The Construction of Photographic Propaganda Books in Austria-Hungary in World War I
With a background in commercial photography I came to this MA with an interest in how photographs circulate through society not just as two-dimensional images but as material objects often following a prescribed trajectory. Be it as a photo album or book, postcard or poster, I wanted to find out how visual narratives are constructed, and to what end. An
emphasis on the ‘series’ instead of the single image is evident in my research projects carried out during my time on the programme, all of which examined the use of photography for different ends.
My research has focussed on a variety of subjects ranging from a personal photographic album created by the British photographer Walter Woodbury on his sojourn in Australia and Java, where instead of partaking in the hoped-for gold rush he embarked on a photographic adventure that saw him open one of the first photographic studios in Java, through the emergence of mass-amateur photography as it is told through innumerable personal photographic albums, and finally ending in a thesis on the construction of photographic propaganda books in Austria-Hungary in World War 1, examining both photographic objects and the whole apparatus of image-making with it.
In all of these projects my basic question was: ‘What do photographs do?’ Why are photographs deployed in the way they are? The indexical quality we often ascribe to the photographic representation has imbued photographs with a certain kind of power, and it is this abstract idea shaping our ways of looking that informs much of my research. As such I see photographs not as passive objects, but as active tools of mediation. While all of my research on the programme has of course been historical, I approach these issues through an interest in how the application and distribution of photography function in our modern day. Despite an apparent democratization of the medium, current popular socio aesthetic modes of image production and dissemination seem to be restrictive by creating a ‘funnelling’ of vision and reflect the capitalist trajectory of the wider imaging apparatus they are part of. I wonder if today implicit restrictions imposed by large networks - corporate and social - are in fact more severe than restrictions imposed in the past, when official bodies were still unable to understand, let alone cope with the masses of photographic images circulating in society.
Through rigorous historical research I hope to lay a foundation for future work exploring systems of vision, and comprehend the world around us, past and present, as it is mediated on magical planes.