Suggested Research – in response to Assignment Four

As assignment 4 was an essay there were no images to re-work, but Russell included several links and interesting points within his feedback. I decided to research the ideas and to see if they would form any alterations to my essay.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/nikon-sexist-men-32-photographers-asia-no-woman-new-camera-promote-fx-format-d850-a7946111.html

Nikon labelled sexist after asking 32 male photographers to promote its new camera – but no women
‘We had not put enough of a focus on this area,’ admits camera giant

In September 2017 Nikon in Asia was severely criticised on Social Media after selecting 32 “creative individuals” to test and promote its new camera, the D850,  without including a single woman. In a statement they said this was more accident than design as some of the females invited to take part were unavailable but admitted that they should have in effect tried harder.

At a global level, Nikon has invited four photographers to act as ambassadors for the launch of the D850, one of which is Italian photographer Rosita Lipari.

We take pride in celebrating female talent and include many brilliant female photographers in our Ambassador line-ups globally and will continue to do so.

Rosita Lipari is a wedding photographer who takes very different shots compared to ‘traditional’ work.

https://mywed.com/en/photographer/lipari/

In the fashion industry there will always be some kind of divide until society throughout the world stops seeing one, or emphasising it. Different cultures have different laws/rules governing how men/women can act. Photography is just a reflection of this wider world.

Most recently John Lewis thought they would partially address this imbalance by getting rid of gender labels, but this seems to have backfired with some as much as it has been praised by others.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/john-lewis-boys-girls-clothing-labels-gender-neutral-unisex-children-a7925336.html

Reading the article drew my attention to this as well.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/national-trust-sexist-hats-girls-selling-children-future-footballers-wife-charity-a7919601.html

Fashion is a minefield for larger stores it would seem.

Gap, for example, came under fire for referring to girls as “social butterflies” and boys as “little scholars” in an advert promoting its new clothing range.

Asda was criticised for the gender disparity in its clothing, with girls’ clothes featuring slogans such as “Hey Cutie” and “Ponies Rock” in contrast with “Future Scientist” and “Bows Will Be Boys” on boys’ clothing.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4860060/pretending-sexes-ludicrous.html

Being a parent to now grown-up children I never forced them to wear ‘gender’ specific clothing. As a toddler my daughter wore hand-me-downs from both sexes, I hated anything pink but sometimes she would choose the most girly fluffy tops to wear, the next day she would be happy grubbing about in shorts and t-shirts that were ‘male’ in design. Likewise when my son came along he would dress-up in bride’s outfits and push a pink buggy, he also insisted on playing with my daughter’s Barbie dolls, so much so I eventually bought him one, to go along with an Action Man!

I don’t think it is the labels that desperately need to alter, at the end of the day at a certain point the male and female body shape does start to alter, but the inclusion of different designs, colours and slogans on the clothing would be a better way forward.

To look at how Instagram may be helping the ‘female gaze’ or influencing photography in general Russell pointed me towards an article on the recent Instagram selfies of Cindy Sherman.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/aug/09/cindy-sherman-instagram-selfies-filtering-life

“Cindy prefers not to comment on her Instagram posts.”

This was the reply from Cindy Sherman’s New York gallery, Metro Pictures…

A private Instagram account run by Sherman featuring a new series of selfies was recently made public, creating an art world sensation overnight. Sherman has a long history of dramatically staged self-portraiture, and in a sense pioneered the idea of the “selfie” decades before social media began.

That area between real life and the theatre of the selfie is what Sherman is already so adept at presenting, but in the context of an era where Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized women for their physical appearance, her images of distorted female faces take on a much more defiant tone.

The article also linked ideas of what the future holds for presenting/exhibiting work:

What does our digital landscape mean for the changing nature of exhibiting one’s work? Is it better or worse than showing in a real gallery space? “The difference between exhibiting online over exhibiting in a real space is ‘depth’ in every possible sense,” said New York writer and curator Jeffrey Grunthaner. “You can’t really take a point of view on an image; there’s no genuine scale to it. It’s simply there, floating in digitality. There’s a certain potential for dictating exactly how viewers look at an artwork that is quite appealing. As I see it, the difficulty in accepting the ascendancy of exhibiting online relates to the proscribed corporate identity most online venues have.”

A section that resonated with me, which may help the flow of my essay was a comment on narcissism:

In many cases, Instagram is not art but a digital dumping ground – a playground for society’s worst narcissists. For an artist like Sherman to be using it as an exhibition space raises the bar for users seeking attention or claiming to be artists.

Russell also directed me to look at work by the late Francesca Woodman

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/31/searching-for-the-real-francesca-woodman

The first solo shows of her work opened in 1986, and drew a great deal of attention. More crucially, she was championed by American critic Rosalind Krauss, who saw her photographs – perhaps somewhat predictably – as an attempt to resist the male gaze (Krauss has written that Woodman exhibits a tendency to “camouflage” herself, attempting to “hide” even as she stands in front of the camera). Although some continued to see the work as adolescent and excessively narcissistic, others began to regard Woodman as the last of the great Modernist photographers, a line that may be traced back to Man Ray and the other surrealists. Later, Cindy Sherman, a contemporary of Woodman’s, became a fan – and perhaps Woodman’s influence can also be seen in the work of Nan Goldin and David Armstrong.

From the Victoria Miro website:

Woodman is often situated alongside her contemporaries of the late 1970s such as Ana Mendieta and Hannah Wilke, yet her work also foreshadows artists such as Cindy Sherman, Sarah Lucas, Nan Goldin and Karen Finley in their subsequent dialogues with the self and reinterpretations of the female body.

It was also suggested that I look further into Annie Leibovitz and Sally Mann, both are so prolific but I liked this article on Annie Leibovitz:

…and I found these whilst diving about the web:

http://unframed.lacma.org/2013/11/18/see-the-light-through-the-female-gaze
https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-female-gaze-1
https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/evxgwp/4-young-female-photographers-sound-off-on-social-media-gender-bias-and-girlgaze

The inspiring exhibition #girlgaze: a frame of mind collects photographs captured by a diverse crew of international young female-identifying artists. Primarily sourced from social media, these visionaries are given the authority and significance they deserve in an IRL framework at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. Each of the 150-plus images broaches the complex topic of selfhood and all that encompasses, from body image to beauty to race. We spoke to four participating young women — with sharply differentiated aesthetics and philosophies — and discussed the photographers they admire, the way gender shapes their vision, and what they wish to change in both the photography industry and the world at large.

https://www.annenbergphotospace.org/exhibits/girlgaze

#girlgaze: a frame of mind is an interactive, digitally driven exhibit for all ages that maps the imaginative landscape of young, female and trans-identifying photographers from around the world. Largely sourced through social media, the curated images’ raw vitality is their only constant – female, WOC, and trans-identifying perspectives are presented on everything from identity and standards of beauty to relationships, mental health and creativity. While viewing these stunning, never-before-exhibited images, visitors will have the opportunity to create and share their own photos on social media.

The exhibit curators are Girlgaze, a collective founded by the famed British-born television host, women’s advocate and photographer Amanda de Cadenet. Girlgaze began as a social media movement with over 450,000 submissions on Instagram and has grown into the first multimedia platform to support girls behind the camera. In addition to its digital showcase for images, Girlgaze provides a larger ecosystem supporting the work and careers of fledgling female and gender-nonconforming photographers, artists and creatives, from providing grants to securing jobs.

https://hazlitt.net/blog/female-gaze-sally-mann-and-kim-kardashian-west

When I found Sally Mann’s work—its arrestingly private views of family, of bodies, of something too subjective to name—my understanding of the way a photograph bore through the eye, inward, proved useless. Here were photographs so technically familiar, yet completely alien in terms of how and what they showed: the bracing intimacy of a mother’s connection to her child. A wife’s perspective of her husband’s ailing body. She was the photographer who made me realize I’d only ever looked at pictures taken by men.

