Amateur Unconcern: A Photo-Literary Fantasia
2014-18 MARKS THE CENTENARY OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR. The commemorative avalanche of the tragic and unnecessary conflict continues worldwide.
Departing from the ‘bellicose mood’, The Photocaptionist presents Amateur Unconcern: A Photo-Literary Fantasia. Performed in five acts, this theatrical photo-fiction explores notions of frivolity, privilege, moralism and political disengagement of cultured, leisured Europe just before, during and immediately after the Great War.
Excerpts from George Bernard Shaw’s play Heartbreak House (1919) are enacted against sound and clips selected from Aleksandr Sokurov’s film adaptation,Mournful Unconcern (1983-1987). Shaw’s play and Sokurov’s film describe the ‘moral vacuum’ of the upper and middle classes towards WW1 and its consequences. As the war rumbles, the characters languidly refuse to interrupt their privileged normality.
This literary framework sets the stage for an irreverent performance of amateur photographs of leisure and relaxation, made between 1913 and 1919, and selected from the private collections of the Archive of Modern Conflict.
In the autochromes and photo albums of these early 20th century European amateurs we can identify moments of seeming unconcern in their lives and in the lives of their subjects. Photography is, in this instance, as fragile as the glass plates it is carried on; a precarious provider of tangible evidence for those intangible aspects of life; states of mind and feelings.
As ever photography only reveals a partial story. It would be problematic to accuse these photographers of absolute indifference, as we ignore what they had been up to before and after the images were taken. In a way, their unconcern, like their photography, can only be described as naïve, amateur.
View it on photocaptionist.com!
We would like to thank the wonderful Archive of Modern Conflict for their kind support on this project. Special thanks also to FORMAT Festival team, our editor-at-large Roger Hargreaves, our media partner Photomonitor and Christian Nolle.
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