Category Archives: Coursework

Page 98: Ex. 4.4: the selfie phenomenon.

Brief: Write a short post (around 500 words) in your learning log in response to the question: what does the phenomenon of the selfie tell us about how photography is popularly used nowadays?  Illustrate your post with recent examples from the internet.

 

I recently wrote a critical essay on this subject for my Assignment 3  so I shall build on that with material I could not include on that occasion rather than reiterate the points made there.

How is photography popularly used nowadays?  

We can start with the theory that everyone who has a smartphone or camera is a photographer these days and so the field is  vast and far too open for any short essay like this one to deal with effectively.  The parameters have to be set before any such analysis can be carried out.

The parameters I shall set here deal with the political ‘photo as trophy’ idea, and the vacuous ‘to live is to be photographed’ tenet of Susan Sontag.

The photo as trophy for me is exemplified by the image designed by Peter Kennard and Cat Picton-Phillipps’ photomontage Photo Op (2005) featuring a grinning Tony Blair infront of an oil field on fire.  This satirical take on the Iraq war is a ‘selfie’ constructed by a third party reflecting narcissistic tendencies of a particular politician.  The selfie making pastime concerning politicians reached new limits in December 2013 when Obama, Cameron and Thorning-Schmidt (daughter-in-law of Niel Kinnock and Danish Premier) were photographed taking selfies at the memorial service of Nelson Mandela, and reported in a Guardian article here:

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The article takes on a feminist hue when it reports that Danish politicians  used this slur to suggest: “She’s been criticised because she looks career-oriented and as if she’s having too good a time. And the selfie continues that narrative. But her real problem is that there is no clear view of what she wants politically.” (1)   The Danish Prime Minister, elected in 2011, has also been given “the media nickname of “Gucci Helle”, so called because of her fondness for designer clothes. As she phrased it, when asked by a party member how she expected to connect to the people in her expensive outfits: “We can’t all look like shit!”  Of course, had she made a habit of turning up for parliament dressed in the sweater sported by Sara Lund in The Killing, even the most egalitarian Dane would have struggled to forgive her. The double standard is the standard one: few men are judged by their appearance; few women are not.” (1)  So although the three are all leaders of their respective countries engaged in the narcissistic practice of taking selfies to send back home to their mates, one, the woman, comes in for sustained criticism in both Britain and Denmark.

The ‘selfie as trophy’  is  covered admirably by Susan Sontag in her essay ‘Regarding the torture of others.’ (2004) (2) in which she details the political arguments which developed after the ‘leaked’ images (how can you talk of leaked images anymore when there are no limits on how images are disseminated?) of the torture practices in Abu Ghraib and the subsequent stress on the semantics of refusing to use various words, one of which was the word ‘torture’ when talking about the images but focusing on the word ‘abuse’.  She looks at the image of soldier Lynne England posing in front of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.  Again, I suspect that the fact that she is a woman (in the military) makes readers perceive her ‘crime’ so much worse than if she had been a male.  “the horror of what is shown in the photographs cannot be separated from the horror that the photographs were taken – with the perpetrators posing, gloating, over their helpless captives.” (2) Trophy photographs are taken, like the lynching  images taken in the 1890 – 1930’s in the USA, in order ‘to be collected and stored in albums, displayed’.  The Abu Ghraib pictures were less to be saved but more to be disseminated.  the soldiers themselves are all photographers now ‘recording their war, their fun, their observations of what they find picturesque, their atrocities – and swapping images among themselves … around the globe.’ (2)

The only way people, whether in the military or not can inflict pain willingly and photograph the process is to objectify ( a terrorist; the enemy) those they are humiliating which also resonates well with feminist arguments about objectifying women.  If they were to imagine that the victims were mothers, fathers, siblings to someone, would they still humiliate and record that humiliation they were inflicting on them?

 

‘To live is to be photographed’: the ubiquitous mobiles stress that we are never far from a photo irrespective  of time, place or context.   Can we ever maintain that we are not complicit in plastering our vision with ourselves, not to ‘share in the community of actions recorded as images’?    The grin is a grin for the camera’ (2)  How much of this is due to our addiction to aesthetic consumerism and how much is a result of our exposure to incessant consumerism?  We have become our own brands in our constant need to circulate our likenesses to world wide audiences.  Guy Debord’s 1967 theory of society as spectacle was referencing our idea of valuing the reproduction of a work of art rather than the original – how far along that road have we gone when what we want people to value of us is a flat, 2D subjective likeness rather than the ever-changing ‘original’?

Perhaps ‘to die is to be photographed’ would be a better subheading for this image:

The ‘Hijack Selfie’: ‘The grin is a grin for the camera’ (Sontag)

“2016’s most iconic selfie is also perhaps the most unexpected selfie of all time. When Seif Eldin Mustafa hijacked an EgyptAir flight in March in an attempt to reach his ex-wife in Cyprus, one passenger seized the opportunity for a legendary photo. 26-year old Ben Innes snapped a picture of himself beside the hijacker, who claimed to be wearing a suicide vest. After the frightening situation was resolved peacefully, Innes’ photo became the subject of controversy as many criticized the move as irresponsible and reckless. While Innes’ photo is not technically a selfie — a flight attendant took the photo — the picture became widely known as the “Hijack Selfie.””(3)

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References:

  1.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/14/helle-thorning-schmidt-selfie-mandela-denmark
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/magazine/regarding-the-torture-of-others.html
  3. http://www.ibtimes.com/national-selfie-day-8-most-famous-selfies-world-2384900
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P. 95: Ex. 4.3 My meme.

Take inspiration from an idea you’ve researched, create your own photographic response to an internet meme.  This may be something original, or your own interpretation of an existing meme.  It might be funny or profound, but it should make people want to look at it and share it.

“I have recently suggested defining an internet meme as a group of digital items that: (a) share common characteristics of content, form, and/or stance; (b) are created with awareness of each other; and (c) are circulated, imitated, and transformed via the internet by multiple users (Shifman, 2013b)”(1)

This is my example of vernacular creativity in the form of stock character macros and reaction photoshop with superimposed text  which is a memetic photo of Donald Trump superimposed on The Scream whose original German title is Der Schrei der Natur (The scream of nature) with Hilary Clinton gaining on him with a dark presence behind her.

In a society characterised by self interest … The USA presidential contest:

donald-der-schrei-der-natur-3

 

 

Definitions in 1. below.

