Like the contemporary anthropologist, the Canadian photographer of Latin America maintains an existential straddle between what Clifford Geertz identified as the being there and the being here sides of the ethnographic divide, where there is the domain of the work of inquiry and here is the region of professional display and performance.
In the language of human (or time) geography, the life path of the war photographer marks a tense existence between inclusion and separation. Understood spatially, the activity of the photographer is located inside or outside demarcated zones which establish for the photographer and the work a position and a role. The photograph, and what we come to know of it, is the product of this activity and signals to us the conditions of its source moment.
It shows great wit that the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, a young institution descendant of the National Film Board and its documentary tradition, should sponsor the exhibition of a photographer whose work stands apart from and questions that tradition. Serving as a challenge, a critique and a correction, Donigan Cumming’s Reality and Motive in Documentary Photography appears at a time of epistemological anxiety when representations are viewed as the arbitrary tokens and worthless baubles of communicative exchange.
In a decade of photographic art activity, Sorel Cohen has produced a body of work which displays an uncommonly clear logic of development and consistency, concentrated in only a few separate project series, and culminating in the presentation of the current exhibition. During this same decade, feminist art (as a category, purpose and orientation) has become accepted, and accepted in the same way that feminism (in all its variety) itself has been – not as a fulfilled program, but as an irrevocable dimension of any discussion of social relations.