A HISTORY OF VIOLENT PHOTOGRAPHY

Falling Soldier
Falling Soldier

Condemned Corporal
Condemned Corporal

Kent State Shootings w/poem
Kent State Shootings w/poem

Falling Soldier
Falling Soldier

1/10

A HISTORY OF VIOLENT PHOTOGRAPHY

Images and Poems by Phoenix Mayet

 

Project Statement

“…memory does not reside in a photograph, or in any camera image,

so much as it is produced by it.”  - Marita Sturken


In The History of Violent Photography, I am investigating the photograph, its story and its historical context, my reaction to it, and the memory produced by it.


“All of us,” critic Susan Sontag wrote, “mentally stock hundreds of photographic images, subject to instant recall.” Many of us look at hundreds of images across multiple media throughout a single day.  Only a few photographs will stay with us, settling into our visual memory, creating a kind of continuity of shared experience between multiple generations.

 
We have been exposed to some of the most horrific tragedies and atrocities ever witnessed. The photographs included in The History of Violent Photography are among some of the most famous and most violent images ever made. They are images of terror, death and suffering that have been widely distributed by news outlets and humanitarian organizations. They have been censored by governments who would hide their abuses, shared by terrorists who would trumpet their brutality, and printed in school history books where they influence our collective understanding of the world and human experience. They have brought fame and infamy and, in many cases, inspired humanitarian efforts that have saved thousands of lives.

 
Formally, my process begins on the internet where I collect images of violence culled from my memory and found during my search.  I research information about each photograph - the photographer, the scene and the people captured within. I then begin a process of deeply examining each image, looking for the sensory details that pull me into the moment.  Finally, using digital editing software, I work to isolate those parts and reveal the ineffable punctum, that singular detail that drives one to feel deeply, to look and look again.