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« Obama and Torture | Main | Objectifying Difficult Knowledge »

The Aftermath Project

Last Friday afternoon at the Curating Difficult Knowledge conference at Concordia University, Montréal, Sara Terry, a photographer and founder of the Aftermath Project gave us a glimpse of the photography supported by her foundation. The Aftermath Project grew out of Terry's work in Bosnia, entitled "Aftermath: Bosnia's Long Road to Peace."  The idea behind the project is devastatingly simple: to document the aftermath of violence, to look at the ways in which people survive, recover, and live in the aftermath of violence.  

The images she showed the audience were from the winners of the foundation's annual grants for the past several years. 

The photos, though, made me think about a theme that came up again and again throughout the conference last weekend, and that was about the intrinsic value of art, of items on display.  Of course, the value of art and other items come from us, from people.  We decide what is valuable and what is not.  We also decide on the aesthetic value of the work, we determine what is a quotidian photo and what is artistic.  We imbue the item with its value.

So, with these photos, from the Aftermath Project, I found myself wondering over and over what it was that arrested me when viewing them.  Aesthetically, they were stunning.  But they also managed to humanise these conflicts, to see what people did to survive in the aftermath of atrocity.  For the audience, then, the value of these photos lay both within their aesthetics, but just as much in what and how they display their subject.  This is where their affect comes from.  

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