Professor Andrea Noble, Durham University

 

© Daniel Hernández-Salazar, 2014

© Daniel Hernández-Salazar, 2014

 

Original proposal

Photographs bear tremendous emotional and affective power thanks to their intimate and necessary relationship to the material world, their ‘having-been-there’ quality. Disseminated across an evolving range of media and spanning geographical distances, historical periods, and cultural and linguistic divides, photographs are routinely presented for everyday consumption, calling on us to recognise our fellow human beings in moments of crisis and duress: from the all-too familiar images documenting successive waves of famine and disease, through those that bear witness to the action and destruction of war or ‘natural’ disasters and their aftermath, to the photo ops staged in the arena of struggles for human rights. As they circulate in the global public sphere, such photographs invite patterns of identification, mobilizing shame, inciting outrage, hatred, fear, compassion, etc. The very fact that they continue to circulate testifies to the on-going belief in their power to communicate affect transnationally and ultimately to effect change. However, despite the enduring historical relationship between photography and the affective, photography scholarship has yet to examine the emotional aspects of the medium’s persuasive power. Our network therefore aims to address two overarching questions. First, how has photography emerged as one of the key modes in the representation of political events, and consequently framed what is visible and hence, sayable? Second, how do photographs serve as vehicles for the transnational communication of affect, and therefore aid (or hinder) the formation of (political) communities based around these emotional attachments?

Update: November 2014

Our network grant ran for two years between 2012 and 2014 and involved a collaboration between colleagues at the Durham Centre for Advanced Photography Studies (now incorporated into the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture) and colleagues from the Toronto Photography Seminar, who also won funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

For us, arguably the most important element of a Research Networking Grant was the space it left for unanticipated outcomes. Thanks to the opportunity to meet and work with Professor Thy Phy from Western University, and the Guatemalan photographer and activist Daniel Hernández-Salazar, ‘Photography and the Transnational Politics of Affect’ has morphed into the long term project ‘Cold War Camera’.

The premise of Cold War Camera is that photography plays a key role in the cultural politics of the Cold War and its aftermath, from its use in state surveillance operations; through its deployment in acts of resistance to state-sponsored terrorism; to its role in commemorative and on-going judicial processes. While scholars have begun to outline the visual cultural politics of the Cold War in regional and national contexts, there has yet to be a full exploration of the global, interconnected networks of production, circulation and reception of photography during this period. A full picture of how photography helped mediate a war that was prosecuted on multiple fronts requires the collaboration of scholars from different disciplines and wide-ranging historical and cultural expertise.

Cold War Camera has generated a set of academic outputs that include two conference-workshops hosted in Guatemala City in February 2014 and Mexico City in February 2015; a special issue of Visual Studies, ‘Cold War Visual Alliances’; and an edited collection with a major university press (under review).

 

Update March 2017

Thanks to the award of a Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement grant, the project has entered an exciting new phase: Cold War Camera Visual Legacies in Latin America (or, its Spanish title FotoFría: Trazos Visuales de la Guerra Fría en América Latina). This project brings together the photographers Azahara Gómez, Juan Orrantia y Mauricio Palos, to work with lead photographer Daniel Hernández-Salazar and curator Iván Ruiz to produce new photographic work that prompts reflection on the Cold War and its legacies that will open in Mexico City’s Centro de la Imagen in June 2018. But as well as leading to an output or product – the exhibition itself — this project is very much about process. We are delighted to be working in partnership with three institutions dedicated to the promotion of memory, human rights and justice in Latin America: Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (AHPN, Guatemala), Museo de las Memorias (Paraguay), and the Centro Cultural Universitario de Tlatelolco (CCUT, Mexico City). Thanks to their participation, we will be hosting workshops for the FotoFría team that brings us together in sites of the Cold War to learn from its protagonists about their experiences of this brutal phase in the region’s history and its ongoing legacies.

 

Professor Andrea Noble

RCUK Gateway to Research

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