Sophie Ristelhuber: Fait

In 1993, an exhibition was mounted at the Imperial War Museum in London of a group of photographs taken in Kuwait after the Gulf War two years before. These were by the French photographer Sophie Ristelhueber and titled in English Aftermath. (The original French title Fait was more direct and less portentous.) The pictures were also published in a small book, a landmark in the development of the artist’s photo book during this period.

I wrote about this work three times, each text expanding and developing my thoughts. The first was a brief review of the exhibition in the London-based art magazine Untitled (no.1, April 1993). Then, the following year, Sophie Ristelhueber invited me to write a short text to accompany a portfolio of her pictures in Topos, a journal based in Munich and looking at European-wide landscape issues (no. 9, 1994).

The final and fullest version was written when Martin Lister asked me to contribute an essay to an anthology he was editing on the effects of ‘digital culture’ on photography. I thought it would be useful to write something which placed Ristelhueber’s work in a larger consideration of what photography ‘can still do, rather than what it cannot’ (Lister, p.24).

The version here is that essay, ‘Desert Stories, or Faith in Facts’, as it was published in Martin Lister ed: The Photographic Image in Digital Culture, Routledge, London and New York, 1995.