In his Keynote Presentation at ECAH2017, Dr Paul Lowe from the University of the Arts London discusses how the photographic image has engaged with the historical moment, from its inception in the mid nineteenth century to the present day.
In its relatively short history, photography has arguably become the predominant medium through which we represent the world around us. It is hard to imagine a world without the photographic image, so ubiquitous has it become as a form of communication, documentation and personal and artistic expression. Today, more photographs are taken every two minutes than in the whole of the nineteenth century. We now photograph everything, every moment of our lives and the world around us. Photography has arguably become the means through which we most strongly remember the past – and represent the present – forming the foundation of not only our collective social memory, but also our personal memories.
“Photographs are temporal objects, they project forwards and backwards; they re-present the past into the present”
Photographs capture a moment in time and in space, condensing and concentrating experiences into artifacts. They preserve within the frame the ghostly traces of the past as well as the knowledge that that past is no longer there, and therefore serve to preserve our sense of history and memory. As such, they form an important part of remembering, fluctuating between past and present, connecting moments in time. This is not necessarily a “stilling” of time, but rather a concentration of experience into an image that suggests time interrupted, retaining the sense of a time before the image and a time after it. As soon as the shutter closes, that moment of representation is forever in the past, yet still preserved in the present and into the future. The paradox is that although the still image is a single, discrete temporal event, it has the ability to transcend time; by playing on the imagination of the viewer, it can project backward and forward through time. The image retains within the frame a self-contained story, a sense of occurrences before the photograph and possibilities afterward. This presentation will therefore explore how the photographic image has engaged with the historical moment, from its inception in the mid nineteenth century to the present day.
View video of the presentation below
Dr Paul Lowe
Paul Lowe is a Reader in Documentary Photography and the Course Leader of the Masters program in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, UK. Paul is an award-winning photographer who has been published in TIME, Newsweek, Life, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Observer, and The Independent, amongst others. He has covered breaking news the world over, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela’s release, famine in Africa, the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and the destruction of Grozny.
His book, Bosnians, documenting 10 years of the war and post-war situation in Bosnia, was published in April 2005 by Saqi books. His research interest focuses on the photography of conflict, and he has contributed chapters to the books Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis (Reaktion, 2012) and Photography and Conflict. His most recent books include Photography Masterclass published by Thames and Hudson, and Understanding Photojournalism, co-authored with Dr Jenny Good, published by Bloomsbury Academic Press.
Paul is an Emeritus Member of VII Photo Agency and the Founding Judge of the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award.
Dr Lowe was a Keynote Speaker at The European Conference on Arts & Humanities 2017 (ECAH2017) in Brighton, England.