Week 2 - 2016

A spy and a Samaritan

©Ole John Aandal, Treholt, from the series Samaritan, 1994/2007, inkjetprint. Preus museum's collection.

A spy and a Samaritan

For anyone growing up in Norway in the 1980s it's impossible not to recognize this picture. A shock wave went through the country when Arne Treholt was arrested for espionage 20 January 1984, and a grainy image of him with Titov was used as conclusive photographic evidence, printed in newspapers again and again.


But wait a moment – there's something wrong here, isn't there? The person discovering the photographer and pulling on Treholt's arm – do you remember noticing him before?


The picture is taken from artist Ole John Aandal's series "The Samaritan," his thesis project at Kunsthøgskolen i Bergen (Bergen Academy of Art and Design) in 1994. – His starting point was an exploration of people who end up a bit badly. The Samaritan is there to help. Aandal has said that he also wanted to assist readers, contribute to an increase in understanding, and improve relations with the media. Here Treholt is helped by Aandal the Samaritan to discover the photographer from the Police Surveillance Agency who waited for days to ambush Treholt and obtain the conclusive photographs. Aandal used digital image manipulation, which was quite new in 1994.   



One may think the photograph has lost some of its evidentiary force in the aftermath of image-manipulation programs becoming common property.  But we are still fooled surprisingly often – even without the photographs having been altered. It's in the nature of  photography that it so strongly imitates our surroundings that it becomes almost transparent. We see only the motif and forget we're looking at an image photographed by someone determining what we will and will not see. Aandal demonstrated the more dubious aspects of photography as a witness of truth when he added surprising elements into well-known visual material.    


You can see this picture in the exhibition "From Vision Machines to Instagram" together with the original 1983 surveillance photograph from the Police Surveillance Agency taken in Vienna.



The Police Surveillance Agency, Arne Treholt, Gennadij Titov and Aleksandr Lopatin photographed in Vienna August 20 1983. Preus museum's collection