Issue 59 — Summer 2009
One of the contradictory aspects of photography is that while it offers us a faithful record of things, it can also be inscrutable and suggest many, even opposing, interpretations. We are constantly encouraged or discouraged about photography's power to help us know the world.
As well as being an art photographer Andy Wiener is a psychologist who works with children. One part of this work involves helping children to assemble a 'life story' using photographs of people they have known, including pictures of relatives they may not see again. The purpose of this process is to help the children establish a clearer idea of their identity and past. Wiener has gone through a similar process with his own diverse family background and concludes that these personal pictures are both precious and untrustworthy; they tantalisingly record people in the past and yet do not really allow us to know them.
Ulrika Ferm has become fascinated with the missing record of the weather in Ireland during World War II. Due to censorship, daily newspaper reports of the weather ceased during wartime (known in neutral Ireland as 'the emergency'). In their place Ferm has mined the National Photographic Archive for pictures taken during the war to make postcards for their own accidental evidence of the weather around the country. Alongside the memories of people alive in the 1940s, these pictures construct a piecemeal version of both the weather during the war and an invitation (possibly equally untrustworthy) to imagine how it was experienced at the time.
The Tropic of Capricorn is an abstract idea but also identifies a location. Roger Palmer used it as a starting point to photograph in different countries in the southern hemisphere. However, although we know the latitude at which the photographs were made, the pictures, individually, 'represent circumstances in completely ordinary places where nothing is happening'. Organised into discrete sets of three with common pictorial elements they do not inform us about Australia, Africa or South America but instead suggest that in a globalised world it is as useful to understand how pictures are made as where they were taken.
The recently opened £110 million Acropolis Museum in Athens has been built to house the Parthenon sculptures, many of which remain in the British Museum in London. As Ian Walker's photographs show, the prestige of these sculptures has meant they have been very widely copied and reproductions of them appear around the UK, incorporated into public buildings and standing testiment to the lasting influence of Hellenistic culture. Ironically, today, when the influence of that classical heritage seems to have waned, the allure and political importance of the original objects appears as strong as ever. Walker's photographs might make us ask of the Parthenon sculptures, as we ask of photography, if it is the many reproductions or the authentic original which has made the object important to us.
— The Editors