Composite of four black and white distressed images of people's eyes

A new exhibition reflects on photography during conflict

Foam museum in Amsterdam is examining the role of image-making amid war and conflict with a group show and an accompanying panel event

Conflict has been changed by photography, and photography has been changed by conflict in turn. In the past, images were typically taken by passing photojournalists and circulated by the international news media organisations that employed or commissioned them. While they still exist, nowadays these are increasingly supplemented by citizen documentation of scenes that spread across social media with a greater sense of urgency.

These evolving forms of image-based communications are shaping creative practice too, with projects like Taysir Batniji’s Disruptions placing the live nature of imagery in the centre of the frame.

Amsterdam’s Foam museum is hosting a pop-up exhibition called The Camera as a Weapon, which examines the role of the camera in times of conflict through the work of six artists and groups: Rahib Mroué, Sakir Khader, Émeric Lhuisset, Negin Ahmadi, activist group Equipe Media, and research agency Forensic Architecture.

Black and white image showing a person wearing military clothing and helmet, with a caption at the bottom that reads 'Is the camera more dangerous than your gun? Stop intimidating me'
Top: Still from 3 Stolen Cameras, 2017 © Equipe Media and RåFilm; Above: The gun versus the camera, 2021 © Sakir Khader

The exhibition’s name touches on the negative effects of photography amid conflict that are examined in the exhibition, such as disinformation and reinforcing stereotypes. Yet it seeks to illustrate the positive uses of photography, whether that’s generating awareness or capturing evidence.

The museum is also staging a one-day symposium on February 10 that will feature relevant screenings, talks and lectures, promising to tackle topics such as social media, polarisation, and how opinions and action can be dictated by everything from algorithms to photo editors.

Still of a young woman crouching next to a wall from Dream's Gate by Negin Ahmadi
Still from Dream’s Gate, 2023 © Negin Ahmadi

Although the show has a short run, Foam will continue to explore these subjects through its ongoing Photography and Conflict programme, which is set to inform the future exhibition programme and other initiatives within the museum.

Against a fraught backdrop within the European culture sector, where many organisations have stymied conversations around conflict in the last six months, the exhibition not only asks ‘What is the role of photography in times of conflict?’, but also examines the role of an arts institution in such times.

Photo by Emeric Lhuisset showing a first-person perspective photograph of a person holding a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other
Chebab (Syria), 2012-2022 © Émeric Lhuisset

The Camera as a Weapon runs at Foam, Amsterdam until February 14;