Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Evidence and Ambiguity

Nov 23, 2017 - Luke Withers

Hi, I’m Luke Withers and I’m the guest blogger for Der Greif this week. I’ll be sharing some work and writing that I find interesting, alongside research and backround to my project ‘Wireless’.

Ambiguity forms a part of my approach to photography, images are naturally ambiguous things, they depend on the context in which we find them to truly perform any ‘meaning’. For me, this is their wonderful potential, it’s what allows Der Grief to exist. Each of the images amongst Der Greif’s pages were made with intention and purpose, which is wilfully offered up to find new meanings through the structural and aesthetic connections that emerge
between photographs.

The first conscious work that enlightened me to this exciting potential of photography was the 1977 exhibition and book ’Evidence’, by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel. It’s an extraordinary project wherein the images are all taken from US Institutional archives – government departments, the military, scientific establishments, and law enforcement agencies. These images were made as documents of events and tests, but within the confines of the book the fifty-nine images, selected from thousands, are striped of textual and physical context. In so doing, they are ruthlessly reduced from evidentiary record to aesthetic ambiguity. It’s a task in exposing the fickle nature of the photograph in even the most scientific of settings, and the joy of the book is in the artificial narratives that are conjured in the eyes of the viewer, whose own ambivalence towards the subject matter provides the space for these narratives to form.

‘Evidence’ Images courtesy of Mike Mandel and The Estate of Larry Sultan