On the topic of self-image, anxiety, insecurity and confidence…This was just plain scary…to think a lot Western women undergo surgery to a prescriptive ideal of beauty and now Chinese women are doing the same!

http://shanghaiist.com/2014/11/10/20-women-before-after-plastic-surgery.php

…and another link provided by Russell

https://www.whatsonweibo.com/chinese-celebrities-weibo-followers-top-10-2017/

Another fascinating cultural difference on gender came to light when I found several articles about Muxes.

https://www.vix.com/en/identity/526920/meet-muxes-mexican-indigenous-individuals-identifying-as-a-third-gender

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Meet-the-Gender-Smashing-Muxes-of-Mexico–Not-Man-Woman-Trans-or-Gay-20170515-0020.html

I haven’t made any real in-depth observations or comments on this page as there is so much to look up and think about. This is more a page for reference and further contemplation!

 

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The documentary project – other OCA students’ work

Some Documentary Projects.

Not our Time; Penny Watson
http://marmalade-cafe.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/not-our-time.html

https://weareoca.com/subject/photography/student-work-uncovered-penny-watson/

As with most of us who choose to ‘document’ Penny has chose a subject very close to her heart, her grandmother, and it shows though in the sensitive nature of the work. I found the imagery well presented and moving. Showing ‘a day in the life’ was something we were asked to deliberately not do and it was interesting to see the progression of a day rather than the progression of a narrative. Is it easier to do a day in the life? Or do you have to have more intimate knowledge of the subject? Another student asked can you sustain the same level of intimacy once you move away from a family member?

Behind the scenes: Beth Aston

Beth Aston’s project was again on a very personal level as she chose to document her own battle with illness. This I found to be very brave, Her choice of lighting, black and white imagery and lighting were used to great effect. The close cropping added another layer of visual coherence. I wonder what elements of this style of photography she would apply to another project or would she chose a different direction?

A Dozen Eggs: Harry Pearce

http://www.harrypearce.co.uk/gallery_515190.html

Another directly personal project where Harry Pearce documented his ‘siblings’ lives into a single family album.’ What came across as everyday snaps I loved the natural lighting on these and the inclusion of text adding a different layer.In time they will be a document to the fashions and ideals of a by gone age.

Feet: Omar Camilleri
http://omarcamilleri.com/2010/09/23/feet-photographic-exhibition/

I love his opening statment

Why FEET? This is an original project which will bring out the diversities of life and at the same time it reflects today’s realities and challenges. Any theme is a challenge for any artist. And any theme can be a source of inspiration.

I really enjoyed the diversity of this project as well as the photographic skills and high quality of the resulting images. Feet can so tell someone’s life story, from cheap shoes causing deformities, to the occupational hazards of being a dancer, to the innocence of a new born and the excited exuberance of youth

The Dad Project: Briony Campbell

http://www.brionycampbell.com/projects/the-dad-project/

This project in a way was too close for comfort. My mum died from terminal bowl cancer in 2012 and at the time I wondered if I should document it? In some ways I wanted to but in others I felt it was an intrusion into our last moments together. As a daughter and a photographer was I over stepping the line to make a project out of her last days? I don’t think she would have minded if I had asked. We laughed at so many things in those last days. Anyone listening probably were horrified by our irreverent conversations. How many other people cut out paper fish and seaweed and stuck it to a urine bag? Would have made an interesting photograph!

Well done to Briony for having the courage to complete this emotive set of images which tell the story of many others in the same situation.

100th Street: Tanya Ahmed
http://vimeo.com/43594038

This video was enlightening on many levels, Tanya’s acknowledgement that she is a photographer and has always been a photographer yet working on the OCA course helped her look in a different direction to how her own style of photography changed slightly from focusing on the built environment to that of the people within the buildings. She also cleverly used another photographer as inspiration, reworking Bruce Davidson’s work of the 1950’s www.magnumphotos.com Her own personal involvement within the community must of been a great help when soliciting the collaboration of the residents and being given access to their homes.

The Documentary project – crowd funding

Research was directed towards several links…but as with some of the other links in the coursework some are now defunct : the 2011 BJP link in the course notes comes up page not found  and following the link to Emphas.is, the specialist photojournalism crowd-funding platform covered in the OCA article, takes me to a different site called Crowd Angels?

Find a Crowd Angel to guide your project. You‘ll need other stuff then just money to execute your idea. Maybe someone to cover your back. Maybe expert advice. Certainly exposure. You know what? There’s still good folks out there. You just have to find them. Our Crowd Angels will cover your back.

Kickerstarter still seem to be alive and kicking however ….

From the OCA article written by Jose:

 

Launched in 2009 as a web platform for funding personal creative projects, Kickstarter is the original crowd-funding concept. Thanks to Kickstarter photographer Pete Brook has been able to raise nearly $8,000 for his Prison Photography project. A worthwhile cause of universal social appeal, coupled with an intelligent marketing strategy, will allow Brook to develop his project and… put pressure through public opinion and raise awareness of the social issues he is concerned with…

Kickstarter projects are only funded if the fundraising target is met. Amazon manages donations but no money exchanges hands until the deadline for raising funds is over. It is only then that Kickstarter and Amazon get their commission – 5% and 3-5% respectively.

There are many benefits to crowd funding, not at least the fact that a photographer, completing a project others would ‘like to see’,  not only no longer has to bear the financial brunt, but they can also gauge the level of interest in the suggest idea. New forums for documentary photography are opened and work can reach many different audiences. A photographer backed by ‘the few’ could retain more editorial control than one backed by a major publisher. There are also potential rewards for sponsors, so on the surface it’s a win win situation.

Are there pitfalls?  Well further research has revealed that Emphas.is went bust with all the inherent difficulties:

While all photographers who successfully raised funds on the platform received the money they were owed before the company’s liquidation, a group of photographers have seen their work become hostage to Emphas.is’ internal divisions.

As Jose pointed out would all the projects that are worthy be overshadowed by ‘that which is comparatively trivial and self-indulgent … [or] be dangerously blurred in crowd-funding.’

His main concern was that once funded the successful documentary bidders would decide to publicise their work on a pro-bono basis resulting in a ‘surplus of quality and free documentary work.’ This indeed would be manna from heaven for editors and a kick in the teeth for professional paid photographers. As noted the quality of crowd funded work and even straight forward amateur work that you can find on the web can be outstanding.

Another pitfall I guess is being able to promote and market yourself as a commodity!

The comments on the article also threw out some other valuable links:

http://www.david-campbell.org/2011/04/19/crowd-funding-photojournalism-review/
http://www.david-campbell.org/2011/04/08/the-back-catalogue-photojournalism-in-the-new-media-economy/
https://crowdbooks.com/

Personally I think crowd funding can be the way forward for many valid projects that would otherwise get overlooked.

Research

Crowdfunding http://www.weareoca.com/photography/crowd-funding/ [Accessed  07 Oct 2017]

Prison Photography https://prisonphotography.org [Accessed  07 Oct 2017]

Emphas.is story http://www.bjp-online.com/2013/10/crowdfunding-platform-emphas-is-goes-insolvent-amid-internal-conflicts/ [Accessed  07 Oct 2017]

New forums for documentary – Post Documentary Art

The main issue between documentary and art is how a gallery positions i.e. defines the work itself.

Ignatieff (2003) stated ‘ Photography which loses sight of documentation risks becoming mannerism, while photography which loses the ambition or art loses the possibility of becoming forgettable.’

What he was possibly trying to say was that certain bodies of work put forward in a way as to be considered an art practice ‘fuses expression and information’ and has a legitimate forum within a gallery as it disseminates and articulates. A prime example given is Jim Goldberg’s Open See project which I was lucky to see in 2011. I am sure I wrote a huge review about it at the time but currently can’t find it! I know I really enjoyed the use of ephemera, different ways to display the work and how he allowed and encouraged his subjects to personalise their images by writing over the Polaroid photographs.

