The Renaissance Society will present an exhibition of new work by photographer Allan Sekula. This new series, titled Polonia and Other Fables, critically documents and examines the social impact of global economics. Always aiming to position his work within an exhibition’s local community, Sekula will develop this project to focus on Chicago’s rich labor history, particularly on the large Polish immigrant population here.
In addition to being outstanding documentary photography in its own right, Sekula’s work is also a critique of the genre. Sekula’s examination of the theory and practice of photography is as important as his inquiry into labor history and economics. Central to his work is an interest in documentation—as pictorial form, method of recording, narrative device, historical memory, and medium of social engagement. Sekula’s work poses the rhetorical questions, “Is it possible to discuss photography as a medium separate from the thing being photographed?” Put another way, is a photograph in and of itself capable of being self reflexive while critiquing its subject? Sekula’s answer is no. An integral part of his practice is writing, an activity he has maintained since the outset of his career 35 years ago. His writings expose the inherent limits of a documentary genre based purely on photographic imagery. Together, Sekula’s images and text constitute a trenchant and rigorous photographic discourse on globalization.