If there is one thing we’re missing in today’s photography culture, it’s the critical reading of photography in a non-visual space. As photography becomes more accessible and proliferated, we also have to be mindful of our changing relationship with images. A critical approach makes the photographs more than mere scribbles on a large visual canvas.
When I recently met Coco Chen at Magnum Photos in London, we started discussing her dissertation based on photographs shot by Canadian photojournalist Rita Leistner in Balad, Iraq in 2003. At the time, Coco was in the process of completing her piece. Now I am pleased to present to you the essay in its entirety, titled “Precarity in the Age of Digital Reproduction: The Political and Civil Repercussions of Rita Leistner’s “Prisoners of Balad”
The paper, as you’ll read now, discusses how we are all consumers influenced by the media. However, before the public is exposed to the products of the media, the political climate already works to shape and determine the media’s mechanisms and content. Coco and Rita have agreed to let me publish the paper— an important document for every consumer of photography to read— here on Constellation Cafe.
About Coco : Born in Taipei, she has resided in Taiwan, Japan, USA, and UK. She attended the Northwest School in Seattle, Washington and Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut before moving to London. She is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts Degree in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her interests include photography, psychology, and human rights.
If you’d like to get in touch with her, drop her a email here
About Rita : Rita Leistner is an artist and photojournalist influenced by media theory thanks to entering the world of conflict photography with an MA in comparative literature from the University of Toronto (1990) where she teaches courses on “the art and purpose of photojournalism and documentary photography.” She is also a graduate of the International Center of Photography in New York where the influences of Concerned Photography became central to her practice. Her photographs have been widely published and exhibited internationally.
Rita is probably best known internationally for Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq (2005) with Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson. She’s also contributed essays and photographs to many other notable books of and about photography including Julian Stallabrass’s Memories of Fire: Images of War and the War of Images (2013), Michael Kamber’s Photojournalists on War: The Untold Stories from Iraq (2013) and The Edward Curtis Project: A Modern Picture Story with Marie Clements. Her first short film, Miklat (Shelter) won a Best Shorts Award of Excellence in 2013. Her new book, Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan uses the optics of literary criticism to create a bridge between the literary and the photographic. Go here for more on her new book: http://www.lookingformarshallmcluhan.com/