The Forensic Dimension of Photography
Centre for Research Architecture, London
11 March 2011
Conference hosted by the Centre for Research Architecture (London) in collaboration with the Photo-Lexic International Research Group, Minerva Humanities Center (Tel Aviv University).
In the past two decades, photography as a discourse has undergone a fundamental upheaval. The invention of digital photography has affected the quantity, accessibility and nature of its products. The keen interest it has raised among researchers in different fields of knowledge – not experts in art or photography – has affected the ways it is now discussed. The internet as an immediate space for mobilizing and disseminating images has in turn created new uses of photography and reshaped existing ones. Only in the past two decades have many of the characteristics that have shaped photography since its birth in the late 1830s begun to register themselves explicitly by these changes.
In thinking about photography as products subject to the spectator’s gaze, as objects that speak and are spoken about, and as entities involved in modes of exchange through their production and use, it has become clear that a discussion of photography can no longer concern itself solely with its products – photographs and their producers as was the case within the historical discourse of art and photography. Photo-Lexic in conjunction with Research Architecture has set out to examine the ways in which people from artists to journalists, scientists to human rights activists participate in the expanded context of photography understood as a civil, not sovereign, practice. How do different disciplines and different practioners produce photographs, talk about them, view them, and use them?
In collaborating with the Centre for Research Architecture, this one-day conference brings the Photo-Lexic project into dialogue with some of the conceptual trajectories of the Forensic Architecture project to generate a lexicon of related terms. With its roots in the police laboratory work of Edmond Locard (1877-1966) forensic science was and still is indebted to a conception of evidence as necessarily performative, in that, judgments are passed based upon the translation of forensic findings into comprehensible and convincing narratives. While the Locard Exchange Principal, upon which this science is based insists that “every contact leaves a trace”, the Photo-Lexic project does not confine itself solely to the close scrutiny of visual objects as evidence of events (historical or unfolding), but rather retraces the relations between humans and things that are mediated by the photographic encounter itself. The field of potential “contact” is thus enlarged to include not only the original site or moment of the photographic capture but also the ways in which images migrate to activate other scenes and other narratives.
The Photo-Lexic Research Team (directed by Ariella Azoulay) is an international group of researchers from various fields of study: political science, philosophy, human-rights studies, curatorial studies, sociology, history, economics and law. The group is linked to the Lexicon Project directed by Adi Ophir (part of the Minerva Humanities Center), and takes part in the writing of lexical terms (published in the e-journal Mafteakh).
- Eyal Weizman
- Charles Heller
- Jorella Andrews
- Karen Mirza
- Ben Burbridge
- Susan Schuppli
- Andy Fisher
- Vikki Bell
- Ariella Azoulay