Generally the notion of late photography concerns itself with the subject of war and conflict, with an objective of recording the aftermath of the event, a document of what is left behind. Somewhat scenic vistas are captured, typically with large format cameras to gather as much detail and clarity as possible; they are an aestheticized response to what has happened.
They allow for the viewer to gaze upon possibly beautiful scenes, which have been forged in the violence of death and destruction. Photographers like Simon Norfolk produce images with depth and grace; they draw you in to examine the scene, working through the clues to ascertain the reality of what has transpired.
Is late photography considered cold? As eloquently put in Peter Wollen’s essay, melted ice will put out fire like in ‘Superman III’, yet there is a moment of transformation, a transitional midpoint where there is water and steam. Moving image can and does indeed get into the thick of the action capturing the drama as it unfolds, transmitting live action whilst being dutifully reported by a seasoned journalist. Then after an unspoken amount of time, a cooling period as it were, a stills photographer visits these conflict sites and documents the remains in a picturesque approach, making something beautiful from the violence.
A photograph is a still image; its purpose is to freeze a moment in time, to archive the evidence for the viewer to establish its history. Yet, dependent on how the environment came to be and its governing thematic elements it may also contain clues as to another chapter or a direct continuation of its narrative. Now it is neither fire nor ice, but something in between that exhibits dramatic tension; although frozen in a single frame, the events that forged its narrative are still in play. It is therefore in a state of warmth, a discourse of instability.
Does the notion of a warm image influence the categorisation of late photography, could it be perceived that the scene is more than the aftermath, could it also freeze the inception of impending drama? For my MA work I photographed sites that had witnessed violence in the form of ‘Male Rape’. The image illustrating this post was taken in 2005; I have since then found out that another attack occurred in 2011. Although the duration between these events is great, there is a thought that the scene is in flux, no action, and no calm, only a state of disharmony.
A photographic technique that finds its way into this theory is that of long exposures. Look at the work of Sugimoto and Titarenko, through these long exposures a certain amount of drama has unfolded and been frozen in a single frame. They are not quite a still image, yet they do not move; they evidence a visual fluidity that entices you to examine the frame, you become an investigator, scrutinising the chaotic warmth of the scene.