This morning here in London I walked and watched and thought for a while. Rain was predicted but sun was still shining so there was an uplifting atmosphere of enjoy it while it lasts. I suddenly profoundly realised that I’d been spending most of my time trying to contextualise my own work, literally, as in finding the right context to show the work. And while I know this is crucial, I also felt the absolute urge to concentrate on making work again. They shouldn’t be polar opposites, on the contrary, but for a minute they felt that way.
Your image reminds me of the issue of trauma photography, that Ulrich Baer has incisively written about. How an empty landscape image can talk about trauma that has previously taken place. Yet at the same time, as a viewer, one is forced to see that there is nothing to see. In many ways this is exactly the opposite of the image of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, which is literally there, at that precise moment of trauma, that exact slice of time.
Of course, an image is by definition always a slice of time. Photography’s everlasting crux. But this time the image’s slice of time is deliberately – or necessarily – disconnected from the trauma itself. This disconnect forces the viewer to think about the issue in a different way, introducing the concept of time, memory, and most crucially: forcing us to face our own position on the matter.
Roger Fenton immediately comes to mind, avoiding to directly photograph the bodies of the Crimean war but instead choosing to capture the landscape of Sevastopol. The charge of the Light Brigade in the valley of the shadow of death made immortal, now not only by Tennyson.
But also in his case, the photographer as a witness participates. We have two nearly identical images of the valley, one with cannonballs on the road, and one without. And as Errol Morris presented not so long ago, the latter was made first. The voice shifted from the image to the artist.