 

Reaction Photoshops are collections of edited images created in response to a small set of prominent photographs, which may be labeled memetic photos (Shifman, 2013b). Such photos feature politicians

 

Stock character macros are image macros (images superimposed with text) that refer to a set of stock characters representing stereotypical behaviors (Knuttila, 2012; Milner, 2013). For example, ‘Sheltering Suburban Mom’ is a conservative hypocrite who preaches one thing and practices another, and ‘High Expectations Asian Father’ over-pushes his children to succeed academically (see Figure 3)

 

Photo fads are staged photos of people who imitate specific positions in various settings. For instance, ‘Planking’ involves lying face down with one’s arms by one’s side in unusual settings, and ‘Heads in Freezers’ involves sticking one’s head in a freezer, alongside the tag 241543903, which enables search optimization

References:

  1.  http://vcu.sagepub.com/content/13/3/340.full.pdf+html
  2. http://eitherand.org/usere-use/occupy-image/

P. 92: Panopticism: Ex. 4.2

Write a short summary of Foucault’s arguments and comment on the relevance of his theory to digital culture.

Summary:

1.   End of 17th C. steps to be taken in the event of a plague striking a town: Order is to be paramount: omnipresent & omniscient power is subdivided into roles of people in authority; the individual’s every personal detail were to be made known.

2.  Politically:  Discipline was strong & to be enforced: death penalties for the slightest infringement of the ordered measures taken in the event of a plague. Political power had ramifications into every minute aspect of everyday life: pure community & disciplined life.

3.  Utopia of a perfectly governed city: hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing, disciplinary  power controls the town.  The leper, the damaged individual, is excluded.  The image of the plague stands for all forms of confusion and disorder.

4.  Double mode of authority: brand & remould.

5.  Jeremy Bentham’s (1748 – 1832) unrealised Panopticon has a central tower in which are walls and rooms which cannot be seen from the outer surrounding walls housing the inmates.  The front and back walls of this surrounding structure are built to let light in so that, regardless of where the prisoner is, s/he is always illuminated whereas the observer /guard is not.  Key concept: he is seen but he does not see: visibility is a trap.  The invisibility of the guard (authority) guarantees order.  This is the opposite of the dungeon where the prisoner is deprived of light, in an enclosed space and never seen.   the permanent visibility of the inmate assures the automatic functioning of power.(Gk Panoptes = a giant with 100 eyes).

6.  The inmates must never know if they are being watched, but they have constantly in their consciousness the tower – symbol of that authority.

7.  Power has its principle in the mechanism of authority in which the inmates are caught up.  Any individual can operate the machine.

8.  Main principle of the Panopticon: He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.

9.  It’s a place for conducting experiments on men, for testing ideas, for keeping an eye on employees.

10.  A way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men.  It is a diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form; a figure of political technology with no specific attachment to a particular use centred on discipline.

11.  N.H.Julius, French philosopher, said that the panopticon was an event in the history of the human mind.  Antiquity had been a civilisation of spectacle: temples, theatres, colosseum & the circus. In the modern age, the community has gone, public life ditto,  but the private individual & the state still oppose one another & the aim is to build structures intended to observe masses of men simultaneously. (Skyscrapers with glass walls).

12.  NHJ “Our society is not one of spectacle but of surveillance: under the surface of images, one sees bodies in depth.  The circuits of communication are the supports of an accumulation and a centralisation of knowledge … the individual is carefully fabricated.  Constant surveillance is the equivalent of indefinite discipline, an endless interrogation.

13.Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?

14.  A great aim of governments is to distribute buildings intended to observe a great multitude of men at the same time.

Relevance of the Panopticon & Foucault’s theory to digital culture.

To what does digital culture relate?  It relates not only to images but also to documents as expanded views of the image.

There are many expressions in the document which reference the image, some of which are: surveillance, observation, visibility, seen, being watched, keeping an eye on, panopticon, spectacle, theatre, circus, resemble …All deal with overt or covert aspects of looking and each one is relevant today.
Today there are the obvious & ubiquitous CCTV cameras placed on every street corner, in every shop, petrol station, doctors’ surgery, schools, classrooms, universities, hospital … and in parliament – every aspect of human life is covered by one.

Then there are the public quality control inspections and their concomitant reports in every aspect of human experience (except parliament) which are condensed to one snapshot word: poor, failing, good, excellent which are emblazoned on the mandatory website of every institution – even the corner café has to have a food hygiene assessment on its front door.  Of course, the OCA has the same philosophy: students are expected to have personal learning logs which are not submitted to be assessed but which are expected to be evident on a blog/website: students are the ‘prisoners’ of the institution’s panopticon where we think the tutor – the guardian – will see what we have done but we don’t know when or if s/he will do so – they are totally unseen while our work is in full view.

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Our every touch of the keyboard is recorded and messages concerning it sent to interested bodies, usually with a financial interest in our activities, so that we can be targeted to conform to what society requires us to do; the images we download or upload all form part of some exquisitely complex algorithm which transforms us into disembodied numerical terms operated by anyone, reported to everyone.  The Wikileaks furore will testify to the availability of every computed move being recorded; the phone tapping scandals testament to big brother watching and hearing every thing we say, every song we play, our every move tracked on the wonderful world of Google maps.  I find it interesting to read the request to log my location on whatever device I happen to be on at the time: it makes no difference what my reply is – my location is known anyway.   Every app we make or download is another check on what we do,  where we go and how different enterprises can exploit us; every shop we go past can access our phone and send us a message to entice us in & disgorge our purses or max out our credit cards.  We are encouraged in our modern thinking to believe that we have the world at our fingertips through our mobile phones: ‘to procure for a small number, or even for an individual, the instantaneous view of a great multitude.’  The community is no longer the central concern of governments.  What is important is 14 above – buildings intended to have great multitudes of men being observed at the same time.

How often have we heard our society referred to as the nanny state in which every authority is taken away from the individual and taken on by the state which then is ordered in a system of hierarchies developed to control individuals of whom every detail is known.

We are complicit in all this – we encourage observation by buying the devices which are digital in our regulated lives because we don’t want to be left behind in the technology that ‘everyone is seen to be using.’

Axiomatic in this document is ‘Our society is not one of spectacle, but of surveillance.’  The important is not that we are watching but that we are being watched.  We have gradually given up our independence & the autonomy of our communities.

