Photography is a persuasive and powerful way of expression. Its accessibility and immediacy makes it a perfect option for artists confronting the political upheavals and social challenges of the Middle East nowadays.
The current closed exhibition: Light from the Middle East, New Photography has presented work of numerous artists from all over the Middle East, straddling from North Africa up to Central Asia, those who are living in dispersion and in the regions.
The diversity of methods is suitable to the complexities of a diverse and vast region.
The exhibition paves way to the exploration of means in which these artists were given opportunity to investigate both the techniques used in photography as well as the language. Some utilize cameras to bear witness or record while others subvert that procedure to expose how surprisingly undependable a certain photograph can be. The works presented ranges from highly-staged tableaux and documentary photographs to images operated beyond recognition. The diversity of methods is suitable to the complexities of a diverse and vast region.
Light from Middle East has been divided into three sub-categories: resisting, reframing, and Recording. Each of those aims to give much attention to different approach used as medium of the photography.
The artists in this category question the notion that photography can reveal and tell the truth. Some of them challenge this notion through scratching prints and negatives, some digitally altered the images and some even come to the point of burning them. The outcome seemed to be atmospheric and murky images that need great effort just to be interpreted.
The manipulation done have shown fragility of photographs, whether at the hand of censors or artists. They also show how powerful photographic imagery is when it comes in controlling and influencing through surveillance or propaganda. The works then resist the claim of photography on authority and accuracy.
The artists in this category imitate or appropriate imageries from the past to make statements regarding the present. They make use of Studio Portraiture, fashion photography and many more from painting of old Masters to Modern photographs as their source. Through the use of different techniques, they interrogate and update, meaningfully combining the past and the present, Fictions and Facts, West and east. Whether critiquing or emulating, these artists have reframe existing images which results to images with new ends.
Photography is apparently an accurate way of recording events, places and people. Photographs can serve as a document of a historic moment or for commemorative purpose. A photograph can reveal something that is otherwise not visible, such as an event or place a viewer wouldn’t have access to, or a specific vantage point accessible only to a photographer. It can also make a lasting image of a scene staged or fleeting performance only for a camera.
However, despite of the apparent authority of the photographic images, they still can disorient and trick. They can be hard to decipher or can be ambiguous. The meaning can be shifted depending on the context, captioning, or cropping. The above categories, in which photographers used variety of approaches to explore and exploit the photography’s ability to reveal the truth, then create the question regarding the limitation of photography.