Andreas Schonle. The Boundaries of Representation and the Boundlessness of Trauma: Boris Smirnov's aestheticizing amateur photography of destroyed Cities

The amateur photograph Boris Smirnov, who during WWII created an extraordinary photographic archive of ruined buildings, demonstrates a great concern in his aesthetics for pre-empting the risk of de-sensitivization under the onslaught of official propaganda. Through a series of provocative images of ruins, often shot in a frontal view that draws attention to their objectness and sets them apart from their environment, he creates uncanny views that hover between materiality and abstractness and draw energy from the depiction of a vacant space that refers beholders back to their memories of life as it was prior to the war. His shockingly de-dramatized depiction of the aftermath of destruction—peaceful scenes of the timelessness of ruins—seems designed to undermine the heroic narratives of state propaganda. This talk will be devoted to an analysis of the techniques Smirnov deploys to preserve the tension between iconic and symbolic signification in his photographic oeuvre.