SITUATION #29: Maryam Jafri, from the Versus series, 2012–2015
6 February – 3 April 2016
In her recent Versus series of photographs, Maryam Jafri brings together images of national liberation in Africa sourced from different public and private archives. In “Getty vs. Ghana,” for example, she juxtaposes photographs of Ghanaian independence from the Getty Images website with those derived from the country’s Ministry of Information. In doing so Jafri reveals a trail of errors – wrong dates, incorrect captions, divergent readings – and the manipulation of the original photographs.
Jafri’s work points to the instability of meaning within the photographic archive, the constant tension between an institutional desire to impose meaning on the image and its disorderly proliferation. She reveals how iconic historical photographs become embedded in complex webs of ownership and control, raising concerns about copyright, digital replication and the privatisation of national heritage. As the series suggests, the framing of history and contemporary cultural meanings are defined through networks of institutional power at once productive and inexhaustible.
“Getty vs. Ghana“, 8 inket prints, 4 framed text panels, exhibition view (detail), 2012 © Maryam Jafri