At a time when the photo media are becoming increasingly rare and when gender issues have never been so strong, it is urgent not to forget that image can also unite us.
The latest, February, issue of the acclaimed British Journal of Photography brings us an unusual experience. The magazine’s cover features the portrait a young man in army fatigues, nude to the waist, flexing the biceps of his right arm. The image, currently on view at the London Barbican, is captioned with the issue’s title: Masculinities: Liberation through Photography. On the following page, we discover an ad for an exhibition in New York, this one themed Female in Focus. Two events, two messages, but a single question: Has photography become a witness to a standoff between two identity struggles, two honorable causes that won’t listen to one another, conducted by artists and activists who follow the laws of a gendered, discordant world?
You do not need to raise your voice to make yourself heard; nor do you need to sound tough to alleviate injustice. There is certainly no need to pit men and women against one another to allow either group to live in harmony, although this might be, perhaps unconsciously, what the accompanying BJP editorial does: “[Masculinity] is highly topical in 2020 in view of the #MeToo movement and the resurgence of male nationalism….”. This remark takes us directly back to the exhibition The Family of Man organized at the MoMA in New York in 1955, which spearheaded the humanist photography movement. The exhibition sketched a portrait of humanity and, while highlighting the differences between different peoples, it emphasized their membership in a single, human community. Edward Steichen’s conclusions continue to have currency as photography has become a tool beloved by all, which allows everyone to have their say—whether narcissistically, as on social networks, or poetically, also on social networks. Photography’s power is such that it was able to further the grand dreams of Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, and W. Eugene Smith. But it is up to us publishers, artists, curators, and observers, who have made it our mission to defend photography and the values it represents, to lead the way in making this heritage more modern than ever. It is up to us to educate, to push the boundaries, and bring things together.
February is also the first month in forty years that there is no print issue of the American magazine Photo District News. A long-running photography publication, similar to Time’s LightBox and New York Times’s Lens, PDN is about to close its doors, a victim of the information crisis that has no end in sight. While Blind is not as venerable, nor has it acquired such a reputation, humbly and ambitiously, we are ready to fill the gap. For several weeks, we have been publishing an article a day, and the community of our contributing writers keeps growing. Above all, we are proud to be paying for every portfolio you, the photographers, submit to us. This is rare among online photography magazines, and it is our way of supporting creation and those who, through photography, take a stand for positive development of our medium.
“This photographic thing has changed the entire vision of the world. It will go through every activity of humanity—science, medicine, space, ESP, for peace, against peace, entertainment, television, movies, all of them—you will not find one without photography,” said Lisette Model (a photographer included in the Family of Man) in the mid-1950s. Sixty years later, images have even modified our behavior. Let’s therefore use them to rally together around the same cause and to stand united.
By Jonas Cuénin
© Jasper Graetsch