Art or Evidence: The Power of Photojournalism

» Posted on Nov 28, 2012 in 2013, Mandeville Gallery, Past Exhibitions

Art or Evidence: The Power of Photojournalism

Art or Evidence: The Power of Photojournalism

January 3rd-March 17th, 2013

This exhibition features the portfolio, Flashpoints, by international photojournalist Gilles Peress, which includes work from the conflicts in Northern Ireland, Iran, Rwanda and Bosnia. Peress sees his work as “gathering evidence for history” rather than art, though the forensic nature of his photography is a mere fraction of its meaning. Thirteen additional photojournalists are included, whose work ranges from the battlefield to the social sphere of everyday life.

The response to a photograph whether shot straight, staged or constructed cannot be determined. Every observer brings his or her own content to the image thereby changing its interpretation. Publishers seek to sell newspapers and satisfy their customers by choosing images that conform to pre-established views. As Barthes notes, these photographs are read “through a traditional stock of signs.”

The photojournalistʼs practice is a complex (and dangerous) pursuit in the name of providing not a single truth, but knowledge to the public. The images resulting form a part of the public memory and often impact the publicʼs aspirations for the future as well. An iconic photograph can last in the memory far longer than the text it was originally tethered to. If this process is at times imperfect, indeed occasionally a pure deception, it remains profoundly important to the public discourse.

Through examination of these images we can not only see a ʻtrace of the original,ʼ but also gain an insight into the societyʼs needs and values. What methods have been used to insure our peace of mind or disturb it? By contemplating press images from multiple angles, we can challenge our own stock responses to them, allowing the structures of society to become visible.

—Marie Costello, Curator



The Daily Gazette, Thursday, January 17th, 2013, Art or evidence? Powerful images on exhibit at Union raise questions about vital issues, by Karen Bjornland. 

The Daily Gazette, Thursday, February 21, 2013, Photos worth seeing, by Sara Foss.

  • Gilles Peress, First snow in Ardoyne, a Nationalist neighborhood, 1981, silver print, 1997, Union College Permanent Collection
  • A demonstrator with the Occupy Wallstreet Movement, 2011, giclee print, © Ashley Gilbertson / VII
  • Gilles Peress, Posters in front of the US Embassy, Teheran, Iran, 1979, silver print, 1997, Union College Permanent Collection
  • Egyptians deface a picture of President Hosni Mubarak, 2011, giclee print, © Franco Pagetti / VII
  • People outside after a Gucci show during Milan’s fashion week, 2011, giclee print, © Stefano De Luigi / VII
  • A row of unexploded bombs dropped by the US military serve as decoration, 2011, giclee print, © Tomas Van Houtryve / VII