Vol. 1 No. 1 (2016): Camouflage

Photography and camouflage have a long history of a contested relationship in which changes in one continuously cause adaptations and developments of the other. Employed by repressive state apparatuses as advanced technology of surveillance, photography has been countered by the increasingly sophisticated techniques of camouflage (concealment, mimicry, mimesis, countershading, disruptive colour and pattering, dazzling, disguise). On the other hand, photographers have continuously sought to conceal their cameras, their presence or the act of photographing itself. This too has led to the development of new photographic technology and various techniques of camouflage. These technological developments of course extend beyond photographic technology to the arms industry, highlighting the proverbial connection between photographic camera and weapons – between the two types of shooting. Camouflage is deeply embedded in the history of the social (identity, theatre, art, masks, costumes etc.) and is yet always related to its place in the natural world as it evolves around the notion of visibility, around the ability to remain unseen while been looked at or while looking. It foregrounds the issues of revealing and concealing, of surface and essence, of unmediated access to reality and the potential for hiding. The dual relationship between photography and camouflage seems only to accentuate this relationship. In contemporary image saturated and hyper photographed reality, camouflage opens up not only questions of power and surveillance, or their increasing corporatisation and commercialisation, but more and more the right to be unseen, the right to control one’s photographic representation and the (un)ability to resist photographic representation. But this (un)ability is far from being grounded merely in the practical – there is something magical, charm-like in photographic representation as it is in camouflage that draws us to both with unrelenting aesthetical and political power.