The concept of ‘spectacle’ is differently used by Foucault and Debord.  The former uses it in terms of political control of the masses through ‘spectacle’ such as in a colosseum or the theatre, the latter uses it in analysing the values which society puts on copies of originals,  particularly in feeding consumerism and on the appearance of things rather than on the essence of ideas/things.   Although both men lived in the middle of the 20th C., they interpreted the word differently and both are relevant to digital culture.  Our uploading of images on to social media has long been criticised by photographers: Penelope Umbrico and Erik Kessels to name but 2 current and contemporary practitioners who recycle images to make endless copies of originals and to entertain.

 

References

Debord,G.1983. Society of the spectacle. Black & Red

Foucault, M. Panopticism: Essay in Evans & Hall (1999) Visual Culture: The Reader

 

Project 1:P 84: The ‘digital self’

Great insight:

In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.“(Barthes, 1982,p.13)

1854 sees the invention of the carte de visite;  2013 sees the definition of a selfie being added to the Oxford English Dictionary.  The difference is that there is only one person involved in this process: all the artistry and responsibility is accredited to the sitter playing visual ‘Second life’ games with the viewers and ownership, ethics and copyright are all thrown into the artistic expression and representation melting pot.

The digital self can be represented in a myriad ways: virtual identity as defined by self-selected avatars which change over time; text which creates its own image of you; old photos taken and kept by others;  recent & older photos taken by yourself; artists’ interpretations of you using earthly elements and ways not yet thought of.

Ex. 4.1

Write an entry in your learning log (up to 500 words) about the review of one of the photographic projects mentioned.

The project which struck me most was that of Nikki S. Lee.  She started as a student of fashion photography and decided it was not for her.  Her project developed from her trying to find her own identity: why was she sweetness and light with one person and something totally different with another.  She remembers that when she was younger she used to struggle with who she was and that she was a different person depending on who she was with.

This has already strayed into psychoanalysis and there are specialists who have taken that route but that is not going to happen here. Lee’s quest was to find her identity.   Paul Auster in his New York Trilogy (1987) seems to think that this is a futile exercise:

We imagine the real story inside the words, and to do this we substitute ourselves for the person in the story, pretending that we can understand him because we understand ourselves. This is a deception. We exist for ourselves, perhaps, and at times we even have a glimmer of who we are, but in the end we can never be sure, and as our lives go on, we become more and more opaque to ourselves, more and more aware of our own incoherence. No one can cross the boundary into another – for the simple reason that no one can gain access to himself.’”(3)

I’m not certain that I completely agree with Auster.  For example,” as our lives go on, we become more and more opaque to ourselves, more and more aware of our own incoherence”  When we are older we have so many more layers of ourselves to look through than when we were younger so, in a sense we are more opaque to ourselves, but we may also be aware that we can see the layers clearly, that there is a synergy involved in adding all the layers: we are more than the sum of those layers.

Lee dressed up as many different people: pole dancer, prostitute, old woman, skateboader, a bride, a member of the bourgeoisie, a teenager … Her preparation for the roles was quite exacting and  did not just involve dressing up  but also involved developing the skills required, losing weight, putting on weight.  She integrated herself into an Hispanic community, tanned her body, took on the mannerisms which would pass her off as Spanish. The photography involved required someone else to take a photo with a very simple, point and shoot camera. The unpolished outcome was in keeping with Lee’s intention of presenting this as a fake documentary series.

In her Innerview interview with Susie Macdonald (5), Lee said that the series ‘Project’ took about three months and that she decided to quit it because she felt she was becoming someone else, that she was at the same time herself and not herself.

What I admired most in her Projects work was the Layers item. She went to street artists in whichever city she found herself and asked them to sketch her face. She found that there was a difference in how she was represented depending on the nationality of the artist.  She then layered the images and came out with a composite layered version of all the artists’ impressions – I’m not sure if she is continuing with that idea to see how her image changes over time or if she has stopped.

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‘Layers’ by Nikki S. Lee

 

I don’t think she has found her one identity but she is happy with who she is at the moment. She finds that it is the energy which is exhibited between two people which determines how they present themselves to one another.

Can we ever speak of our one identity? It’s tantamount to saying we only ever wear one mask – surely how we interact with people is never consistently the same? We have different roles in life and, I suspect, that with each role we develop a different identity whether we are aware of it or not. According to Barthes (1982 p.13) we are 4 different people when we simply stand in front of a lens., regardless of what we are wearing or what skills we have learned before we stand in front of it. Except that in each of ‘the one’ there may be legions.

References:

  1. http://minskyreport.com/artworld_market.pdf
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-digital-self/201203/kony-2012

http://www.jimnaughten.com/project/re-enactors/

3.  http://www.ginalundy.co.uk/tribute2/

4.  https://www.lensculture.com/articles/robbie-cooper-alter-ego-avatars-and-their-creators

5.  http://techterms.com/definition/avatar

6.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMychWgKedA

 

Page 79: Exercise 3.4: Post-photojournalism.

Page 79: Exercise 3.4

Post-photojournalism.

Brief: Look at the work of one of the practitioners discussed in this project. Write a short analysis of one of their projects or the practitioner’s overall approach. Comment on how appropriate you think their creative responses are. What is your impression of the evolving nature of photojournalism?

There are three requirements in this exercise:

  1. Choose a practitioner and do a short analysis of his work.
  2. Comment on the appropriateness of his creative responses.
  3. Give my impression of the evolving nature of photojournalism.

  1. The photojournalist is Tim Hetherington whose work I came across by accident, as I shun war photography generally, three years ago, . There was something about his images which presented a different perspective on the subject so I bought his book ‘Infidel’.  The book has an introduction by Sebastian Junger who was with Tim in Afghanistan for a total of five months, sometimes together and sometimes separately. They worked together on assignment with one platoon in the Korengal Valley, which is known as the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. They recorded video to document their experiences, and this footage went on to form the basis for Restrepo, the movie, the outpost where Junger and Hetherington were embedded, which was named after a combat medic, Juan Restrepo, killed in action.