The title, Open See, comes from one such quote ‘in the open see [sic] there is no border.’

Exercise

Listen to Jim Goldberg talking about Open See and his exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery.

Visit Goldberg’s website and reflect on how or if it works as a documentary project within the gallery space.

Open See, which was a book and an accompanying exhibition, were both part of a project about what Goldberg calls the ‘new Europeans’ – illegal immigrants, refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe.

Goldberg was commissioned by the Magnum photographic and began this body of work in 2003 in Greece, which at the time had an estimated two million immigrants, most of whom lived a ‘clandestine life, unable to work legally or avail themselves of even the most basic rights.’ This project won him the Henri Cartier-Bresson prize, which helped fund his subsequent travels to the various countries of origin of his subjects: Ukraine, Bangladesh, Liberia and many others.

Described as ‘documentary story telling’ he uses many formats – Polaroids, photographs, video stills, found images and hand-written texts –  all which go towards creating ‘a fragmented narrative that fractures the received conventions of reportage or straight documentary.’

Goldberg explains

Since 1970, I’ve been using text and ephemera as well as photographs in order to tell stories of one kind or another,There’s a thread that runs through all the work that is to do with bearing witness. The photographs are about asking questions, though, not answering them. I’m not a politically radical person. In fact, I’m much more interested in being radical aesthetically.

So does this project work in a gallery setting? Is it documentary or is it art? Is it appropriate to consider documentary photography as art?

Open See does not come across as documentary in the traditional sense, although I strongly believe it is a documentary project; it highlights global issues that need to still be resolved and gave voice to usually invisible individuals. It could be considered to be overly artistic in the way it was created and presented, but the original intent was to inform and make people question rather than to be pieces of art to be hung on the wall, and be admired for aesthetic reasons alone.

Photography and photography as art has become more accessible. No matter how much we dislike the ‘commodification’  of documentary photography it does generate much needed funds for new projects and allows photographers to self- fund if necessary.  This I feel does make the gallery a valid setting for documentary work and Open See, in my opinion, works brilliantly as both Documentary and Art.

Research

Open See at TPG http://vimeo.com/22120588 [Accessed 29/09/2017]

Open See http://www.opensee.org [Accessed 29/09/2017]

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/nov/01/jim-goldberg-open-see-review   [Accessed 29/09/2017]

New forums for documentary – Post documentary Photography, Art and Ethics

Exercise

Read the article ‘Images that Demand Consummation: Postdocumentary Photography, Art and Ethics’ by Ine Gevers (Documentary Now! 2005).

Summarise in your learning log the key points made by the author.

The article was broken into different sub-headings so I will respond likewise.

Preamble

Main points –

  • Documentary photography is a tradition with its own history and reflection.
  • Since the Seventies there has been such a blurring of boundaries
  • In today’s post-media age,  should there be a new label of ‘post-documentary photography. ‘
  • What is the ethical stance of the photographers?

Introduction

Main points –

  • Aesthetics is a complicated concept, and needs much clarification and examination.
  • Looked at etymologically, aesthetics has an ethical foundation.
  • Aesthetics and ethics are intertwined. Aesthetics growing from ‘ethics of perception’ into ‘a concept that appeared to be more and more autonomous and was no longer accountable to anything or anybody.’
  • Ethics and aesthetics is a contentious issue with ‘The media merely see ethics and aesthetics as antitheses.’ ‘Thoughts about beauty and truth seem to have ended in stalemate.’
  • ‘Faded aesthetics’ (a new sub-label?) can be ‘presumptuous, elitist, arrogant, undemocratic and even fascistic at times.’ it ‘judges, censures, discriminates, stereotypes and restricts.’
  • Aesthetics has become dogmatic and can cause more harm than good.
  • Postdocumentary photographers, filmmakers and artists question if their work can be defined on an ethical instead of purely an aesthetic perspective
  • Oscar van Alphen is cited as being influenced by Barthes, Foucault and Bataille, and  turning away from aesthetics.

Photography: objective, aesthetic, colonial

  • Photography opens up our world, enlarges our awareness, creates knowledge and makes everyone share in experiences
  • Photographic images, whether they are documents, snapshots or works of art, can turn people into objects. Introducing cliche and the ‘numbing of our conscience’ – Susan Sontag
  • Documentary rather than being a mirror to reality too often is used as a tool for propaganda and indoctrination.
  • Documentary photography  too often supports the ‘status quo of oppressive institutions and practices.’
  • Documentary film and photography are being harshly viewed in light of  post-colonialism.
  • ‘Representation in its totality is in a crisis’ – possibly a little over dramatic in tone?

Examples

  • Gevers links photography to scientific disciplines, archiving and research
  • Postulates that American artist, writer and activist Martha Rosler is not a documentary photographer herself but uses documentary photography in her work. Subverting ‘qualities as factuality, veracity and objectivity in relation to both the photographic image and the word.’
  • Rosler introduces the idea that photographs alone are incomplete, inconsistent and inadequate ‘descriptive documents’ embrace different disciplines and media, also collaborative projects with people.
  • Gevers discusses Allan Sekula, who has ‘appropriated documentary photography as his domain’ yet ‘opts more consciously for a recognisable aesthetic approach,’ focusing on ‘social, cultural and political-economic developments in today’s (post)capitalist society. The photographic work never stands by itself.’

 

Representation – interpretation – counter-presentation

  • Photographic documents can be turned into commodities which can be distasteful given some of the subject matter, being ‘distorted’ by presentation e.g. The Killing Fields
  • ‘In 1997 the Museum of Modern Art in New York exhibited a selection of the S-21 portraits, oblivious to their problematic role in the politics of representation. Elaborating on an existing tradition, the photographs were selected and presented on humanitarian grounds. The public, however, regarded the photographs as art, an aesthetic appreciation that was nurtured with no shame whatsoever.’
  • A more recent example would be images from Abu Ghraib prison, ‘which were sent out into the world like trophies.’

Alienation as strategy

  • The reaction of the art world to the attack on the Twin Towers was a mix of shock but impotence
  • The awareness of the aesthetic impacted on what to show and how to show it
  • More and more filmmakers are turning to deliberately not showing images, a tactic that goes back to Guy Debord’s 1952 film without images, Howls for Sad.
  • Alfredo Jaar (1994) travelled Rwanda and took thousands of photographs following the mass slaughters – later, he made an installation Real Pictures. The installation contained many photographs from Rwanda, but only one could actually be seen. The rest lay in piles of closed black boxes.

‘The artist’ in aesthetic terms

  • More philosophy from Alain Badiou, ‘the artist’ is someone ‘who feels the necessity to pursue a personal truth and to remain faithful to it in spite of considerable opposition. According to this argument, being an artist and ethics are inextricably bound up with each other.’
  • Truth is not something that can be communicated

Personal is political

  • Gevers returns to Rosler and an argument that ‘photographers and artists have shifted their attention to ‘the small’, the personal. Their goal, it seems, is no longer to change the world but to know it.’
  • The Atlas Group’s pictures show how, on the basis of personal experience, truths can be formed and put into context in such a way that the viewer can supplement them with his/her own experiences and observations.
  • Photographs themselves have no weight. Only those images acquire meaning that have it in themselves to unleash such a truth-process
  • It is up to the viewer as co-author to give weight to the image – Barthes punctum

 

Wow…ok…lots of insights and having to pick between examples to get to the main points which seem to be that ethics and aesthetics collide a lot in documentary photography, that don’t believe everything you see, everyone has an agenda…messages can be put across in many ways. The interpretation of the image is the responsibility of the viewer and when this is realised ‘only then can an image, a documentary photograph, a written intervention, a staged situation, give the other the opportunity to become involved and engrossed.’

