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Contemporary Photography Confronting the Past

Nathalie Herschdorfer

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A powerful and thought-provoking international survey of contemporary documentary photographs taken in the wake of cataclysmic moments of violence, devastation and suffering


Modern photography has always sought dramatic events as they unfolded, to capture the key moment, the 'now'. As viewers in a media-saturated world where professional and amateur photographers alike can capture scenes of upheaval in real time and instantly broadcast them around the world, we are familiar with images of events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and know what kind of photographs to expect. But what of the scenes after the event? Landscapes, people, buildings captured 'afterwards' - looking at an image taken after a dramatic event viewers are given an opportunity to reflect, to think and empathize. The photographs brought together in this book are subtle yet powerful and ask questions about the preceding disasters rather than provide answers. As such, they are more provocative and powerful over time.

Afterwards presents work from leading contemporary photographers, with each body of work in a self-contained sequence of images, analogous to the rooms of an exhibition. Over 30 photographers are featured, including Robert Polidori, Suzanne Opton, Raphael Dallaporta and Simon Norfolk, inviting the viewer to contemplate the aftermath of events that have taken place over sixty years of modern history - the Srebrenica massacre, human trafficking and slave labour, the Hiroshima bombing, the Holocaust and various natural disasters - and get a sense of the physical and emotional scars they left behind. The bedrooms of young American soldiers, still intact long after they have died; the traumatized faces of those who have been to war; the deceptively peaceful facades of respectable-looking houses where domestic workers were abused - these are some examples of the powerful, meditative yet psychologically intense imagery presented.

Accompanied by academic essays on cognitive responses to photographs, the ability to see and empathize, the nature of trauma and the meaning of 'stigmata', Afterwards shows the possibility for contemporary photography to question what happens in the world and begin to understand it better.

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'A stunning, powerful book that shows that even the most subtle images can contain ideas and emotions that are almost earth-shattering in their significance'
Amateur Photographer

'A poignant and evocative collection'
Dazed & Confused

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.9 x 28.8 cm

Extent: 192 pp

Illustrations: 189

Publication date: 5 September 2011

ISBN: 9780500543986

Contents List

Preface by William A. Ewing • Introduction by Nathalie Herschdorfer • The Photographers (34 in all) • Further Texts: The Dead Die Once, the Disappeared Every Day by Sandra Sunier; The ‘ Victim’ by Francesca Prescendi and Marc Kolakowski; Memory on the Skin by Agnes Anna Nagy and Francesca Prescendi; Scars on the Soul by Tobias Brosch; The Two Kinds of Empathy by Tom Cochrane; Emotion and Vision by Didier Grandjean; The Emotional Impact of Photography by Géraldine Coppin and David Sander

About the Author

Nathalie Herschdorfer is an author and curator specialised in photography. She is the director of the Museum of Fine Arts Le Locle, Switzerland, and a curator with FEP (Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography). She has written a number of books amongst which are Afterwards and reGeneration.