Photos, Histories, Absurdities: Undisputed in these varying methodologies however, is the presence of the photograph as object and as testimony, to a time, a place, an event. At a time when the boundaries of photographic imagery have shifted, both intellectually and technically, and as digital manipulation can alter reality at the touch of a button, when the only photographs we truly trust to be ‘real’ are the trophy snapshots of renegade soldiers emerging from world conflicts, then photographs become true fictions, real theatre.
Photojournalism is seen, in many ways, to be photography’s bedrock, its consummate point of reference. Photojournalists go out into the world, to places where upheaval-famine, war, extreme social dissent – is taking place. They are present in order to witness events, and to make photographs which are marketable to a media dependent on a flow of news. In Paul Lowe’s photographs of Snipers Alley in Sarajevo, made at the height of the Balkan conflict, the photographer’s art is dependent on his ability to convey drama and reality to a wide international public. His position is a Brechtian one, creating epic and strictly ideological theatre. Photojournalism challenged the position of photography as a vehicle of illusion, positioning it as a platform for political debate. When Paul Lowe photographed in Snipers’ Alley, he undoubtedly had a point of view, and, playing on the absurdity of the situation (city workers, students, children making their way to work, college or school under violent sniper fire) he was able to use photojournalism to present a precise view of history. Lowe’s photojournalism, like that of his contemporary Simon Norfolk, is as much a meditation of events as it is a describer of them – concealed beneath the rich patina of photojournalism is an intense personal reflection on a war which redefined our notion of Europe.
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Published in Photoworks issue 4, 2005
Comissioned by Photoworks