Broomberg and Chanarin say their work, on show at Johannesburg’s Goodman Gallery, examines “the radical notion that prejudice might be inherent in the medium of photography itself”. They argue that early colour film was predicated on white skin: in 1977, when Jean-Luc Godard was invited on an assignment to Mozambique, he refused to use Kodak film on the grounds that the stock was inherently “racist”.
The light range was so narrow, Broomberg said, that “if you exposed film for a white kid, the black kid sitting next to him would be rendered invisible except for the whites of his eyes and teeth”. It was only when Kodak’s two biggest clients – the confectionary and furniture industries – complained that dark chocolate and dark furniture were losing out that it came up with a solution.
Makes perfect sense to me. The human eye always adjusts to see people’s faces but the technology of photography developed around adjusting to white people only. You can probably dig deeper and look at the cultural institution that developed around photography for what came to be accepted as “what the camera likes” and the aesthetics of palettes and light conditions and such for more normalization of racist standards. Same can probably be said of a great deal of Eurocentric art, aesthetics, and technology in general.