In the introduction, Junger sets out the situation & conditions in which Tim produced his work: “There was nothing at the outpost – no running water, no hot food, no communication with the civilian world, no alcohol, no drugs or girls or entertainment of any kind – and so if the enemy didn’t shoot at you, it was pretty much a wasted day in your life … it was very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that without combat there was no story to tell. … I remember one stifling June day in the middle of a real combat drought – nothing for two weeks straight – and almost every soldier at the outpost was asleep … I remember sitting there thinking that this was pretty much hell on earth: twenty guys trapped on a hilltop with the heat and the dust and the tarantulas and the flies and nothing to do but wait for someone to try to kill them.” (1. p15)  Tim came creeping through the camp and said: “You never see them like this, they always look so tough, but, when they’re asleep they look like little boys. They look the way their mothers probably remember them.” (idem) and this started Sebastian writing.

When I look at the images, I do not see the anguish normally associated with war photography. In the portraits of the soldiers I see people having fun, a sense of brotherhood, a community displaying emotions seen in normal, everyday life. The men are human beings with normal, everyday needs and expressions. It is this ability to see the person inside the uniform which I thought was breathtaking in the work.

           In the film, Restrepo the movie, as Junger explained, “It’s a completely apolitical film.         We wanted to give viewers the experience of being in combat with soldiers, and so our cameras never leave their side. There are no interviews with generals; there is no moral or political analysis. It is a purely experiential film.” (2)

  1. How appropriate is his creative response?

Tim found stories to tell in moments when there appeared to be none. He found ways of telling those stories in ways nobody else seems to have found relevant: the poster, next to a bunk bed, of a naked pin-up woman behind an insect strip covered in flies / ?, hanging just in front of the woman is a fly swat , while above the poster is a black spider happy not to be caught on the insect strip.   Torment in many guises caught in an image. Hetherington found ways to reflect the living human element in a war zone / the deadliest outpost in Afghanistan. Could anyone be more creative in such circumstances.

In the video on what constitutes conceptual photojournalism (3), Broomberg and Chanarin were so dissatisfied when they were asked to judge the World Press Photo Awards that there were so many clichéd images from Afghanistan and Iraq which seemed to repeat the ideas photographed in the Vietnam war, that they started asking questions of photography in a war zone: What constitutes legitimate photographs of soldiers at war? They refer to an image in the competition by John Moore taken in Rawalpindi on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 which acted as a catalyst for their conceptual work. The image is blurred and askew & had no information except attesting to the fact that he, the witness, was there. This image made the photographers ask the question “ How much does a photograph of an event need to represent that event to be evidence of the event?   How much do we need to see for the image to act as evidence? They asked the question ‘How can we be subversive as embedded photographers in Afghanistan?’  The only way was to refuse to take a picture, to deny the photograph; the embedding form which photographers have to sign does not allow them to take images of dead or wounded soldiers or of enemy fire & no visual evidence of conflict at all. Given those restrictions, the pair went to Afghanistan, with digital a camera and a roll of light sensitive paper and took what has since become that icon of what to them is true, & the antithesis of photography “The Day Nobody Died” (2008).  The images they took with their digital camera they deleted.

Which of the two bodies of work is more creative? If the embedding rules given to us in the video by Broomberg are correct, then Hetherington contravened them by showing a dead/wounded soldier (1. p80) which gives the punctum in the body of work which otherwise would lose its gravitas. In my opinion, Broomberg & Chanarin do not enlighten me regarding any aspect of the war – their piece simply tells me that they were somewhere where the light affected their light-sensitive paper in that way. Their work makes me reflect on war imagery generally, and I agree with them that it has neither changed nor affected opinions or the outcomes of war much over the incessant world conflicts. They claim that their work is anti-conceptual. Val Williams refers to their work as “idiosyncratic, inventive and iconoclastic. … end products which are very much encompassed within the terms of artistic partnership – a free-ranging thought process contained within very particular boundaries of carefully tempered and organized working practices.”(4). Williams claims that their work is “work which emerges is a combination of art practice, archival experiments and a very singular form of photojournalism.” (idem)

Tim Hetherington presented the war in ways not done before, but, given the embedding rules, and wanting to present conventional images, there was little else he could have done. He gave his subjects a voice: he recorded their views of their situation at the end of the book. In the film ‘Restrepo the movie’ which he did with Sebastian Junger and which won and was nominated for multiple awards, Hetherington brought the internal world of the soldier into sharp focus. How appropriate was his creative response? Given his restrictions as an embedded photographer, in my opinion it was more resourceful response than a creative one. Had I not seen the work of Broomberg and Chanarin, I would have said Tim’s work was very creative.

  1. My impression on the evolving nature of photojournalism.  Given the emerging democratized photojournalism of the people by the people, and Fred Ritchin’s prognosis that we will not have conventional newspapers after 2020, I can see that the light at the end of the tunnel for the career is a train coming the other way. The only thing which will temporarily slow down its demise is if the authenticity of the images supplied by the public is brought into question time and again. The quality of the images in terms of composition and technical quality,is no longer important; in fact, the grainier and the more out of focus an image is, the more it is considered authentic and it is the authenticity of the digital image which can so easily be altered which has damaged the whole digital apparatus for conventional photojournalists. It does not appear to matter that analogue images have been altered before but it is the ease with which this can be done which seems to cause offence. I suspect that the UGC is so popular because the public feels that they could have taken the image – it makes people feel that they were there. The UGC practice has blurred the boundaries between the formal photojournalist and the smartphone user – there is no more us & them. The newspaper content is constantly changing: like the focus groups highlighted in the series “The century of the self”, newspaper editors are aware of what readers want; what expands circulation figures is not in-depth debates and questioning but infotainment; not political analysis but sensational images. In his analysis of Restrepo the movie, Junger stresses that “there is no moral or political analysis. It is a purely experiential film.” (2) In cash-strapped newspapers, what the people want is what the people get. Fleet street is no longer the hive of news industry – there are no more newspapers being produced there. As Fred Ritchin indicates, we will soon be producing our own equivalents of on-line social media newspaper articles in our own virtual communities.  Our social media pages already circulate articles from the papers and other news media read and shared by people who have the same interests as we do – but they have their own journalists with their own smartphones.  Big digital or analogue cameras can put their users, seen as ‘professionals’,  at risk if they are in sensitive situations like the London riots of 2010

References:

  1. Hetherington, T. 2010. Infidel. Chris Boot.
  2. Wikipedia: Sebastian Junger
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TvpxG9fLqo
  4. http://www.broombergchanarin.com/no-statistics-text-by-val-williams/
  5. http://restrepothemovie.com
  6. Ritchin,F. 2013. Bending the Frame. Aperture.

