Elspeth Brown,

Historian: markets, visual culture, gender, sexuality

Transnational Politics of Affect + Photography

Inspired by Ariella Azoulay's writing on the event of photography, this three-year SSHRC Partnership Development Grant allowed our research team, the Toronto Photography Seminar, to develop a series of international partnerships between the Durham Centre for Advanced Photography Studies (UK), the International Center for Photography (NYC), and several other U.S.-based individual scholars and communities to begin to probe the relationship between affect, emotion and feeling, and photography’s political efficacy through a series of events and publications over the next three years.

In February 2014, The Phtographic Situation, alongside a broader network of scholars from Canada, the U.S., Latin America, and Europe came together in Guatemala City and Antigua, Guatemala, to explore the transnational dimensions of Cold War visual culture from a multi-disciplinary perspective. This intense, three-day event, which we called "The Cold War Camera," kicked off with a deeply moving "Sites of Memory" tour, coordinated by the internationally renowned photographer Daniel Hernández Salazar. The institutions we toured are playing a vital role in the excavation and preservations of Guatemala's Cold War histories; they are also sites where, as we learned, international visitors can play pivotol roles as witnesses. In fact, the aim of locating the conference in one of the early and overlooked sites of Cold War intervention and opening with a field trip to Guatemala's "Sites of Memory" was precisely to ground the notion of transnational inquiry: to frame our discussions with the meanings of the global detemrinants of social cultural, and eocnomic forces by inviting our international collaborations "to stand in the place," as Toni Morrison puts it. 

The conference program included plenary presentations by Ariella Azoulay and Nicholas Mirzoeff, and consisted of four panels that explored such themes as: photography's role in hot zones of conflict located in the global south; the politics of aesthetics; transcultural exhcnage; and archiving memory. Part of the event was held at CiRMA, a local partner of the Cold War Camera program, which also co-organized a digital exhibition and graciously hosted a welcome reception for conference participants and local photographers. The conference engaged with communtiy activists and coverage on Guatemalan television as well as online journalists.