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Photography at war

Representing Regimes - Regimes of Representation

15. Juli 2020

Discussion with the artist-photographer Matthias Bruggmann

Matthias Bruggmann, living in Switzerland and France, is an internationally active documentary artistic photographer who has worked in Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Syria. In Lausanne, in the Musée de l’Elysée, he co-curated the exhibition "We Are All Photographers Now!" He often focuses on provokingly banal aspects of military conflicts (showing the physical needs and habits of warriors or soldiers besides a swimming-pool, as fathers etc.). Thereby, he invites the beholders to understand that war does not take place in an apocalyptic, infernal Elsewhere, but in a shared world we are part of (and responsible for). Although he works according to the standards of photo-journalism, and even though he takes considerable risks in his work, he is convinced that a type of estheticized documentation realized by adventurous photographers heroically risking their life is dead. In an era of embedded journalism and deep fakes, according to Bruggmann, a large number of photographs immediately published via social media by anonymous bystanders is more believable than the most significant, artistic snapshot. On that background, the artistic documentation of war acquires a new sense: it makes us reflect about the visual regimes by which we keep the events that happen in our neighborhood at a distance – by the very strategies of imagining them. Matthias Bruggmann comments, in his interviews as well as in his work, on the history and actuality of documentary photography, and the institutional and economic frameworks surrounding it.