Photography during Romania’s communist period: a missed opportunity or just a past time?
Compared to other Central and Eastern European countries of the former Soviet bloc, photography during Romania’s communist past is relatively rarely discussed in international (art) historical overviews of photography. However, as Jennifer Tucker notes, “photographs become evidence through their use as material sources in the writing of history and in the interpretation of society and culture” (2009: 1). Indeed, as a sociocultural medium with mnemonic significance, photography constructs and challenges versions of the past. Taking the cue from Tucker, this presentation discusses Romania’s photographic movement, specifically the regime’s officially endorsed and financially supported Association of Artist Photographers in Romania (AAF), its exhibitions and global networks, in order to investigate photography’s power and agency to challenge art historical research in the context of Romania’s communist past. In doing so, the focus shifts from what the photograph is to what the photograph does to art history, how it functions, what disturbances it may cause and what its implications are for other forms of art historical representations. In turn, this methodological approach to photography helps address questions around what forms of visibility and invisibility photography enables.
To address the above, the presentation is divided into two parts. Part one explores theoretical ideas of photography in the context of Romania’s past. For example, I will draw on Ariella Azoulay’s (2010: 11) idea that “a photograph is the product of an encounter of several protagonists, mainly photographer and photographed, camera and spectator”. This comprehensive approach to photography is particularly productive for a discussion of state-supported institutions and their impact on society and culture. With this in mind, part two focuses on the AAF and discusses its production and circulation of photographs and what forms of (in)visibility they enable.
|12 Oct 2023