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UAL Research Online

Testimonies of Light: Bearing Witness, Photography and Genocide

Lowe, Paul (2015) Testimonies of Light: Bearing Witness, Photography and Genocide. PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Lowe, Paul

This thesis explores how photojournalists and the images they produce can be used to enhance global and local understanding of genocide, and help in both reconciliation and remembrance in post-conflict societies. It takes the war in the Former Yugoslavia as a case study, and argues that the act of actively bearing witness has a distinctive moral quality that goes beyond that of simple passive witnessing, and that it has a potential therapeutic and validating potential as well as an accusatory or documentary one. The photographer can become a proxy witness for the rest of society, and the product of this witnessing, the photograph, has a culturally privileged position in light of the foregrounding of the visual as believable evidence. Through the material presence of the photograph, and its portability and mobility, the act of witnessing is transferred then from the photographer as the witness to the event to the photograph itself as the vehicle through which this privileged visualisation is disseminated. When the potential for the photograph as a carrier of memory is added, the potential is then generated for photographs of atrocity to become encapsulated arguments about the abuse and war crimes, and thus as markers of what could be called ‘moral memory’, generating ethical arguments and positions about what is right and wrong in societies responses to conflict and suffering. The thesis develops a series of categories of witnessing that include the Presentational, the Participatory, the Prosecutorial and the Post Factum, explored though case studies of the work of photographers during the conflict to explore how Genocide can be reported more successfully, and works from the post-conflict era to demonstrate how visual images can be used to heal the wounds of war as well as remember its victims.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

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Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: Photojournalism
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Communication
Research Centres/Networks > Photography & the Archive Research Centre (PARC)
Date: 3 June 2015
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2015 10:25
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2022 09:17
Item ID: 8750
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/8750

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