Research

Gevers, I. (2005) ‘Images that Demand Consummation: Postdocumentary Photography, Art and Ethics’ in Documentary Now!

http://inegevers.net/site/?s=publications&id=244

New forums for documentary – The Documentary Project

Research Point

Research the current activities of Photovoice and some of their archived projects.

PhotoVoice’s vision is for a world in which everybody has the opportunity to represent themselves and tell their own story

If you want to know why Photography in particular they also give the answer to this.

Photography is a highly flexible tool that crosses cultural and linguistic barriers, and can be adapted to all abilities. Its power lies in its dual role as both art form and way to record facts.

It provides an accessible way to describe realities, communicate perspectives, and raise awareness of social and global issues.

Its low cost and ease of dissemination encourages sharing and increases the potential to generate dialogue and discussion.

The aim of this research is to look at the ‘the documentary value and visual qualities’ of the images produced, but it was also interesting to look deeply into the charitable organisation, especially at their aims, ensuring that they:

  • Design and develop projects specific to communities, issues and needs, and based on engagement with them
  • Promote the imagery produced from the projects utilising media, events and exhibitions
  • Provide consultancy, training, materials and resources to organisations wishing to use participatory photography in their work

They also have a statement of ethical  practice.

Every project they have participated in is visible via their projects link. Whilst not every image undertaken for that specific project may not be available on their site you can research further and discover more at individual links.

Without diving too much into the ethics or consequence of the projects I found this article which summed up or mentioned many of the issues previously covered within the course e.g representing a different culture without being stereotypical, ethics and possible exploitation, making the ugly look beautiful, environmental issues and wanting to campaign to change something,  using ‘people, landscape and still life to convey the true and often unheard story,’ the use of social media and different mediums to convey a message, although as yet I don’t think the images were taken by the indigenous population.

https://photovoice.org/cairo-to-cape-town-africas-plastic-footprint/

 

Continue reading “New forums for documentary – The Documentary Project”

New forums for documentary – Contemplating documentary

Reading this section I had to consider the ’emergence of the art gallery as a valid forum for showing documentary photographs.’ Does displaying them in such a manner give them a ‘quality of an art object’ which in some instances would be wrong eg famine, war, disasters…

The issue of ethics and aesthetics comes to the fore.

Exercise The judgement Seat of Photography (in Bolton, 1992, pp.15-48)

Read the article ‘The Judgment Seat of Photography’ (Christopher Phillips 1982)

Add to your learning log the key research materials referenced in the text.

A long and fairly complex essay on the topic of photography as art looking at MoMA, Walter Benjamin The Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction, John Szarkowski, “Photography and the Private Collector,” Aperture, vol. 15, no. 2 (Summer
1970), n.p. , to reference the first 2 key research points.

Phillips opens his discussion with the ways of looking at art; cult value and exhibition value leading onto the value of a piece due to its perceived authenticity. Photography altered the availability and accessibility of many of these objects. Apparently a Theodor Adorno did not share all of Benjamin’s ideas on the subject.

We then are introduced more to the role of MoMA in photographic history.

From the time of MoMA’s opening in 1929, photography received the
museum’s nodding recognition as one branch of modernist practice, doubtless
spurred by MoMA director Alfred H. Barr, Jr.’s awareness of the photographic
activity of the European avant-garde. The first showings of photography at the
museum resulted, however, from the intermittent enthusiasms of Lincoln
Kirstein, then one of the most active members of the MoMA Junior Advisory
Committee. It was Kirstein who, with Julian Levy, in 1932, arranged the first
exhibition to feature photographs (in this case giant photomurals by Steichen
and Berenice Abbott, among others) in “Murals by American Painters and
Photographers.” The next year, Kirstein sponsored the showing of photographs
of American Victorian houses by his friend Walker Evans -a project Kirstein
had conceived and personally financed. Until 1935, however, the date of
Beaumont Newhall’s arrival as librarian (replacing Iris Barry, who now headed
the new Film Department), no MoMA staff member spoke with authority for
photography’s interests.6

Newhall’s exhibition, “Photography 1839-1937,” is usually cited as a crucial step in the acceptance of photography as a full-fledged museum art. Art museums had been set apart from history or science museums and supposedly provided ‘joy not knowledge.’ Which could explain an ingrained mistrust of taking photography as a ‘serious’ medium when displayed in such venues.

Phillips informs us that: ‘Newhall’s exhibition is frankly uninterested in the old question of photography’s status among the fine arts; rather, it signaled MoMA’s recognition that implicit in photography’s adoption by the European avant-garde was a new outlook on the whole spectrum of photographic applications.’  Despite his obvious interest in photography he refused to acknowledge ‘photography’s place among the fine arts.’  Lewis Mumford is cited as stating:

Perhaps it is a little ungrateful for me to suggest that the Museum of Modern Art has begun to overreach itself in the matter of documentation.. . . What is lacking in the present exhibition is a weighing and an assessment of photography in terms of pure aesthetic merit – such an evaluation as should distinguish a show in an art museum
from one that might be held, say, in the Museum of Science and Industry.
In shifting this function onto the spectator, the Museum seems to me to be adding unfairly to his burden. . . .

Later when it was announced that Edward Steichen was to be appointed as Director of Photography Newhall said:

I just didn’t see that we could be colleagues. It was as simple as that. My interests were increasingly in the art of photography; his were increasingly in the illustrative use of photography, particularly in the swaying of great masses of people.

This was indeed the case as Steichen really didn’t care ‘ for photography conceived as an autonomous fine art.’

It could be argued that Steichen and the exhibitions he curated, for example Family of Man, elevated the role of the curator above that of the photographer, something that John Szarkowski is often accused of.  Steichen’s installations were also novel, drawing comparisons with magazine layouts rather than art galleries and accused of ‘sheer manipulation.’ Allan Sekula, ‘The Traffic in Photographs,’ Art Journal, vol. 41, no. 1 (Spring 1981), supposedly had quite a bit to say on the subject.

This changing role of the photographer from ‘autonomous artist to that of illustrator of (another’s) ideas marked the entire range of Steichen’s exhibitions at MoMA’  Up and coming photographers, at this time focused mainly on magazines for their livelihood, even the most renowned artist-photographers were selling their work for no more than fifteen to twenty-five dollars per print. At the 1950 MoMA symposium, ‘What Is Modern Photography?’ Irving Penn stated: ‘for the modern photographer the end product of his efforts is the printed page, not the photographic print. . . The modern photographer does not think of photography as an art or of his photograph as an art object.’ Showing that not all were happy to have their work adorn the walls of a museum.

John Szarkowski followed Steichen taking a different approach to his predecessor, returning to the ‘cult value’ of photography, ‘he represented an aestheticising reaction against Steichen’s identification of photography with mass media.’

His seminal work The Photographer’s Eye (1964) is frequently referred to and he had no fear in introducing controversial photographers such as Arbus, Winogrand, Friedlander and Eggleston, to the art critics.

It was also noted that:

Szarkowski’s ambitious program for establishing photography in its own
aesthetic realm has been set forth explicitly in no single work, but arrived at
piecemeal in a series of slender essays over the last twenty years. His project
has followed, I think, three main lines. These include: (1) the introduction of a
formalist vocabulary theoretically capable of comprehending the visual structure
(the “carpentry”) of any existing photograph; (2) the isolation of a modernist
visual “poetics” supposedly inherent to the photographic image; and (3) the
routing of photography’s “main tradition” away from the (exhausted) Stieglitz/
Weston line of high modernism and toward sources formerly seen as peripheral
to art photography.

 

The role of curator is highly emphasised throughout the essay and the question must be asked with regards to the final display and  authorial decisions on inclusion/exclusion. On attending talks and study days where photographers have been present it has been interesting to note how many wanted to be hands on, were allowed to be hands on and those who just sent photographs along, am thinking of the Female Avant Garde compared to Edmund Clarke.

