John Goto

“Photography has changed irreversibly with the advent of digitalisation. During the pre-history of photography much effort and ingenuity was expended on the problem of fixing the image. Digital processes have undone all this, destabilising the image again and making it fluid and mutable. Elements can readily be extracted or sampled and edited into new composites; they can be grafted together with other media and new hybrids formed; they can be transmitted rapidly across a variety of informational systems at low cost and accessed, stored or remade by viewers worldwide. All certainty regarding the authenticity of the subject is now lost. Digital photography’s amorphous quality resembles that of the dream, the metaphor, the hallucination, the joke, the vision and all manner of trickery, pranks, slights of hand and illusions. Digital photography reclaims the freedoms once enjoyed by narrative painting, and indeed shares many of the same methods.” — John Goto (2004)

I really enjoyed looking at John Goto’s website ( but I think the work that most struck me was his New World Circus project, in which a series of circus acts are presented where all is not as it initially seems.  The work is at once both playful and sinister.  At first glance, the viewer simply sees the bizarre circus scenes, but upon closer inspection, it is possible to discern the symbols and postures that reveal the true satirical nature of the series.

As a reflection and commentary on the “war on terror” it is an intelligent and thought provoking piece of work.  For me though, I am simply in awe of the complexity and vibrancy of the images.  Each scene is luridly but beautifully lit, and so full of detail, that it is hard to move on to the next picture in the series.  And, it is not just the pictures that are striking.  The series is set to a soundscape that elevates the sense of unease created by looking at the images.  Together the “performance” and soundscape make for a truly unsettling, but memorable, experience.


Goto, J. (2004) A Work in Progress [online]. Available at: Accessed on 09/09/2016.