photography at work shows the work of the late american artist allan sekula, an influential photographer, writer, filmmaker, theorist and critic who died in 2013. sekula’s works have been a unique reference in debates and conversations about photography, art and politics for over 40 years.
photography at work will feature over fifty photographic works, slide shows and videos selected from the breadth of allan sekula’s artistic practice, and revisited through a set questions that has informed his work and that continue to be relevant today: what can photography do and what is at work with this specific medium? how does photography serve to legitimize and normalize existing power relationships? what havens and temporary escapes from the realm of necessity are provided by photographic means? what resistances are encouraged and strengthened? how is historical and social memory preserved, transformed, restricted and obliterated by photographs? what futures are promised; what futures are forgotten? as sekula himself contended, these questions concern in the broadest sense “the ways in which photography constructs an imaginary economy.” (sekula, a. (1983) “reading an archive: photography between labor and capital” in mining photographs and other pictures, 1948-1968; buchloh, b. h. d. and wilkie, r. (eds); nova scotia college of art and design press)
sekula formulated these questions, amongst many others, in the earliest stages of his artistic life. acknowledging the photographic medium as a tool for power in our contemporary context, sekula reminds us that the photographic project has been identified from the beginning with “the establishment of global archives and repositories according to models provided by libraries, encyclopedias, zoological and botanical gardens, museums, police files and banks; and that those in their very archival purpose embody the power inherent in accumulation, collection and hoarding as well as the power inherent in the lexicon and rules of a language”.
this exhibition identifies echoes and genealogies within sekula’s photographic, textual and filmic work in order to highlight the ways in which the long-term vision of his research and obsessions make his work highly pertinent today. With the support of Anonymous, Marwan T. Assaf and Yola Noujaim.