PHOTOGRAPHY + ACTIVISM
AS I WRITE, the U.S. Supreme Court severely restricted the reproductive rights of Americans. The reversal of Roe v. Wade likely foreshadows a reappraisal of a number of other rulings that affect such issues as same-sex relationships or access to contraceptives. This event is one of many in a long list that has galvanized the public internationally and is mediated through the lenses of photographers.
I often consider the call by art historian Alexis Boylan to become “visual activists.” She tells us that “we must reject passivity and mere consumption” of images to “be more assertive, tricky, and thoughtful with our visual atmosphere.”
This issue of photoed explores how we, as Canadian photographers, might get there, acknowledging the tenuous relationship between photography and activism. Documentary photography, while passionate about redressing the injustices captured, remains wary of adopting a radical position, lest it be seen as partisan. Amber Bracken, Jackie Dives, and Kate Schneider share their thoughts on navigating their role as witnesses and their desire for social change, while Danielle Da Silva, founder of Photographers Without Borders, looks at ethics.
Artistic practices have also played a key role in changing our social landscape. Consider the eloquent work of Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, who were awarded the 2022 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for their “socially engaged and politically grounded” approach; Alex Jacobsblum’s evolving practice through which she answers her ancestors’ call to advocate for her homelands; as well as KC Adams’s billboard provocations.
There are also photographic approaches that seldom register as “activism” but quietly participate in reshaping our visual atmosphere. Here, we turned to Gabrielle Moser’s reading of the contributions of The Clarion, a Black-owned newspaper published in Nova Scotia at a time marked by the civil rights activism of Viola Desmond, whose portrait now appears on our 10-dollar bills. Let that bright purple banknote be a constant reminder that we need to defend our rights.
Your issue curator, Laurence Butet-roch
lbrphoto.ca IG: @lbutetroch
“We must be more assertive, tricky, and thoughtful with our visual atmosphere.” — Alexis Boylan