Does it matter who takes a photograph? The camera is a machine, after all. The identity of a finger pressing a button to release a shutter is surely irrelevant.
But that of course is to make assumptions about photography that no one believes any more. If you think it doesn’t matter who takes a picture, you probably also think the camera never lies.
Light from the Middle East, a new photography exhibition at the V&A (it’s ticketless and free), implies in its title a fresh perspective on a much-imaged part of the world. Western photojournalists may claim to cast light “on” the Middle East. The light here comes “from” there, in a survey of recent photography from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and other states in the region.
Mehraneh Atashi’s photograph Bodiless I puts the artist in the picture. It portrays a bare-chested bodybuilder working in a traditional wrestling gym (or zurkhaneh) in Tehran. Women are supposed to be forbidden from this male world, but Atashi captures herself in a mirror, pointing her camera up at the proud, muscular man.
The exhibition is full of insights from within cultures that are so often photographed and reported from the outside. Issa Touma’s series of dynamic black and white pictures, called Sufis, gets very visually close to a religious procession in Syria. But the pictures are not just physically close: they are empathetic, in contrast with the hostile images of Islam that may be more familiar from western reporting.
Continue reading in The Guardian