23 August (Monday) | 15.30 - 18.30
Deichman Bjørvika (Oslo's main public library)
IMPORTANT: Due to COVID-19 restrictions in order to take part in this event, you have to register beforehand. Please write us an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org titled 'Registration/Seminar' including in your email full name/phone number. Thank you!
The festival's seminar ‘Photography and Words’ brings together academics, theoreticians, artists, and writers to comment on the books included in the festival. While the primary focus of the seminar is this particular relation between photography and literature, it is not limited to this theme. The seminar is composed of three panels: the first panel, 'Representation and Beyond', is devoted to contemporary critical contexts; the second panel, 'Photography and Words', investigates the aforementioned relations between photography and literature, and the third panel comments on 'Public Space'.
Opening | 15.30- 16.30
Welcoming intro by Thale Fastvold (FFF Styrleder) and opening speech by Annette Trettebergstuen (AP, Medlem av Familie- og Kulturkomiteen på Stortinget)
Panel I | Representation and Beyond
1. Zofia Cielatkowska, Photography as a Practice of Seeing (curator’s introduction to the festival)
2. Deborah Willis, A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship (fragment from the lecture - video)
3. Sofie Amalie Klougart on Dette året (2021)
4. Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Overwintering
Break (10 min)
16.45 – 17.45
Panel II | Photography and Words
1. Line Ørnes Søndergaard and Yohan Shanmugaratnam on BRUDDET/ THE SPLIT (2021)
2. Tonje Bøe Birkeland on The Characters, The Buthan Trilogy (2021)
3. Jiri Havran on Photo After Sebald (2019)
4. Tomas Espedal, Liv og kunst. Liv som kunst.
Break (10 min)
18.00 – 18.30
Panel III | Public Space
1. Viel Bjerkeset Andersen, Mot nord (Towards North); Arbeidersamfunnets plass seen from an Artist’s Point of View.
2. Siv Hofsvang, On Public Space
3. Closing speeches
Marina Vitaglione, Solastalgia, Overlapse (2017)
Both the camera and the pen are, in a way, ultimately colonial tools, ordering, categorizing, and thereby creating reality in their own image. Each in their own way, photography, and writing take possession of the world, freeze it in images and representations, and often kill its vitality in the process.
– Filip de Boeck, Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City
But can this vitality – in images or words – be saved at all? And if so, what would it consist of?
For sure, both images and words are narratives – just different ones. While the text is fiction per se, photography creates a powerful illusion of its own singularity or authenticity. But in fact, a photographic image functions as an artifact with an infinite number of interpretations. The seemingly shifting nature of fiction in these two instances cannot deny that sometimes fiction serves as a better tool to make reality more visible and alive.
Sometimes these two similarly different narratives, or these two 'modes of representation' (E. Welch), meet in a very particular form, in a very particular genre. There are books in which the text could be an independent entity, but for some reason, they use photography as a partner in dialogue, as a partner in telling the story. These connections between the text and image vary from explicit to nuanced, from obvious to unapparent, from scientific to poetic. Sometimes one adds something to another, sometimes something gets lost, but for sure they create a specific form. The seminar focuses precisely on these unique publications in which text and photography are in dialogue.[i] These books treat the photographic image not just as a purely informative or aesthetic supplement, but as a meaningful component.[ii] What do these two narratives give to each other and what is lost? How to analyze and interpret books that are both literature and photography? How is their storytelling similar or different? While the primary focus of the seminar is placed on this particular relation between photography and literature, it is not limited to, and examples from other disciplines like history, anthropology, science, journalism, etc. will be also taken into account.
To give credit to historical precedents, early Surrealist experiments should surely be taken into consideration, but there are countless other examples: from the emblematic Austerlitz (2001) by S.W. Sebald to the more theoretical and politically engaged After the Last Sky (1986) by Edward Said, the essayistic Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) by Claudia Rankine, the poetic Quelque chose noir (1986) by Jacques Roubaud, or Secrets from the Center of the World (1989) by Joy Harjo and Stephen Strom, to more typical fiction and literature such as Every Day Is for the Thief (2007) by Teju Cole.
In the Nordic context, one surely has to mention a very particular literary investigation by Tomas Espedal in Mitt privatliv (2014), a documentary study of a rural community by Sune Jonsson in Byn med det blå huset (1959), and the minimalistic photographic and literary forms of Fuglene under himmel (2019) by Karl Ove Knausgård. Or, in a more recent context, John Erik Riley’s Det jeg var (2020).
The focus on literature relates to FFO’s 2021 collaboration with Oslo’s local libraries in order to make photography books more accessible to the public. Additionally, the library of the FFF and Fotogalleriet will be present during the festival. In this context of literature exchanges, the seminar also aims to create a base collection of titles (LIST OF BOOKS) that explore this particular ‘double narrative’ of texts and words. If you have an example of a book that might be considered in this particular context, please write to us. Publications outside of the European and American contexts are especially encouraged.
[i] Then, at the margins of this ‘double narrative’ occur also other phenomena; publications that keep a primary focus on photography in which the text serves as an intrinsic and necessary extension (Nina Strand, So, how do you think you're doing?, 2009; Tonje Bøe Birkeland, The Characters; Stéphanie Solinas, Le Pourquoi Pas, 2020), passages in literature so closely linked to the photographic medium that the presence of the photographic image appears as present in its absence (Lê Thi Diem Thúy, The gangster, we are all looking for, 2003) or styles of writing that remind ‘rythme d’une caméra textuelle' (Jérôme Game).
[ii] This double narrative phenomenon does not appear in ‘study cases’ of various discipline studies (plant, medical, animal atlases, or encyclopedias), neither it is a part of biographies or memoirs where the use of photography seems to be more explainable.