pitfalls of sentimentalism and sensationalism? How to stay far away from exploiting the suffering of others (Susan Sontag) and compassion fatigue? How to deal with the problematic aesthetics of a war report, or the pornographic look at horrific images? And finally, does violence not remain largely invisible because it is not photographable?

Promoters: Paolo Favero (UA) & Johan Pas (KAA)