The Photographers’ Gallery, in collaboration with Autograph ABP London and the Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto, Canada presents the first UK showing of Human Rights Human Wrongs.
Curated by Mark Sealy, this timely exhibition takes the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a historical, philosophical and curatorial starting point to focus an enquiry into photojournalistic practice and its impact on humanitarian objectives.
Human Rights Human Wrongs features more than 250 original press prints, drawn from the prestigious Black Star Collection of twentieth century photoreportage. It explores what role such images play in helping us understand the case for human rights, and further addresses the legacy of how photographs have historically functioned in raising awareness of international conflict.
Spanning a time frame from 1945 until the early 90s, the exhibition examines the major political upheavals, conflicts, wars and struggles against racism and colonization that became especially urgent following World War II. Consciously moving away from didactic perspectives on history the presentation foregrounds a globalised context rather than viewing the events as isolated incidents.
It includes images of the Civil Rights Movement in the US, independence movements in Africa, Middle Eastern and South American uprisings, the Vietnam War and key social unrest and protests in Europe. Also on display are magazines, key theoretical texts and other archival material.
The exhibition particularly challenges the idea that one image can adequately represent any issue definitively. By examining the wider sequence of photographs that surround such iconic images, it allows the audience to consider not just a single decisive moment, but to regard it as part of a series of frames. It also seeks to better understand the specific image production processes, dominant hierarchies and visual stereotypes at play within the mass media.
Human Rights Human Wrongs interrogates the way that images are selected, deployed and circulated and the cultural meaning they produce. Significantly it looks at how inhumane acts are rendered photographically and the visual legacy they leave behind.
Exhibition curator Mark Sealy states: The guiding principle for the exhibition is Article Six from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proposes: Everybody has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. I wanted audiences to really think about what this human right to recognition actually means, and how such recognition is generated and controlled, especially in terms of image production and circulation. So much of the world, in terms of how we understand it, is generated from a very particular tradition of Eurocentric concerns and the ongoing relevance of Article Six must be that we consider other people’s points of view. At a time when vast swathes of people – the refugee, the asylum seeker, the economic migrant – have no rights at all, are in fact ‘no-ones’, it seems a matter of extreme urgency to consider political humanitarian development in today’s context.
This exhibition has been made possible with generous support from TD Bank Group.
Human Rights Human Wrongs is curated by Mark Sealy, Autograph ABP, with curatorial assistance from Valérie Matteau.