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Review on Allan Sekula's documentary images

August 13, 2013

Died Allan Sekula, passionate critic of the documentary image

By Jose Marmeleira

With an activity that spanned an important theoretical work, Allan Sekula questioned the limits and possibilities of the documentary record in photography, video and film. Was an artist-filmmaker who never gave up know the face of the world. Died on Saturday at age 62.

Artist for whom art should be more than art, taking a social and political responsibility, Allan Sekula died last Saturday, aged 62, a victim of cancer. Teacher, theorist, author, filmmaker and critic, left a complex and influential work in the field of photography and documentary film, always guided by a theoretical acutely not spared capitalism, globalization, and most recently, the world of art.

In the 1970s, it was noted in performance and installation, but it was in the 1980s when, alongside Martha Rosler and Fred Lonidier contributed to the reemergence of the photographic image in the context of the neo-avant-gardes, who signed his name in canon of contemporary art. Based on the models of photomontage and political documentary, Sekula distinguished himself by rejecting the alleged neutrality of conceptualism, stressing the importance of political and historical contingencies that determined that current practices.

On the other hand, expressed an interest in the regional cultures of the U.S. and recovering the legacy of the Film and Photo League (collective 1930s that used film and photography as instruments of social transformation) and draft the Farm Security Administration (which took part, among others, Walker Evans and Lange). But his intention was never to pursue the practice of documentary photography as if it were independent of appropriations or unrelated uses. And in his most famous essays, Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary (1984), states his skepticism: the pretense of photography in achieving any kind of political efficacy always bumps in the conventions of discourse and institutional frameworks. Read More

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