In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The de-saturation of the commonplace: A meditation on South African photography by Matthew Partridge

In this paper I will take David Goldblatt’s move to colour in his recent series Asbestos (2003) and Intersections (2005) as well as Intersections Intersected (2007) as an entry point to discuss the de-saturated aesthetic that has come to typify much of South African documentary photography.
In many ways Goldblatt’s shift in stylistic emphasis can be said to be inspired by the current developments in digital photography. However, the nuance is more discrete than merely traversing the barriers of the silver gelatine print which has come to typify Goldblatt’s documentary oeuvre.

In his recent work there is a distinct sense that the colour that he uses is de-saturated and bleached of its chromatic veracity, thereby accentuating the superficial banality of his lens’ subject. Here the routine existence that he captures is mystified and almost aged prematurely, similarly attesting to recent trends seen in photographers such as Guy Tillim and Pieter Hugo.

What this paper seeks to explore is the relationship of de-saturated colour to the subject and more importantly, its semiotic affect on the photographic object. Here the materiality of colour becomes intricate in the muted power relations between the subject and the object. It will be suggested that this expands problematic questions of photographic fidelity, not only to that which the photograph represents, but to the digital manipulation of the environmental light which gives the image its auratic presence.

No comments:

Post a Comment