The module most relevant to these photographic collages from MoMA’s Seeing Through Photographs course is Documentary Photography.
Documentary photographs record and remember people, places and events, encourage (or discourage) empathy, raise awareness (or increase confusion) and offer commentary. Photographers have utilised the camera since it’s invention to make photographic documents of events they witness.
Photography is often perceived as an unbiased and objective medium, documenting and preserving local, national and world histories (photographs are an inherent component of news stories helping to visualise and narrate). Perhaps this perception of objectivity arose as the camera is a machine, simply recording what is before it’s lens. However a photographer’s choices have a strong influence upon photographic images. The photographer presents personal beliefs and understandings by choosing the photograph’s composition, selecting what is left in or out of the photograph and deciding upon how the photograph may be cropped, edited or altered after the image is made. The context and presentation of photographs also guides the way we read images, effecting our beliefs and understandings.
I have chosen the photographic collage series ‘The Beach They Called Gallipoli’ for discussion. These collages demonstrate both the objective and subjective nature of documentary photography. A variety of mediums were used by the artist to create these collages. Most are digitally manipulated and enhanced historical photographs illustrating a narrative of World War One, specifically Gallipoli. The photographs are collaged (combined) with pen and ink drawings, watercolours and acrylics.
Objectively, historical photographs made by photographers present in Gallipoli during World War One are an essential element of these collages. The historical photographs include people (primarily soldiers), items of war (guns, artillery, tanks…) and landscapes of Gallipoli.
Subjectively, the photographs have been through digital treatments (fading, texturising, removing backgrounds, colour changes…) and combined with drawings and paintings by the artist when creating these collages.
The finished images appear within a children’s book. This context has perhaps the greatest influence in reading these images. The way this narrative of Gallipoli during World War One is told shows a sensitivity towards young people who have not experienced war first-hand. The trauma and horror of Gallipoli has been softened or toned down in these collages to help a young person begin to understand the huge topic of war without overwhelming them.
Collages from ‘The Beach They Called Gallipoli’ images by Introspective Bear, written by Jackie French, published by Harper Collins Publishers Australia Pty Limited.