Page 75: ex. 3.3: Breaking the news.

Page 75: Exercise 3.3

Breaking the news.

Brief: Read this blog about the New York Post’s image of a man about to be killed by a subway train. Read the details of the blog carefully and write up your own analysis of the event. Comment on the ethical decision of the commuter who took the picture.

 

My analysis of the event:

Is the event in question the publishing of the photograph, i.e. the intent of the newspaper editorial team, or the taking of the photo, i.e. the intent of the commuter / photographer? In both cases, we can only surmise because the intentions are not given in the article.

 

The intent of the newspaper team:

Possible intentions: because the photo appeared on the front page, neither the victim nor the photographer were well-known and no reasons were given overtly or covertly for publishing the image, we can assume that sensationalism / ‘lurid curiosity’ (2), which leads to increased circulation and therefore revenue, was at the heart of the m.o. in this case, in my opinion.

 

The article (2) tells us that ethical guidance such as ““Minimize Harm” section of the SPJ’s Code of Ethics, a set of working guidelines voluntarily adopted by journalism schools and many working journalists. The section advises journalists to show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. It also says to avoid pandering to “lurid curiosity” and to show “good taste” when covering gruesome subjects.” (2)

Photojournalists are guided by their own newspaper’s code of ethics which covers the editorial team too. In this case the commuter / photographer is not bound by any ethical standards, but those who publish the images are. John Long, for 15 years chair of the NPPA ethics committee states: “Newspapers have an obligation to publish images, even horrifying ones, that might affect public debate over important issues … we as a society could learn from them and make decisions for society,” (1). I have no idea what we would learn from the publication of this image. Long adds: ““If I was the night editor, I don’t think I’d run it.” However, he adds, “it’s a contract between a paper and its readers, and it’s different from paper to paper. The New York Post is not known for its subtlety in taste decisions.”

Long reflects my analysis for the coverage of this incident by the NYP.

 

The intent of the commuter / photographer:

The stated intention for taking the photo was given as wanting to warn the train driver that something was amiss. Like the writer of both quoted articles, I don’t subscribe to it because he could have used the torch on his phone rather than the camera to alert the driver. If he had the presence of mind to use the flash on his camera, he could have had the same presence of mind to intervene in the situation by pulling the victim back, I think. Had I been there, I think I would have frozen to the spot & not been able to do anything given the pending disaster as I saw it happening, possibly in slow motion.

 

 

Of the commuter’s responsibility, John Long of the National Press Photographers’ Association ethical committee: “Your job as a human being, so to speak, outweighs your job as a photojournalist,” he adds: “ You live your life with the values you got somewhere along the line,” he says. “I do not approach photojournalism as the be all and end all. It’s an honorable profession, but the values I bring to my job come from other sources.” (1)

 

I am certain that, given the facility of taking and uploading images to social networking sites, we are also aware of the consequences of our actions. There is that time delay between those two actions in which we must be aware of what we are doing and why.

 

The case often cited which raises this thorny ethical question is that of award-winning photojournalist, Kevin Carter, who took the image in the Sudan of a starving child on her way to a feeding station, being seemingly stalked by a vulture and that Kevin committed suicide shortly afterwards: “an act some attributed to guilt over what he had witnessed.” (1)

 

In his book Bending the Frame, Fred Ritchin also tells us that shortly after having been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for that image, one of Kevin’s closest colleagues, Ken Oosterbrook, had died, killed in the cross-fire in a town outside Johannesburg. “Dealing with his own issues, including drug addiction and guilt, Carter was distraught … he committed suicide leaving a note explaining that he was ‘depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & hunger & pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners.   I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky.” (Ritchin Pp 22-23).

 

So the implied cause and effect in the article (1) behind the suicide was not that straight forward. The same may be said of the commuter in this case who had probably never sold an image to the press in the past. As with the practices of photojournalists in the past, theirs is the responsibility to provide the images, the editorial staff take on the responsibility for how / if the image is broadcast. In this case, we are not dealing with a photojournalist who has been schooled in the ethical implications of diverting a course of action he has been asked to cover; could we be possibly dealing with a commuter who sees the role of a newspaper as an agent for the dissemination of infotainment?

There is enough material to cover this topic for a Ph.D proposal, never mind exercise 3.3 of a section of a module of a B.A. degree.

 

 

 References:

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2012/12/04/new-york-posts-subway-death-photo-was-it-ethical/#72e047f01a6d
  2. http://www.ibtimes.com/new-york-post-subway-death-photo-unethical-or-just-tasteless-918619
  3. Ritchin, F.: 2013. Bending the frame. Aperture Foundation.

Page 72, Ex 3.2: a controversial image

Page 72: Ex 3.2

Brief:  Find one or two recent photographs within the public domain that you consider to be ‘controversial’ or to transgress social barriers. Write a short entry in your learning log (up to 500 words) about why you feel it is controversial.

A controversial image which transgresses social barriers.

From the Mailonline page:

Get ’em off! Armed police order Muslim woman to remove her burkini on packed Nice beach – as mother, 34, wearing Islamic headscarf is threatened with pepper spray and fined in Cannes (Mail online)

The image, which can be found here , has the following text attached to it: “The woman is then ordered to remove the blue garment. Most of the other people on the beach on a sweltering summer’s day were wearing trunks or bikinis.

The implications are that 1) the woman is challenging the status quo by not wearing what would be natural to wear on such a hot summer’s day; 2. She is not like the rest – her difference made her a target.  The ignorance shown by the editorial team on clothes worn in areas where there is little protection from a fierce sun further distances the subject in this image from the viewers.

This image and the text with which it appears transgress social barriers from a western culture because they are perverse: they exude sexism (why couldn’t the state use female police officers to handle the case?), racism (she appears to be the only woman of colour on the beach)and ageism (younger women were not threatened) on the part of the police officers, and the series of which this is just one image, reflects a voyeurism which embodies all the other perversions.

The complicity of the photographer in all the images compounds the attack on the woman.

The complicity of the newspaper editorial pack in all the images on its website compounds the attack on the woman.

The complicity of the press agencies who distribute the images compounds the attack on the woman.

This image reminds me of the images taken by Nazi photographers of the Jews in the concentration camps, analysed extensively in The Cruel Radiance by Suzie Linfield: like this woman, the Jews were helpless in the face of a nationalist ideology which objectified them.

