Photography, Propaganda and Use

Rolling Acres Mall, 2009

Quite wonderful to have one of my photographs from Dark Stores, Ghostboxes and Dead Malls paired with Roger Lowensteins’ article ‘Paralyzed by Debt’ in this Sunday’s NY Times Magazine. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea that a big interest of mine is the ability of contemporary photography to act as propaganda for a like-minded cause. Like practitioners a century ago such as Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis, photography often can contain content and a narrative that speaks of social issues. It seems though that many don’t always pay enough attention to the fact that as intrinsic to the pictures was the use of them by the Child Labor Committee or Riis’ lectures. This use and context is what seems to truly drive the meaning, agenda and critical discourse of the image in it’s present and through to the future. When we think of Hine we think of photographs that operate as a catalyst for social change, again it’s as important to note that Hine’s project was a result a collaborative effort and the effect and change was a result of a larger construct.

In the 21st century as photography has become sublimated into digital media, this actually allows the photographer to act as the catalyst to insert that degree of context and use into various venues. I was having this conversation with friend and photographer Scott Fortino recently that his photographs of prisons, public schools and state institutions, aside from being considered, wonderful and inventive aesthetic objects can serve as the caption to so much contemporary discussion. Simply put the articles are being written, the discussions happening, why not attempt to place the work within those contexts?

Having my work alongside Lowensteins’ essay is a victory in it’s pairing (aside the tickling fact that it will be seen by many). Rather than focus on the fact that photography loses so much in it’s new secondary role to the internet, why not see it’s opportunities and strengths. It worked for Hine 😉

“Indeed, the underlying cause of deleveraging is that Americans got too leveraged. This excess was decades in the making.” –

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