Tuesday, May 18, 2004

On photographs

Yesterday I went to the Photographer's Gallery to see the Hou Bu & Xu Xiaobing: Mao's Photographers and Li Zhensheng: Red-colour New Soldier: A Chinese Photographer's Odyssey through the Cultural Revolution exhibitions. Official photography, official histories. Beautiful photos of cavalry crossing the desert, and platoons of small-footed women soldiers. Formal portraiture, and intimate family photos. Faces in triumph and joy. Thousands of copies made their way into people's homes, and some were never seen.

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I'm staying in central London with hundreds of university students enjoying their first Great European Odyssey (a.k.a. The Grand Tour of Western History and Culture). As I sit on the street drinking my coffee, I ask them where they come from and where they're going. (An Australian guy and Canadian girl, recently fallen in love: "We're saving our money to stay longer in Prague." Me: "Prague? I hear Riga is the new Prague.") I see travellers both struggling with maps and enjoying being lost. But there is one thing I do not see. No one is taking pictures. I ask them if they have cameras. "I don't take pictures," they say. "I will remember," they tell me.

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Traces of India: Photography, Architecture, and the Politics of Representation

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Photographs and Memories by Douglas Rushkoff (and the comments)

But what about the materiality of photos?

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