Pietà comprises an Associated Press wirephoto from 1992 of a mother at the funeral for her infant child in Kabul. The image has been overlaid with ultramarine pigment sourced from lapis lazuli mines in Afghanistan, near to where the original photograph was taken, leaving only the caption exposed.
Etymologically derived from the Latin for ‘beyond the sea’ — a reference to its landlocked provenance — this rare natural pigment was revered for its lightfast brilliance and favoured by Renaissance artists for painting the robes of the Virgin Mary in depictions of the Madonna and Child. In keeping with the Islamic aniconic art tradition proscribing the representation of sentient beings, the work gestures away from Western photojournalism’s reliance on a repertoire of Christian iconographic tropes, eschewing an easy consumption of the spectacle of other people’s suffering.
Pietà, 2012. AP wirephoto overlaid with Afghan lapis lazuli; 7 x 8 inches.