Helen O’Malley – The Political Agency of Contemporary Photojournalism

Kex-6th April 2017

The next k’ex lecture will be:

The Political Agency of Contemporary Photojournalism
Helen O’Malley

Thursday 6th April, 15.00 – 17.00
Room 142, Richard Hoggart Building (RHB)
Goldsmiths, University of London
Site Here Available Here

Abstract
On the 2nd September 2015, the body of a drowned Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi was washed onto the beach of the Aegean resort of Bodrum in Turkey. The photograph of the three-year old child swept through the media, spawning public outrage at the lack of support being provided by Western governments to refugees. Using this image as its starting point this talk will explore the political agency of photojournalism, questioning the mediums ability to mobilise viewers and instigate political policy change.

The fleeting nature of contemporary media imagery, prohibits us from connecting with its subjects on a deep emotional level. While the image of Aylan Kurdi has had an undeniable impact on the British public, has the knowledge generated in the wake of this image changed public opinion on asylum seekers and refugees in the long term? Has it had any impact on political policy? Will the publicity translate into something tangibly beneficial for asylum seekers?

The superficial engagement fostered by media imagery, prevents us from developing multi-faceted relationships with the victims it portrays. It stops us from recognising those victims as living fully ‘grievable’ lives. In the age of the generalized photo opportunity-what role can publicity and the exposé still play? This talk will explore the links between photographic representation, knowledge and action. It will consider the reason for our emotional disconnect and examine alterative types of imagery, which could generate a deeper and more sustained response.

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Helen O’Malley is the administrator of the Tate Modern, exhibition programme. She holds a joint BA in ‘Fine Art’ and ‘History of Art & Design’ from the National College of Art and Design in Ireland. She is in the process of completing her MA in ‘Contemporary Art Theory’ at Goldsmiths University of London. Since joining the Tate Modern, curatorial department in 2013 she has contributed to numerous exhibitions including “Agnes Martin”, “Abraham Cruzvillegas”, “Mona Hatoum” and most recently “The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection”. She is preparing for upcoming exhibition “Fahrelnissa Zeid” at present.

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