Truth and agency in Modern and Contemporary Photography and Film [temporary title]

Chair: Féilim Ó hAdhmaill, University College Cork



Jacob A. Mundy, Colgate University and Nathanael J. Andreini, Teachers College, Columbia University

Curating Violence: The Mobility and Re-Presentation of “Conscience Shocking” Images

The annual World Press Photo of the Year award is often an index of global humanitarian concern. Over the past two decades, the award appeared to function as both the cause and effect of international interventions to prevent mass violence, to interrupt atrocities, and to provide protection to the multitude of civilians caught in these “new wars” (Kaldor, 2007) of the post-Cold War world — Yugoslavia (1990, 1998), Somalia (1992), Rwanda (1994), Chechnya (1995), Albania (1999). In 1997, the award went to Agence France Presse photographer, Hocine Zarouar, for his image of a veiled Algerian mother caught in a moment of extreme anguish, having learned which of her relatives were among the hundreds of victims of a massacre the night before in Bentalha, a suburb of Algiers. Quickly dubbed the “Madonna of Bentalha,” the photograph, which simply and bloodlessly intimated the horrors of the armed conflict in Algeria, appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Since then, the photograph has transcended the politics of its production; whether the fact that the subject of the photograph repudiated the way she had been represented (Doy, 2002) or the fact that not a single person has ever been held accountable for the Bentalha massacre, nor the dozens of massacres that preceded and followed it in Algeria. Indeed, the image itself has proven remarkably mobile, circulating and recirculating in various fora (e.g., AFP photographic exhibits) and through various forms (e.g., the sculpture work of Pascal Convert). Deploying insights from the works of David Campbell (2004, 2008; Campbell and Shapiro, 2007), as well as Judith Butler’s (2009) critique of Sontag (2003), the goal of our intervention is to account for the mobility of “conscience shocking” images beyond the moment of initial production and reception. Instead we aim to explore the ways in which curatorial practices, like those enacted upon the Madonna of Bentalha, produce Foucaultian (1977) “histories of the present” that, when reverse engineered, elucidate the contemporary global logic of humanitarian concern, especially its limits.


Butler, Judith (2009). Frames of war: when is life grievable? New York: Verso.

 Campbell, David (2004). Horrific Blindness: Images of Death in Contemporary Media. Journal for Cultural Research 8(1): 55-74.

 Campbell, David (2008). Beyond Image and Reality: Critique and Resistance in the Age of Spectacle. Public Culture 20(3): 539-549.

 Campbell, David and MJ Shapiro (2007). Special Issue on Securitization, Militarization and Visual Culture in the Worlds of Post-9/11. Guest Editors’ Introduction. Security Dialogue 38: 131-137.

 Sontag, Susan (2003). War and Photography. In Human Rights, Human Wrongs. Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2001. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press



 Anna Rådström, Umeå University

Archival Documents from the Fakhouri File: Histories of War, Trauma and Memory in the Work of Walid Raad

By focussing on the work of the Lebanese/American artist Walid Raad (born 1967) I discuss visual representations of war, trauma and memory. Raad, the founder and sole member of the Atlas Group, is an artist but also an archivist. Through the making and filing of documents (e.g. films, photographs and texts) an archive of the Lebanese civil wars 1975-1990 was created. The archive (built 1989-2004) is, according to the artist, a collection of “hysterical documents” (Wroczynski 2011:768). In my paper special interest is paid to two documents attributed to the fictitious Dr Fadl Fakhouri who is said to have been a Lebanese historian. These documents, Notebook 72: Missing Lebanese Wars and the film Miraculous Beginnings and No, Illness is Neither Here Nor There, record processes of history writing marked by trauma. What is being written? How can it be understood?

 When Raad received the 2011 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, the foundation stated: “Through Raad’s work we are able to question the traditional iconography of war photography and speculate productively on visuality, memory and violence” ( What does it mean to think “productively”? I am not sure, but when discussing Dr Fakhouri’s documents questions relating to the (im)possibilities of representing and communicating traumatic events and experiences become central. The questions are explored through the documents and ideas of Raad, but also through writings made in other contexts concerning trauma and (un)representability e.g. Phelan (1997) and Didi-Huberman (2008). Central to the discussion are also questions regarding narratives of war and trauma that build on the interplay between fact and fiction. Approaching these questions I again turn to the documents, but also to the widely analysed literary/photographic work of W.G. Sebald (e.g. Long 2007).


Didi-Huberman, Georges (2008). Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz. Translated by Shane B. Lillis. Chicago& London: University of Chicago Press. (last visited 2013-02-12.)

Long, J.J. (2007). W.G. Sebald: Image, Archive, Modernity. New York: Columbia University Press.

Phelan, Peggy (1997). Mourning Sex: Performing Public Memories. London: Routledge.

Wroczynski, Emily (2011). ‘Walid Raad and the Atlas Group.’ Third Text 25(6): 763-773.



Noni Stacey, Photography and the Archive Research Centre, University of the Arts, London

Different Ways of Seeing: Camerawork in Northern Ireland in the 1970s

In 1979 the radical photo journal Camerawork raised questions about the implications of politics and conflict for photography when it sought to challenge received wisdom about the on-going conflict in Northern Ireland.

This paper seeks to reappraise Camerawork’s intervention in the Northern Ireland debate and its repositioning of the photographer’s role in areas of conflict. In doing so, it will explore the intersection of photography, community and conflict.

Camerawork identified its purpose as a journal dedicated to publishing and exhibiting ‘photography for the community’ (Camerawork No. 13, March 1979). It agitated for photographers and media organisations to commit to long-term engagement at a local level within communities.

The journal issue, ‘Reporting on Northern Ireland’ (Camerawork, August 1979) provoked controversy both among the journal collective’s  members and in the wider political sphere that jeopardised its funding from The Arts Council of Great Britain.  This controversy demonstrated the difficulties and constraints faced by photographers and periodicals operating outside the mainstream media, with respect to both publication and distribution.


Braden, Su (1983). Committing Photography. London: Pluto.

‘Reporting on Northern Ireland’, (whole issue) Camerawork No. 14 (August 1979). London: Half Moon Photography Workshop.

‘Photography for the Community’, Camerawork No. 13 (March 1979). London: Half Moon Photography Workshop.

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