In any event any photograph within the walls of a gallery, online or in a publication can be taken out of context. Szarkowski himself stated:’To quote out of context is the essence of the photographer’s craft.’ (1964: 70).

Comparing curators to editors the power of choice lands firmly with the editor and a major difference between editor and curator has to be their objectives; illustrating a news piece versus the attempt to convey a larger visual communication through ‘art’. Never the less no matter the role, both become an ‘orchestrator of meaning’ (Phillips 1982).

This essay raises as many questions as it answers, but does give a lot of reasons as to why and how photography ended up in galleries and is often presented the way it is, especially when considering Documentary photography. Raising the ethics issue again and is there a difference between they portrayal of these images between a gallery or museum. I think there is, museums, on the whole, exhibit work to educate whereas work in a gallery is purely there to be bought and sold. Having said that the number ofmuseums that now host photographic exhibitions is on the increase and they sell a lot of merchandise if not the actual photographs! Gallery’s also encourage people to browse, often allow photographs to be taken of the work on the walls and you can get in for free! I have looked around more gallery shows than museum exhibitions…

Many photographers encourage the tag of fine art, Steve McCurry and Edward Burtynsky come to mind, as does Luc Delahaye. Much of the money raised does go onto the next project and the raising of awareness of certain issues but not all. Who am I in some ways to judge a person earning a living, if people are prepared to pay the money that is down to them. As covered in other posts I do feel uneasy to think of the profits made off the back of others’ suffering.

In conclusion the movement of photography from publications and galleries to museums is valid and does have exhibition value.

In response to making note of key research materials, there were 81 footnotes many seemed to be brief acknowledgments to minor points made. I have commented on notable people, events and essays in my response to the essay but others missed could include:

Jean Baudrillard, L’Echange symbolique et la mort, Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1976, pp. 85-88.

The Adorno-Benjamin correspondence has been published in Aesthetics and Politics, London,New Left Books, 1977

Walter Benjamin, “A Short History of Photography,” trans. Stanley Mitchell, Screen, vol.13, no. 1 (Spring 1972), 6.

America in Modern Times, New York, Reynal and Hitchcock, 1934

Benjamin Ives Gilman, Museum Ideals, Cambridge,Mass., 1918.

R. Child Bayley’s remarkably brief “Photography Before Stieglitz,” in America and Alfred Stieglitz, New York, The Literary Guild, 1934, pp. 89-104.

Lewis Mumford, “The Art Galleries,” The New Yorker, April 3, 1937, p. 40.

Herbert Bayer, “Fundamentals of Exhibition Design,” PM, December/January 1939/40

Edward Steichen, “Photography and the Art Museum,” in Museum Service (Bulletin of the
Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences), June 1948, p. 69.

Allan Sekula, “The Traffic in Photographs,” Art Journal, vol. 41, no. 1 (Spring 1981)

John Szarkowski, “Photography and Mass Media,” Aperture, vol. 13, no. 3 (1967), n.p.

Hilton Kramer “Anxiety about the Museumization of Photography,” New York Times,July 4, 1976

Abigail Solomon-Godeau “Tunnel Vision,” in Print Collectors’ Newsletter, vol.
12, no. 6 (January-February 1982)

Peter Galassi, Before Photography, New York, MoMA, 1981, p. 17

Research

Phillips, C. (1982) ‘The Judgement Seat of Photography’ in October, Vol 22 (Autumn 1982) pp 27–63

Benjamin, W. (1969) ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,’ trans. Harry Zohn,in Illuminations, New York: Schocken Books.

New Forums for Documentary

Exercise Cruel + Tender

The first major exhibition at the Tate dedicated exclusively to photography, giving a ‘stamp of approval’ to documentary photography as a ‘legitimate medium’ with a rightful place within a gallery.

Read the brochure and watch the videos below

https://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/oca-content/key-resources/res-files/crueltender.pdf

Interviews with Rineke Dijkstra and Fazel Sheikh

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/rineke-dijkstra-cruel-and-tender
http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/fazal-sheikh-cruel-and-tender

The brochure is a teachers and leaders kit with information re group visits, but it is very good at reminding us of documentary photography basics with historical and critical context, including photography’s impact on modern art. The suggested book list is one that could come in very handy.

It also serves to remind us how photography gained more attention through the wide use of exhibitions and mentions William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus who exhibited together.

The teaching kit brochure and exhibition covered several themes:

  • Portraiture and the representation of people through photography
  • The difficulty in sustaining/producing documentary truth
  • The role of the audience, what baggage do we bring?
  • The use of a series of photographs and how they are read

A quote I found relevant to many of the topics already discussed in the earlier coursework was from Charles Caffin (1901):

“There are two distinct roads in photography – the utilitarian and the aesthetic: the goal of the one being a record of facts, and the other an expression of beauty.”

The text goes on to inform us:

A third, more conceptual approach was introduced by the avant-garde of the early twentieth century (for example ManRay with his invented rayograms, Moholy Nagy, Hannah Hoch with her photo montage work, again not represented in this show). These artists tried to disrupt ideas of representing figurative ‘reality’.

It would appear that the exhibition title comes from a description of Walker Evans’ work, by Lincoln Kirstein in 1933, as possessing a ‘tender cruelty’. Apparently he was ‘referring to the way Evans’ images were spare and factual, and yet also suggested Evans’ strong interest, even passion for his subject matter.’

The exhibition was very successful in bringing photography to the fore and legitimising the genre of Documentary once more as an important genre of visual communication.

Rineke Dijkstra

Rineke Dijkstra is a photographer I have been aware of for some time.

Dijkstra concentrates on single portraits, and usually works in series, looking at groups such as adolescents, clubbers, and soldiers. Her subjects are shown standing, facing the camera, against a minimal background. The raw immediacy of these images captures something of the contradictions inherent in this common and yet most singular of human experiences. The women appear at once vulnerable and invincible, traumatised and self-composed. Dijkstra draws a parallel between the two groups of photographs. Both bullfighters and mothers are pictured after an exhausting and potentially life-threatening experience, relating to society’s deepest-held ideas of masculinity and femininity.

Here she explains how both sets of images came about and her decision of why they were displayed together, and her ‘lack of control’ at the moment of capturing the images, The difference between male/female protectors/fighters. Why she isolates her subjects and not wanting to reveal too much detail. The reactions of others to how she was portraying men as shaken and not macho heroes, and the women looking unsettled and in a ‘just given birth’ state – links a bit to my essay!

There were some similarities in the shots, for example the aesthetics and images were of people in the aftermath of scary, life-threatening situations.

All reminders of the importance of photographing thing that make you feel emotion, are slightly different from the norm and having a distinctive photographic style.

Fazal Sheikh

Is a new photographer to me.

Sheikh’s interest in photographing refugee communities began after he visited Kenya in the early 1990s and documented the refugee camps near the border with Somalia. He treats his subjects as individuals, identifying them by name, and writing texts that explain the political circumstances that forced them to leave their home. Before taking photographs, he spends weeks living in the camps, giving his work a genuine depth and engagement.

His video interview was interesting to me as he also highlighted some of the ethical questions raised previously with regard to how Western media portray certain countries or situations. He described being angered at the way Somali refugees were being portrayed in America. His personal, firsthand knowledge of the areas being covered gave him the insight that there was more of a story to be told than what was being represented in the press.

He also revealed the aspect of following up on a project several years later can produce another body of work that is equally as valid. Similar in some respects to the project by Dana Lixenberg of Imperial Courts, although her project was over 22 years not a period of 8!

Sheikh had a different approach as well, he used a Polaroid camera and had discussions with the people on who should be photographed and how.  I liked how he felt that text was important as well as the imagery and that in certain circumstances the images cannot tell the whole story.

