From Alberta to Azerbaijan, from Resolute Bay to Mumbai, via Oran, Johannesburg, Chittagong, Shanghai, and Tucson, this issue presents images of an industrious, prosperous world that has its (un)fair share of dysfunctions and aberrations. In all of these images, the documentary component, embodied within very different aesthetic strategies, attests to and interprets various facets of our world.
Oil distils more than ten years of Edward Burtynsky‘s systematic gathering of images that record the different phases of processing, transportation, and consumption of oil – the black fluid that feeds a constantly expanding world. With stunningly beautiful images of industrial facilities – images that would not be out of place in the pages of these companies’ annual reports – held up against images that bluntly show the deleterious effects of these operations, the portfolio as a whole constitutes a very relevant updating of a sublime aesthetic anchored in today’s realities. Focused on the energy matrix of contemporary societies, Burtynsky’s work reads like an allegory for the entropy and chaos that threaten us.
Emerging from the field of press agencies, Tendance Floue updates photojournalism with a collective approach based on a multiplicity of gazes and aesthetics around a single topic. For three short weeks, eleven photographers and two journalists went to Mumbai to sketch out, through individual portraits and glimpses of the city’s activity, a subjective and fragmented overview of a society in the process of radical transformation. As Tendance Floue also experiments with different forms of publication, exhibition, and public projections of its projects, the collective is a working laboratory for research on and dissemination of photographs.
Resolute Bay. Voyage du jour dans la nuit, by Jacky Georges Lafargue and Louis Couturier, unveils a blind spot far north of our urban reality: the living conditions of the Inuit in the Far North. Based on the accounts of inhabitants of Resolute Bay, a village invented of whole cloth following a forced population displacement, and on an outdoor projection of images of the community, the project is manifested in different forms and evolves through its successive presentations. The Montreal version, the centrepiece of which is a sled covered with photographs of the village’s houses, is a metaphor for the conditions inherited from this uprooting. It is an artwork based on encounter and affirmation through images of a reality and an identity. Two articles in the Focus section also, in their own ways, fit with the theme of this issue by shedding light on the influence that sociopolitical context may have on development of art practices that attempt to draw attention to certain realities in the world. Le dernier été de la raison by Nadia Seboussi explores, with an almost total lack of photographs, the role and ethics of the press image in the context of the “black decade” in Algeria in the 1990s. And Érika Nimis introduces us to the emergence and proliferation of art-photography practices in South Africa, during and after apartheid. Translated by Käthe Roth