8 Magazine Issue 26Features
Guillaume Herbaut, Tim Hetherington, Dean Sewell, Erica Shires
Michael Grieve, Kosuke Okahara, Edmund Clark, Kurt Tong,Karen Mirzoyan
Peter Beaumont, John O’Farrell, Michael David Murphy
Jules Spinatsch, Agnes Dherbeys, Caroll Taveras, Corey Doctorow + more

Editors’ Letter

“He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.” So wrote George Orwell who knew a thing or two about such matters.

Photography’s intriguing relationship to power has its roots in the use of the medium as a means to classify and measure in the service of ethnographic documentation. In enacting our own means of control – editing this latest issue of 8 – we have unearthed a fascinating 19th century publication The People of India, which through its depiction of the various castes and tribes of that region, has ensured its place among attempts to harness photography as an ethnographic project.

Different types of technology have been used to infiltrate power relations, as seen in the recent Iranian elections. Iranians found in Twitter a mechanism to break through the stringent media controls imposed by the Ahmadinejad regime, as documented by Guillaume Herbaut.

If the ways in which government seeks to control its citizens is any measure of democracy, it is interesting to observe that in a country where 17 journalists have been murdered since 2000, 95 per cent of Russians feel they have little or no control over what goes on in their country. With the publication of a new book on Georgia by Magnum photographers, the country’s media savvy president has found an effective and artistic way to control his nation’s image.

On a more personal level, the human mind is also extraordinarily creative in finding control mechanisms, often carried out on the docile body, as we can see from Erica Shires’ wounding portrayal of a skeletally-thin young woman, to poet Rosy Carrick’s invocation of a woman enmeshed in a dangerously controlling relationship or Kosuke Okahara’s exploration of the culture of self-harm in Japan.

Of course photography’s contemporary relationship to power is in its use as a method of surveillance. The UK is the most watched-over nation in Europe, its four million cameras invading our privacy every time we walk down the street. What does this say about our relationship to democracy?