Research

Cruel + Tender https://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/CruelTender.pdf [accessed 28/09/2017]

Rineke Dijkstra http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/rineke-dijkstra-cruel-and-tender [accessed 28/09/2017]

Fazal Sheikh http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/fazal-sheikh-cruel-and-tender [accessed 28/09/2017]

Post-Colonial ethnography

Now I am back in the world of study, having spent far too long applying for a new job, and eventually securing one, dealing with personal ‘moments,’ attending weddings and generally spending time over the summer on my house and garden, it is time to look at Post-colonial ethnography. (As well as catch up on other study bits and generally panic about deadlines)

 

Having looked closely at control and discipline we are now asked to explore an aspect of that, according to Elizabeth Edwards (1992, p.105),  a research Professor in Photographic History and Director of Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University, photographers and photography is obsessive in wanting to ‘record, catalogue, explore, reveal, compare and measure the human body…’ This was especially so during the Victorian colonial photography era. The methods used by the ethnographers and anthropologists during the mid-nineteenth century are now recognised as demonstrating ‘the unequal relationship between the colonisers and the colonised.’Three names we are introduced to are: Thomas H Huxley, Louis Agassiz and J T Zealy.

 

Thomas H Huxley was a pioneering biologist and educator who supported Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and introduced an anthropometric method which all colonial governors were asked to adopt. Naturalist and scientist Louis Agassiz, in another project, commissioned J T Zealy to photograph slaves in Columbia, South Carolina.On reflection, have the historical and contemporary photographers who captured indigenous groups, accurately represented the peoples they have studied? Were they occasionally ‘faked’ or romanticized? Who were the intended audience? Was it science or just another excuse to gawp at the exotic ‘other’ or an attempt to make the colonisers feel superior?
In discussing this topic you cannot avoid the name of Edward S. Curtis or the term ‘the Curtis syndrome.’  Edwards (2001) comments on his ‘obsessive commitment’ in capturing tribes of the North American Indian by stating “… documenting traditional culture in the face of irreversible change is not necessarily pure ‘documentary’. It evokes feelings of nostalgia at the passing of cultures and an aetheticised ‘nobility’ which transcends documentary.”Martha Rosler was not so kind and wrote: ‘[he]… was also interested in preserving someone’s cultural heritage… he carried a stock of more or less authentic, more or less appropriate (often less, on both counts) clothing and accoutrements with which to deck out his sitters…the heritage was considered sufficiently preserved… In Curtis; case, the photographic record was often retouched, gold-toned and bound in gold-decorated volumes… financed by J.P.Morgan.’Which makes you question all over again the authenticity and intention of the photographs we see. Do Curtis’ 20 volumes which span 30 years work contain a realism? I would hope that somewhere in there, even if a bit of a jumble, he managed to capture several tribes of vanishing people.

Bronislaw Malinowski, sometimes described as ‘the father of the functionalist school of anthropology’ (which is based on the notion that all the parts of the society work together as an integrated whole) perceived, and substantiated, ‘the fact that the mind of the “primitive” man was essentially no different than that of “civilized” peoples.’ He also held the view that the ‘ethnographic subject disappears at the very moment of its recognition.’ He saw that information being recorded was not a true reflection of the peoples being studied, not their way of life nor their intellect. Also, that once scientists arrived en masse they influenced the behaviours of others.

Malinowski vigorously emphasized the importance of immersing oneself deeply in the indigenous language or languages. But perhaps more than any other researcher before him, Malinowski embraced the value of studying everyday life in all its mundane aspects. Thus for him it was not enough to simply record what tribal members said about their religious beliefs, sexual practices, marriage customs, or trade relationships – it was important to also studying how this measured up to, or played out in, what they did in everyday life.

Exercise

Browse the catalogue Tribal Portraits:Vintage and Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent , Bernard J Shapero Rare Books. Core resources TribalPortraits.pdf and write a brief commentary.

Tribal Portraits: Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent was an exhibition and sale of over 200 rare images dating from 1865 to the present day, some of which had not been on the open market for decades.

A small sample of images are below:

Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--006
African Dinka girls, by George Rodger, 1948. The Dinka are Sudanese tribespeople who rely on cattle herding at riverside camps in the dry season and grow millet and other grains in fixed settlements during the rainy season
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent
Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--001
Benin Woman Smoking, by Hector Acebes, 1953
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent

 

Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--010
Chief Kingo by C Vincenti, 1898
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent
 
Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--008
Contemporary African Couple by Seydou Keita, 1956. Keita (1921–2001) was a self-taught portrait photographer from Bamako, Mali
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent
Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--005
Early Morning Wait at Lake Rudolph, by Mirella Ricciardi, 1968. Lake Rudolph, now known as Lake Turkana, is in Kenya’s arid Great Rift Valley. Up to three million years ago, when the area was more fertile, the lakeside was home for some of humans’ earliest known ancestors
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent
Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--003
Five Turbanned Dahomey Women by Irving Penn, 1967. Dahomey in west Africa is now the Republic of Benin
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent
Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--002
M’suguma Dancers in Tanzania by C Vincenti, 1898
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent
Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--009
Nuba Dancers of Cau, by Leni Riefenstahl, 1975. The Nuba inhabit the Nuba Mountains in Kordofan province, Sudan. Between 1962 and 1969 the filmmaker Riefenstahllived intermittently among the Nuba in remote valleys of Central Sudan, “studying them at close quarters, taking unique and fascinating photographs, which now constitute a lasting record of what was once their way of life … “
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent
Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--004
Portrait Study, East Africa, 1875, photographer unknown
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent
Gallery-Tribal-Portraits--007
Children from the Wagogo Tribe Wear Special Headgear for the Circumcision Ceremony, by George Rodger, 1947. The Wagogo or Gogo are based in the Dodoma Region of central Tanzania. They are traditionally pastoralist, but in recent decades have migrated to urban areas or work on plantations
Photograph: Tribal Portraits Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent

Untitled-1

Noting that most of the images on the Guardian website only featured frontal nudity of women I thought I would address the balance! I also love this image as the photographer focuses on the serious business of capturing a posed portrait of what I assume to be a form of traditional dress other people aimlessly mill about or intentionally photobomb the image. None are adorned like the subjects so it is easy to see why the audiences from the Victorian era, or even now given depending on the images, people assume that different cultures walk around in such exotic attire, or naked all the time, which obviously they don’t.

From researching various photographic works there is a tendency from photographers to follow suit, no matter what the genre. The way in which reviewers and curators write about the images also romanticise various bodies of work:

On Sebastião Salgado:

These Sebastião Salgado photographs were shot during a time of extreme industrial growth, marred by harsh social inequalities and political turmoil. The harshness and cruelty of this period is present at every turn in Salgado’s arresting images, juxtaposed with these curious observations of tenderness and romance in humanity. The result is a remarkable series of emotive photographs, that invite us into a world where – in Salgado’s own words – “dignity and poverty ride on the same horse”.

 On Peter Lavery:
…the Xingu and the Yawalapeti are lucky to have him as their silent recorder, their likeness shimmering for prosperity in an alchemical mix of silver and whatever precious metals it may take…
As to be expected with a catalogue devoted to one area of photography the subject matter is broadly similar despite a few different approaches to capturing the portraits. Are or reactions different to these different approaches? I’ll try to sum it up as I go along…difficult when their is so much material to comment on.One of my favourite images is that on the front cover, taken by George Rodger: I like the silhouette, shadow and the framing, the candid nature of the image, even if possibly staged, and the naturalness of the action. However, not all his images were given this treatment as seen above, although none seem to take advantage or show any disrespect.rodger-keyholeMirella Ricciardi was another featured photographer, and not one I had previously heard of…typical blurb on her site reads:

Born in Kenya, then still a colony of British East Africa; to an Italian father and a French mother, Mirella Ricciardi grew up on the shores of Lake Naivasha in a household that was both sophisticated and wild. She was married at twenty-five to the Italian adventurer Lorenzo Ricciardi, who swept her off her feet and hired her as the photographer on the film he was making in Kenya.

Having finally severed her umbilical tie to the African continent, she now lives in the East Sussex English countryside surrounded by her Archive.