Should this have any place in a society governed by the European Convention of Human Rights which was based on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, in turn and ironically, was based on the Code Napoleon? In the preamble to the UDHR we find the following opening sentence:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

In which way is the woman in these series of images, forced to undress in public, treated with dignity? Her difference sets her apart and she appears therefore, to be a vulnerable target to the state.

If we look at the same image covered by the Guardian here, we find that her face has been obliterated (presumably to restore a modicum of dignity). The text under the Guardian image reads: French agency AFP saw a ticket given to the woman by police, which said she was not ‘wearing an outfit respecting good morals and secularism’. Photograph: Vantagenews.com.

 The mission statement of London based Vantage News on its website is:  Vantage News is a news/photo agency with a difference. Vantage News aims to provide the best, most professional and honest service to its suppliers and clients.

Is VN flicking off responsibility for providing the image by stating that Agence France Presse saw the ticket being given to the woman and so, by implication, called all the other news agencies to the party?

The same image appears on the front pages of most European national papers.  The composition  and technical qualities of the image make me think that it is taken by a press photographer who had been primed about the swoop and so could control all his/her honed skills in image making; it was not an example of democratised image making, in my opinion.

This image transgresses the social barriers set up by the European Convention of Human Rights in not affording this woman her human right to dignity.  The French law which had permitted this attack to take place has since been revoked and the attack declared illegal.  It has not stopped French Police going up to bathers wearing  hijab in the water and asking them to leave – again this is transmitted via images taken by photojournalists.

The cynic in me, however, makes me believe that this could be a huge set-up by the French press agencies to stir up public sentiments against Muslims at a time when there are no other catastrophe news to keep photojournalists working. Maybe.

 

 

 

Exercises: P. 65:Fred Ritchin’s lecture on key aspects of the digitalisation of photography and its future.

My notes taken from watching the lecture given by Fred Ritchin on “Toward a Hyperphotography”

  1. Ritchin was frustrated by his experiences in magazine reporting where there seemed to be a formula whereby the images were used to illustrate the text & different people made arbitrary decisions in how the pics were used. 1982 National Geographic moved the pyramids on their cover & people realized that you could manipulate photos just as you can edit texts = digital revolution in which we do only what the manufacturers allow us to do . It’s just a photo, people are not going to believe it.
  2. People in photography don’t know what is going on in it, whereas people outside it do.
  3. Chicago Times fired all their photographers on the same day & gave iphones to their reporters because they could take their own pics. So why do we need photographers & people, incl professional photographers doo not know how to answer it.
  4. 1984 he took a pic of the NY skyline & got someone to manipulate it – if people begin to understand that manipulation, how will they ever trust pics = power relationship bet people in power & those poorer who need help.
  5. Photos are not fixed in time because they can be changed.
  6. Editor of Time on photo of O.J.Simpson: A common mug shot raised to the level of art with no sacrifice to truth.
  7. Tell people u have manipulated an image.
  8. Photography doesn’t trust itself anymore; it has reduced its vocabulary; they are 1930s driven in journalistic, documentary images. Work seems corporate & weighted to 1 point of view.
  9. Superimpose images so that when the mouse goes over it you see the other – the setup / secret not to be shared = the point of view changes.
  10. By rolling the mouse over the picture u could get a heading, the photographer’s opinion, other contextualizing info.
  11. The mainstream of photography is imploding. Raymond Depardon: Foreign affairs he would run a photo & a written text = 30 yrs ago a blog= Harlem girls having fun = photo with a written piece.
  12. People on social media = amateurs – photographs = it’s happening to us; Professional photographers frame their pics & the message = it’s happening to them. Enormous meaning difference between them & us; it’s not over there it’s here.
  13. We have so many images that we don’t know what to do with them, curate them. Several attempts to curate it – to verify the images.
  14. Susan Sontag: all war photos are seductions to go to war & found only 1 that is anti – war “Dead men speak” Geoff Wall put the pic together = pretending to be in Afghanistan – actors, pretending to be soldiers in Vancouver pretending to be Afghanistan. Geoff Wall said:”I didn’t make dead men speak to comment on the Afghan war, I did it to make a picture of dead men conversing.” With all the billions of images how can she only find 1 which is anti-war.
  15. So why was she saying that? Peace photographers don’t exist. War photographers can say they are anti-peace.
  16. How do you go to war without thinking of peace? Or are you just using the people for good pictures?
  17. Family album: John Berger: Don McCullen: how can you see that pain ? If it’s of them it is bearable – you wouldn’t do it for a family = it’s us.
  18. You don’t think that during a war, they are just blowing each other up , you don’t think that people have personal family times. The pics make them human again.
  19. The family album makes them one of us.
  20. Susan Meiselas has mounted the pics from the Sandinista war”Reframing history” & put them in the places she photographed them so that the young people can see their history = she’s giving back to the community.
  21. Resistance: do something differently if what you are saying doesn’t make sense.
  22. 1996 after peace treaty between muslims & croats : they wanted people to investigate not in a linear way : the reader feels that they don’t know what is going on, what do you do, where do you start?
  23. JR: women are heros: women bear the brunt for all the physical work & are not respected for it. Puts the large images on the roofs of houses & he waterproofs them: useful.
  24. Photograph the future so it does not happen.
  25. Dec 1968 – the earth from outer space: photograph from outer space could say we’ve got to do something about the earth. Today there is no such credibility in photography.
  26. How do you filter all the images so that u know what is going on in the world.
  27. 2017 no more front pages. No way of keeping /coherent way of seeing things. What would you put on the front page? Different people would put together something that we could all discuss.
  28. We all have the tools of publishing & production to make things happen.
  29. Gideon Mendell: AIDS anti-retroviral project of following a woman with HIV AIDS for a month & his work made a difference to 8m people.
  30. If your pictures aren’t good enough you don’t read enough: Pappageorge.

Ex: 3.1

From “After photography”

The basic question Ritchin asks is: How do we use a quickly changing medium in a way that can respond to “some of photography’s frailties, its lies and limitations” now that nobody trusts digital photographs any more?

