In his latest series of photographs, #R, Kobe-born, Berlin-based photographer Satoshi Fujiwara produces narrative through high quality, extreme close-up artistic reportage, which document a vehement clash between the police and the people protesting in Berlin in response to the ongoing refugee crisis… or so it seems.
In fact, what reads as clear and true high quality reportage is actually a subtle feint. Making use of careful composition and compilation and manipulation of context, Satoshi orchestrates the narrative and insinuations of the viewer. Satoshi reveals, “there were no demonstrations or protests on the day the photos were taken, there were also no actual clashes between the people and the authorities.”
Both #R, and companion series #Police #Cover-Up #Demonstrations #Brutality produced a year prior, play with perceptions of reality and likeness, in response to his central thesis on how the state makes “strategic use of visual images, as seen in propaganda”. Satoshi poses the following question: “Given how digital editing technology allows for the possibility to obscure the truth, is there the potential to do the reverse and use fake images to tell hidden truths?”
The framing and focal distance and extreme high definition of the photographs places the viewer in the midst of the action, claustrophobic and urgent, selling the fallacy. Satoshi has previous remarked, “We are aware that scenes portrayed in the media are nothing more than images taken from a single perspective, yet are we not able to free ourselves from the pictures that are broadcasted to us?” and so, the viewer is coerced by context and construction.
Likewise, by obliterating the backgrounds of the image the context is left malleable and manipulable, leaving the remaining distinguishable characteristics to dictate the narrative. Polizei logos and epaulettes strike authoritarian apprehension when placed in the context of a series of close-up images, people pressed together seemingly in struggle and their faces embellished with bruises and blood. In this way Satoshi says that he “made each photograph an icon of violence”.
The end result is a shrewd experiment, repurposing his own signature style and making use of the photojournalistic aesthetics, which makes the images appear as genuine prestige reportage. Coercive, the images simultaneous make us question and scrutinise the way we process and accept the visual information given to us.
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