Czech capital to see seminar on stereotypes in the photographic depictions of Jewish and Romani people
On Monday, 15 October, an international seminar about stereotypical depictions of Jewish and Romani people in photographs will be held in Prague. The event will involve an historical review as well as the presentation of two unique art projects that have recently been produced on this subject.
Jewish and Romani histories will intersect as subject matter and in the dialogue between the artists and historians who will be the panelists. The workshop, organized by the Prague Forum for Romani Histories, is organized by historians Kateřina Čapková and Helena Sadílková.
"This workshop not only opens up the subject of stereotypical depictions of Roma and Jews, but will also review attempts by these discriminated groups to take advantage of the medium of photography for their own emancipation movements. I also consider it unique that this workshop will, for the very first time, facilitate dialogue between historians, art historians and artists working on this topic. I am, moreover, curious about what the discussion will yield, to what degree contemporary artists reflect on photographic stereotypes and what their strategies are for avoiding them," Čapková told news server Romea.cz.
The historical reflection will be led by Ilsen About from the National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris, France (CNRS) with his paper "Counter-Image and Self- Image: Roma and Sinti in the History of the Photographic Medium". The French historian prepared an exhibition in Paris this year about the history of the photographic renderings of Romani people from 1860 to 1980.
The abstract for About's presentation reads as follows: "How Roma and Sinti have been represented through the lens of photography interrogates the making of stereotypical iconographies and the functions of such iconography in the political processes of stigmatization, exclusion or repression. It also questions the ambivalence of negotiated and self-constructed images, the professionalization of modelling, and the professionalization of the specialized production of specific photographic motifs. Behind the screen made by these objectified bodies and faces, individuals and social groups have also used and contributed to making other types of photographic images: Some testify to social life and to an anchoring in different territories, others have played significant roles in emancipation strategies, acting as major shifts in political visibility."
The context of the depiction of Jewish people and Eastern European shtetls will be discussed by the Polish historian Karolina Szymaniak from the University of Wrocław in a presentation entitled "In and Out of the Shtetl: Photography and (De)Constructions of Eastern European Jewish Difference". Her abstract reads: "In both Jewish and non-Jewish discourses and visual practices, the shtetl came to epitomize Eastern European Jewish culture, constructed as radically different from the neighboring cultures. In these constructions, photography played a crucial role. The presentation will look at the history of photographing Jews in Eastern Europe and Jews photographing back, both reproducing and reconstructing stereotypical images. It will discuss different modalities and uses of photography, as well as their political ramifications. Finally, it will briefly point to the meanings and uses of pre-Holocaust photography, both in the post-Holocaust era and in the late 20th-century context of the so-called Jewish revival in Eastern Europe."
After a break for refreshments, two artists will present their projects about the contemporary depiction of Romani people in photographs, beginning with the art photographer Sabin Badžo, author of the "Kalokagathia" cycle, photographs inspired by the ancient Greek ideal of harmony between physical and spiritual beauty. The second special guest will be the Swiss photographer Iren Stehli, author of the unique "Libuna" photograph cycle, which features images of the same subject taken over the course of many years.
The seminar is organized by the Prague Forum for Romani Histories of the Institute of Contemporary History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic along with the Romani Studies Seminar at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, the French Institute for Social Science Research (CEFRES), and the Institut français in Prague, which is where the seminar will be held. ROMEA TV will produce an audiovisual recording of the seminar.
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