“Not only are bytes, unlike chemistry and film, not palpably physical but they become metaphors for a depiction of reality as informational. While photography is conventionally thought of as depicting the present to be seen as the past, we have also, unbeknownst to ourselves, been making coded images of the future — our own as transformed humans, or what some are calling, with justification, ‘post-humans.’”(p. 42)

Ritchin embraces the idea of “photographing the future” by digitally inserting ourselves into scenes in advance of being there. Rather than waste the time of posing in front of the cathedral of Notre Dame, we could send our friends those manufactured images and proceed to actually exploring the streets, culture and conversations of an unfamiliar new land. No longer will the checklist of “most-photographed” sites separate us from actually being present at the scene. (1)

Ritchin also rethinks how the changing relation to a photograph in the digital age as something mutable compares to memory. Our recollections are not photographic. They are subject to mood, timing, emotion, time and selectivity. Photographs could easily become more of an expression of memory than a perceived-as-subjective document. “The past would be recreated, rethought and reinvented, the process more resembling an oral tradition where divergent views of the community are taken into account.” (p. 58)

“The photographic frame would then move beyond an excerpt from a visible reality, radiating outward, connecting to ideas, events and images that were previously thought of as external. The photographer, cognizant that framing both does and does not exclude the rest of the world, could then try to be more present, aware, less confident that it is the camera that will ‘remember.’ And as author and viewers grapple over time with the photograph’s meanings, creating new links and interpretations, it will become evident that the photographic process necessarily involves an ensuing contextualization. Rather than encouraging forgetfulness, the photograph might invite too much remembering.” (p. 59) 

“The new photograph will be read and understood differently as people comprehend that it does not descend from the same representational logic either of analog photography or of painting that preceded it.” (Ritchin, 2009, p. 144)

Toward a Hyperphotography”: Fred Ritchin

Visual examples of “cubistically unmasking photo opportunities”:

In “Unmasking Photo Opportunities Cubistically” Ritchin notes that we should contextualize the invented realities by including documentation of the whole planned scene from different perspectives.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 12.06.24.png

In a 1994 photograph we see U.S. soldiers invading Haiti, lying on the airport tarmac pointing their rifles at unseen enemies. The heroic image supports the claim of the U.S. government that it is invading to support democracy, liberating a neighboring country from a dictatorship.

The curious reader [of the future], however, might want to place the computer cursor on the image. Another photograph appears from beneath it; it is of the same scene but from another vantage point. U.S. soldiers are pointing their guns not at any potential enemy but at about a dozen photographers who, lined up in front of them, are photographing them. In fact, the photographers are the only ones doing any shooting

The contradictory “double image” is cubist; reality has no single truth. Perhaps these soldiers are heroes, and perhaps the U.S. government is justified in its invasion. Maybe they have to lie prone on the tarmac, anxious about an unseen enemy. The additional photograph asks the question “Is this for real?” Or is this a simulation of an invasion created for the cameras? (4)

2.  Using cctv in the homes of elderly people who live far away from their families, Digital Family Portraits: Supporting Peace of Mind for Extended Family Members, explores ways in which layered portraits can be hung on the wall (in place of a static 2D image) or on a bookshelf, or on the mantelpiece, & creates collections of the subjects over time and helps the distant family to see if/how the elderly are coping with their eating, mobility etc. Similarly, the subject can see what the rest of the family is up to. Through reporting as in the digital album, the creators have designed work to illustrate the lives of loved ones abroad, and provide methods for the work to be contextualized by the subjects, adding depth and multiple perspectives to the story telling.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 13.54.28.png(5)

  1. Ritchin argues in “Photographing the Future so a Version of It Does Not Happen,” that we could illustrate visions of the result of our actions. With the reader let in on the idea, we paint in visceral images the predictions of a warmed planet, for example.

4.  Multiple points of view around a single news event or story:

“Enfranchising the Subject/s,”: we give a voice back to the subject of the photograph, first, by making no assumptions about them, but also by handing the camera directly to them.  This all started on 7th July, 2005 when people in the Kings Cross tube in London took images with their phones of what was happening around them: democratised reportage started there.

5.  FR wants us to be aware of the consequences of our work & that there is never just 1 side to a story.

6.  In considering how digital photography has, in the 21st C, changed how we see images and, looking back to a time between the camera obscure and digital imaging, we can ask how did the Kodak Brownie affect the practice of 20th C image making?

Multiple points of view on a single news event or story:

Traingate:

Jeremy Corbyn gets seat on Glasgow serviceScreen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.39.45.png

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.41.15.png
The original image which sparked the story.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.43.33.png

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.46.16.png

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.46.30.png

References

  1. http://2010dmsresearch.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/after-photography-by-fred-ritchin.html
  2. Ritchin,F. 2009 After photography.W.W.Norton & Co.
  3. Ritchin, F.: Bending the frame
  4. http://designobserver.com/article.php?id=11447
  5. https://research.cc.gatech.edu/ecl/sites/edu.ecl/files/C.33-Mynatt-CHI-2001.pdf

Page 51: ex. 2.3

In your exercise for this section, you’ll produce a piece of work that reflects on representations of the self in digital culture.

Produce a series of 6 photo-based self-portraits that use digital montage techniques to explore different aspects of your identity.

Image 1:

Self portrait 1 1

 

Image 2:

wine and ferrero mountain 074 1

 

Image 3:

Time passing DSCF5141
Reaching the end of the line.

Image 4:

Rocky headland with contrast DSCF1188

Image 5:

Colour exploration104302576
Self and tree bark , partly b & w painterly colour treatment in PS layers.

 

Image 6:

Wallabrook clapper bridge 2 DSCF7714
Autobiographical expression.

 

Produce a 500 word blog post outlining your working methods and the research behind your final submission. (Whose work did you study in preparation for this exercise? Why did you use the techniques that you did and how effective do you think your choices have been, for example?)

This work reflects the digital representations of myself which reference different aspects of my identity.

The original choice was between using photographs in the family albums and photographs of myself. Because I do not like seeing images of myself and because I have an aversion to photographing people in general, I chose to tackle this option to see if I can overcome this obstacle in my photography.