Romantic again, also smacks of colonialism even if not intentional, the ‘I have embraced the wild primitiveness of Africa yet due to my upbringing and background remain apart from it and sophisticated and above all that….’ attitude. Her images seem to veer more towards the posed and artistic and still fall into the trap of naming people within a ‘group’ rather than as individuals.

I found it quite hard to categorically state that I did or did not like the way in which some of the photographers worked. For example Hector Acebes seemed to take overtly sensual images of nubile young boys and girls yet on the other-hand capture some genuinely interesting ‘activity’ and landscape shots.

However, he wasn’t as bad as Lehnert & Landrock:

The photographic studio of Lehnert & Landrock, active in Tunisia and Cairo in the early years of the twentieth century, specialised in producing images of the landscapes, architecture and people of North Africa. Made in large part for a European audience, the work was originally distributed through a series of monographs, as well as being sold from their own shops in the form of original prints, heliogravures and reproduction gravure and lithographic postcards. Since the 1980s, this work has enjoyed the renewed attention of scholars and collectors.

 

 

Lehnert_&_Landrock_-_211_-_Bedouine
Lehnert & Landrock – 211 – Bedouine.jpg  From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

Contemporary photographer Antoine Schneck, applied a totally different creative technique removing almost all contextual information from his portraiture.

There was a smattering of images either taken in a studio or outside against painted backdrops. I always find this odd if trying to reveal an indigenous population within its own environment. The photographers who fell into this trap were C. Vincenti, Pascal Sebah, and even Irving Penn…these images remind me of the typological approach of August Sander.

In conclusion this catalogue illustrates the diverse nature of ethnographical anthropological approaches in capturing African tribes. None supply the entire context or background story, but then what photograph can or does? On reviewing these images and harking back to the exercise on ‘the gaze’ it does make me think twice about how I should represent any future subject matter myself… note…don’t use bed sheets and palm fronds!

Primitive typologies/Research Point

Under this section we are introduced to the work of Peter Lavery ‘Of Humankind’, David Bruce’s images of the San, Juan Echeverra’s studio images of the Himba of Namibia and Alvaro Leiva’s work regarding peoples of the Amazon Basin, and to question if and how photographers capture indigenous peoples honestly and without falling into the many traps there are associated with this genre. The traps being:

  • Decontextualisation – primitive nudity /erotica (e.g. Lehnert & Landrock)
  • Romanticism – the ‘noble savage’ (e.g. Edward S. Curtis)
  • Primivitism – projecting exotic ‘other’ (e.g. in some cases George Rodger)
  • Dehumanisation – the treatment of subjects as specimens not individuals (e.g. J T Zealy )

Peter Lavery

is certainly guilty of decontextualised tribal portraits with his use of B&W portraits taken against a black velvet backdrop, which harks back to the Victorian era and typology aesthetic, thus reducing his subjects to stereotypes. This is quite at odds with a statement made on his website which was to:

make portraits for himself of people he met in his travels and who interested him not as types but as individuals.

My argument is also underlined  by his lack of captioning or use of the individuals’ names.
Juan Echeverria

 

also parallels with Lavery to a certain extent as much of his work it decontextualises the subject from their environment by placing them against a plain backdrop. In some instances the images are printed in sepia or B&W. There is, yet again, a smattering of nudity, some of which seems in context whilst others appear voyeuristic.HimbaDavid Bruceseems to treat his subjects with a more gently human approach to his direct portraiture. As with others many are against a plain backdrop and taken in B&W but he seems to engage with his subjects, they are smiling, pulling faces, interacting with him on an equal level. The variety of expressions reveal the engagement rather than the usual serious/bored detachment often found. He includes small detail shots as well as wider contextual everyday activities. I found myself warming to his body of work.

 

Alvero Leiva

was born in 1970 in Madrid. In 1989 he started shooting travel photography, and has travelled to over eighty countries on assignment. In conjunction with his commercial work, he has worked for the past seven years on The River People. The project documents the daily lives of people along five of the world’s major rivers – the Amazon, Ganges, Mekong, Mississippi and Niger.

Researching this photographer was made fun by his website seeming to be out of action for a while and a typo in the course notes spelling his name Leyva! A selection of his work can be seen here and he was featured in an edition of foto8 magazine.

From the small amount of work I could find he also shoots in B&W and uses large landscapes, small detail and incorporates more natural/candid shots than formally posed.

In completing my own research the obvious name that appeared was Jimmy Nelson, I then thought of Sebastião Salgado’s body of work Genesis, and also that by Jacob Maentz. There were many more I could use but have previously mentioned them in other posts when exploring how famine is presented or capturing the exotic ‘other’.

The reasons behind believing they succeed more often than not is that they generally, not always (they do also fall into some of the traps, especially Salgado)

  • use colour over B&W
  • use candid photography
  • shoot within the natural environment
  • name the subjects with captions

Jimmy Nelson

wanted to ‘create carefully orchestrated portraits of these amazing peoples, at their absolute proudest.’  Endearingly honest his website tells us:

Jimmy Nelson is not an anthropologist or a man of science. He does not claim to have the knowledge to address the questions we have about indigenous and other traditional cultures. He is a photographer and a storyteller. What started as a naive engagement with the peoples he met during work assignments, has over a period of three decades turned into a personal project. The book ‘Before they pass away’ is an homage to the cultures he will probably never fully understand, but who will never stop luring him to explore.

In an interview in the Guardian (2014) he admits his pictures are ‘intended to be aesthetic rather than factual…There is no sociology, no statistics. It’s how I see the world..’

His images are definitely more on the ‘Art’ end of the scale but he tempers this with captions, naming not only the tribe but the individual people within his images.

AG_Exhibition_JimmyNelson_3
Tumbu, Hango, Peter, Hapiya, Kati, Hengene and Steven Huli Wigmen, Ambua Falls, Tari Valley, Papua New Guinea 2010.

Rather than focusing on the fact they are vanishing Nelson has since altered his view he now believes :

Where there are challenges, there are solutions. he has come to appreciate the pride, strength, vigour, honour and resilience of the people he asked to pose for his lense. This provides him with an unending inspiration to continue his work.

In this light, ‘before’ attains a meaning that is diametrically opposed to the fatalistic reading of doom. ‘Before’ signals a moment of opportunity, a call for action and an appeal. To decide with confidence that we value what we have and will take our support into the future.

Jacob Maentz

again uses colour and occasionally relevant captions, even if once more he enjoys taking slightly romantic and artistically composed images.

Badjao (Badjau) community in Mindanao, Spearfisherman.
Badjao (Baju) spearfisherman. (Mindanao, Philippines)

 

 

 

 

Philippines - Typhoon Haiyan Aftermath
Typhoon Haiyan Aftermath – A woman in rubble covers her nose from the strong smell. (Tacloban, Philippines)

The above shot shows he does not shy away from the difficult situations either. When downloading this image from his website it was called ‘Yolanda’ so presumably although her name is not used within the caption, Maentz knows exactly who she was.

 

Research

Davidbrucephotography.co.za. (2017). Ju/’hoansi Bushmen | DAVID BRUCE. [online] Available at: http://davidbrucephotography.co.za/juhoansi-bushmen/ [Accessed 29 August 2017]
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/thuxley.html [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

Jimmynelson.com. (2017). Jimmy & Projects – JIMMY NELSON. [online] Available at: https://www.jimmynelson.com/jimmy-projects [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

http://peterlavery.com/portfolio/humankind/ [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

http://www.juanecheverria.com/  [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

http://www.anotherafrica.net/art-culture/antoine-schneck-a-hyper-reality-of-burkinabe-portraiture [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/edward-curtis-epic-project-to-photograph-native-americans-162523282/  [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

http://everydayarchive.org/awt/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/rosler-martha_in-around-afterthoughts.pdf [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

http://www.nndb.com/people/320/000099023/ [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

http://www.gillianhayes.com/Inf231F12/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/ethnography-ways-submit.pdf [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

https://www.theguardian.com/science/gallery/2008/nov/25/tribal-portraits-african-photography [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

https://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/oca-content/key-resources/res-files/tribalportraits.pdf [Accessed 29 Aug 2017]

https://www.culturewhisper.com/r/article/preview/5337 [Accessed 29 August 2017]

http://davidbrucephotography.co.za/juhoansi-bushmen/ [Accessed 29 August 2017]

Ethics of Aesthetics – Reflecting on the war photograph

The Brighton Photo Biennial’s 2008 programme Memory of Fire: the War of Images and Images of War, explored conflict photography, the making of, use, circulation and relevance in today’s society. The exhibition was curated by Julian Stallabrass, who took the Iraq War as his point of reference.

