Gelatin silver photographic print of stumps titled "Remains"
Remains, 2012, gelatin silver print.

Though I consciously have avoided the political in my photographs (and my poems), more and more I am drawn to projects that involve moral issues. Confronted daily with images that convey the dismantling of our human values, the death of society, destruction by killings and war, the collapse of our planet, I am led to wrestle with my own notions of what it means to bear witness and to create work that matters. What will I make of this pounding on the doors of perception, this battering of rationality? Increasingly, I think these things must work their way into my image-making. And I find myself excited by the idea of engaging new directions.

I am reminded of a poem by a brilliant poet, whose work I love:

Wislawa Szymborska


We are children of our age,
it’s a political age.

All day long, all through the night,
all affairs—yours, ours, theirs—
are political affairs.

Whether you like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin, a political cast,
your eyes, a political slant.

Whatever you say reverberates,
whatever you don’t say speaks for itself.
So either way you’re talking politics.

Even when you take to the woods,
you’re taking political steps,
on political grounds.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and above us shines a moon
no longer purely lunar.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
And though it troubles the digestion
it’s a question, as always, of politics.

To acquire a political meaning
you don’t even have to be human.
Raw material will do,
or protein feed, or crude oil,

or a conference table whose shape
was quarreled over for months:
Should we arbitrate life and death
at a round table or a square one.

Meanwhile, people perished,
animals died,
houses burned,
and the fields ran wild
just as in times immemorial
and less political.

Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh

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