One of my main takeaways from this reading was the treatment of an archive / photographs as active vs inactive entities. Photographs can be considered “active” artifacts as they are actively telling us about past moments in the present day. In this sense, photographs are ‘of’ the past, but also of the present that the past is transported to. They have a performative quality, and are acting out their histories. It was interesting to consider this ‘performative’ nature of photographs, which made me further think about how this concept can be applied to other art forms as well as cultural objects and artifacts. This made me wonder about museums (in the traditional sense) as a space that gives life to these performative objects and almost acts as a stage with an overarching sense of “theatricality”. This also brings into question the “authoritative and monolithic power” of the archive or museum and whether a photograph has any agency on its own. Edwards then also considers how photographs only exist to “adopt the ideological perspective of the institutions that employ it”. This makes me wonder about how the meaning of photographs is not only dependent on its historical context, but also the contemporary context through which it is being perceived. Institutions have the power to craft interpretations and experiences through display and curation choices, as we have learnt through our discussions with curators from various museums.
Another theme that fascinated me was the idea of fragmentation and dislocation, and how photographs are essentially slivers of space and time. Edwards suggests that a photograph “preserves a moment of time and prevents it being effaced by the suppression of future moments” (8). However, I feel that while the object qualities and subject matter of a photograph may indeed be a fragment of a time and place, they are “actively” being viewed from newer perspectives and lenses, giving them the ability to exist and create meaning beyond just one moment in time. They are dynamic and amorphous as opposed to static and frozen.