The work which inspired me most was Vibeke Tandberg’s experimental self-portraits using photomontage as seen in her “Herself – Photography” on the Youtube film(1) and her “Undo” (2003) series.   The freedom and variety of expression evident in her work was exciting and wide ranging: from presenting herself pregnant to using a lightbulb and a corner of a cube to say something about herself, which, to me, is quite liberating. Her manipulation of her photographs ranges from being so subtle that the viewer is not sure if what they see is what is there, to her obliteration of certain elements of her work ( her scribbles over her Amy Winehouse look-alike self) which leaves no doubt about what she has done. The photomontages in (1) present quite dark, disturbing images whereas her pregnancy ones at first sight look quite normal but then you start wondering if they have been manipulated or not because they don’t look quite natural enough. In the 2005 article in Frieze, Christy Lange asks us, in looking at Tandberg’s ‘Undo’ (2005), “What should we make of her self-portrayal not as an anxiously expectant mother but as a lonely woman whose body is peculiar and unfamiliar to her?” (2) The artist portrays her pregnancy not as a natural marvel but rather as this alienating physical experience in which “her swollen belly is like an unwelcome and stubbornly shifting mass that her position must constantly accommodate.” (2) This too is part of an uncompromising approach to her practice: why shouldn’t she?

In Lorraine Rubbio’s, August 28, 2014 article (4) on Tandberg, she gives us a glimpse of what constitutes the latter’s thinking on artistic practice: “it is a mix of self-awareness and fragility, two rather opposing characteristics that I think define the very core of any artistic practice.”(4) When you see her images, however, it is difficult to see that fragility: she portrays herself in very harsh, face-on terms with the viewer – challenging rather than seeming vulnerable, which, to me, is implied in fragility.

That fragility and self-awareness features in my poem, although I had not read up on Tandberg when I wrote it. In the rest of the images, I have used digital technology to cast myself as an artist’s subject as well as a subject in front of a camera’s lens. Unlike Tandberg, I have not been subtle in the methods I have used to process the images, and that is something I would like to explore further. I am not questioning how women are represented, nor am I revealing any psychological darkness, as far as I am aware. My images reflect the different identities I have chosen to depict: the positive, colour-loving optimist; a gourmande who cannot resist wine and chocolates; an older person who realizes she is fast approaching the end of the line; the nature-lover tending sometimes to feel part of the geology; the drama-queen; the complex character who is sometimes lost and confused; the image-maker, both in text and in pictorial representation. Unlike Tandberg’s work, mine has the occasional flicker of light humour; image 3 plays with the idea that it might not be manipulated: an image standing where others have stood and it too is on its way out.

 

References:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z-TcVnnAxI
  2. https://frieze.com/article/vibeke-tandberg-0
  3. http://www.zingmagazine.com/zing12_staging/zing12/reviews/reviews-2.html
  4. https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/artnet-asks-vibeke-tandberg-75786

P.45:Ex. 2.2

Write 500 words in your learning log on a piece of work by one contemporary artist-photographer who uses the archive as source material. You may focus on any artist you wish but you may wish to select either:

  • an artist who exhibited as part of the exhibition Archive Fever (2008)
  •  one of the British artists’ projects produced by UK organization GRAIN
IMG_2365
Photo of the Kessells exhibition of 1 day’s uploaded images at Rencontres D’Arles, 2013 . Photo:Anna Goodchild.

 

The artist I will look at is Erik Kessells whose work I first saw at the Rencontres D’Arles in 2013. My first reaction to Album Beauty was to wonder why he would want to use family albums, those artifacts that are ‘glorious in their dullness’ (Arles 2013 catalogue), why he would want to trawl through flea markets and second-hand shops and stalls all over the world to find these albums. Tim Clark (1) calls the exhibition “a thought-provoking meditation on the nature of obsolescence.”(1). That obsolescence contextualizes the work in time and one day, perhaps, our current practice of uploading our every move will also be seen as obsolescent – perhaps that day has already been and gone and the mountains of images are being recycled in more ways than one through montage and collage to create different work as in the case of Lilly Lulay, Katie Shapiro and countless others. Anouk Kruithof (2), in focusing on subconscious traveling uses something she found by chance to illustrate something connected to this image re-cycling and obsolescence: she found empty photo sleeves, arranged them randomly on A0 sheets of paper which she then put under glass and arranged them on a gallery wall. In doing this, she invites viewers to fill in the contents of the sheets with memories of their own travels thus experiencing a vicarious or second hand journey. The glass reflects their faces and thus makes the viewers part of the ‘scene’.

Reflecting on that exhibition space in conjunction with Kessells’ maelstrom of printed images uploaded in a 24hr period on Flick’r in the next gallery space suddenly brought home to me the magnitude of our collective and individual desire to upload our expressions or narrate our dull lives to a global audience possibly again to be part of that vicarious journey, to be seen as being part of that bigger picture of humanity.

IMG_2374
Exhibition space 2: Arles 2013. Photo Anna Goodchild

Recently I wrote a blog on Ted Forbes’ “Nobody cares about your photographs” in which I decried his sentiments that we need to make work that makes a difference, that matters, make us feel better about ourselves. Of course I realize that he is referring to that mountain of daily dumps on social and photographic networks, but I also think that iconic images, images which have mattered in moving people, like Don McCullin’s “Shell Shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue 1968”, were not premeditated, were not made to make people feel better about themselves.

In an article entitled “The vanishing art of the family photo album.” We see that what Erik Kessells found in the family albums he trawled through was “an archaeology that lists the detritus of beauty, boredom, travel, companionship, innocence, youth, pride and participation.” (1) Those carefully constructed images of self, largely radiating happiness and the best of everything – similar to what we see on social media today – also contain ‘the dissonant, the banal, the disruption to ritualized harmony within family photography.’ He finds beauty in something less than perfection and mistakes which reveal, perhaps, something the photographers did not want to show.

His discoveries record what the archives found in family archives tell us not only of the history of a particular family, but also how habits have changed over time.   He discovered a pattern in the making of the family albums which averaged 7 – 8 in number and which record photos of a relationship in the first album, the marriage in the second, fanatical urge to photograph the first child in the 3rd, then the 4th – 7th albums are a complete mix whereas the 8th album would focus on the couple living alone again.

These piles of archaeology exhibited on the floor of what once may have been a family home, invite, ironically, more photographs to be made and uploaded to social media sites because there are no ‘family albums’ any more, yet we need to be part of that picture – even if we don’t quite fit.

IMG_2366 1
Photo album exhibition space: Arles 2013. Photo Anna Goodchild.

References:

  1. (http://time.com/3801986/the-vanishing-art-of-the-family-photo-album/)
  2. https://www.coursera.org/learn/photography/lecture/wuMhX/6-4-interview-with-anouk-kruithof
  3. Rencontres D’Arles 2013 catalogue.