Whilst researching this topic I came across:

Are You a Vulture? Reflecting on the ethics and aesthetics of atrocity coverage and its aftermath Rughani, Pratap (2010). Book Chapter published in: Peace Journalism, War and Conflict Resolution Peter Lang : Oxford, pp 157 – 172.

Which also covered many similar points but I will probably do a separate review on this essay.

Exercise

This exercise asks that we read the two essays in the BPB 2008 programme and look at the work and the curator selected for the exhibition, writing a short press release of about 250 words in our learning log.

  • Making an ugly world beautiful? Morality and aesthetics in the aftermath by Sarah James.
  •  The Power and Impotence of Images by Julian Stallabrass.

Firstly I thought I would research WHY press releases are made in the first place, sounds obvious I know but a good starting point.

Different from an invitation, a press release contains background information about the artist, the work, and the show. It is targeted to members of the press who may want to check out, write about, or even review your show. That having said, you can also send your press release to clients, galleryists, curators, or anyone you think might be interested in knowing more about your work.

I thought I would also check out the original press release and found one here, which had a word count of 175.

A  review of both essays…

I found the essay by Julian Stallabrass to be uncomfortably informative. During the Iraq war and subsequent War on Terror, we were all made aware of the torture that was being meted out to detainees. Probably most of the general public thoughts went along the lines of ‘good they deserve it.’ But does anyone ‘deserve it’? Many people commit atrocities due to indoctrination or mental issues. Many of the victims of torture, we are told, are innocent, or if not completely innocent have no real information to give.  Should we even trust information given under duress?

The fact that many of these torture sessions were photographed makes me wonder why? Was this for further degradation? Did the powers that be learn anything from observing still images of a man tied to a bed with a pair of panties covering his face?

Stallabrass does not talk about the morality of torture but informs us that the power of imagery has altered from a historical point of view. Torture during the Vietnam War was a state secret, whereas by the Iraq War it had become an overt policy. The nature of photography had also changed and his essay explores the ‘changing relationship between military strategy, the conduct of war, the media and its technology.’

He asks us to consider the vast amount of amateur footage that was published, the embedding of photojournalists with the military, giving unfettered access to military operations, and the encouragement to produce positive propaganda images only. This had a restrictive downside; narrow points of view, some censorship meaning highly controlled and sanitised images, those that Kenneth Jarecke railed against. How much was staged for the cameras, to sell a clean and anodyne war to the folks back home?

The media controlled the publication of stronger imagery due to fear of upsetting viewers and advertisers, proving the old adage that money talks. The rise of TV news and digital photography has probably exacerbated the decline of the paid rate for printed materials. Newspaper barons now have profit as a prime motive, information is published unchecked. ‘cliché reigns..[the] press has become degraded in public opinion…thought of as unreliable, gullible, mendacious and venal.’ To this effect ‘unrestrained capitalism works against the interests of democracy.’

There are seemingly two facets of photography; the photo-journalistic – speeding and intimate – and the ‘aftermath’ images which tend to be exhibited in museums – slow, sometimes artistically beautiful and ‘severely composed’. Whichever facet you view people remain cynical of the press and the imagery served up before them. There appears to be a lack of opposition to war, the Coalition seemingly allowed to engage in Nazi like tactics with ‘inadequate comment from the press…and with little published photographic representation.’ This is why the biennial and the work of Edmund Clarke is becoming more and more important.

Stallabrass concludes that whilst he believes that the biennial is ‘powerless’ in greatly swaying opinion or changing the course of these forces, ‘if…we have become to behave like Nazis, and if that cannot be grasped…if it does not cause a fundamental questioning…then something about our democracy is broken.’

I think I agree with him.

Sarah James looks more at the aftermath, the Sublime and the ethics behind making an ugly world beautiful. The examples of photographers who fulfil this criteria she cites as: Simon Norfolk, Paul Seawright, Joel Meyerowitz and Sophie Ristelhueber. (note to self to research more on SR)

Yet again these bodies of work link to the war on terror, Harlan K Ullman and James P Wade defined the new mode of warfare as shock and awe. James links the political strategy of shock and awe to the imagery also produced, describing an aesthetic of violence, a staging of the key events exploited to create ‘a dangerous range of…war-mongering emotions.’ It is her opinion that this war is also being fought over the precise meaning of the photographs, that these images depict ‘highly aestheticised’, surreal depopulated landscapes. The fact that they appear devoid of life adds to the abstraction.

Both Meyerowitz and Norfolk refer to the sublime and how this art term may need a new definition. Is it wrong that such destruction can look beautiful? This is a question that has been asked many times before over different subject matters for example Edward Burtynsky with his take on pollution and the oil industry. I think it is warranted as the slow process, several of the photographers used large format cameras, offers a different perspective. I don’t think that the empty landscapes, urban or otherwise, make me dismiss the people who once dwelt in the battered tenements. More so I wonder what happened to them, question the right we have to bomb the innocent populous. I don’t think a ravaged building needs to have a dead body or displaced person out front to make me empathise with the situation.

I don’t know that I fully agree with her summation that these aftermath images are totally detached. The Ground Zero imagery had a poetic beauty about them but that added to the poignancy of the event. Sebastião Salgado’s images of Kuwait are stunning, but they also reveal the horrendous effect that the war had on the oil fields and the workers.

James asks ‘does a war photography that seeks to represent the inhuman, abstract and even horrifically beautiful world of this contemporary military sublime offer any resistance against it?’ This was also a question asked by Stallabrass. Is there resistance to the war? I ask is it the photographer who is creating little resistance or the political will of the people that is influencing the imagery?

The article leaves us to contemplate the success or failure of this type of work, reminding us that ‘the sublime is the peculiar place where aesthetics and ethics merge, and that it is an uncomfortable coalition at the best of times.

 

followed by the press release…

Press Release

 

Memory of Fire: the War of Images and Images of War – BPB 2008
The Brighton Photo Biennial feasts on strong meat this year. Guest curator Professor Julian Stallabrass, lecturer at the Courtauld Institute, is also a writer and photographer, with a keen interest in the relationship between art and the political. Along with other renowned theorists he investigates the urgent issues which arise from the depiction of war, the use of these images by the media, the circulation of unofficial amateur images, censorship, the military as a PR and image-producing machine, and the impact of digital media.

 
The Biennial, housed in several venues from Bexhill on Sea to Chichester, Portsmouth, Winchester, as well as in Brighton, will display images ranging from the Russian Revolution to more recent conflict, focusing predominantly on Iraq and Afghanistan. It will analyse how images are informed by the changing social and political climate.

 
Fully embracing the multimedia experience itself, this year BPB 2008 with three exhibition venues in Brighton, will have on offer an extensive film programme, talks, workshops and portfolio reviews along with a series of participatory and publicly sited projects. Furthermore, BPB 2008 looks to inspire the vast online community by launching a new website as a platform for ideas and discussion around the theme of photography and conflict.

 

Research

https://shop.photoworks.org.uk/products/memory-of-fire-images-of-war-and-the-war-of-images-julian-stallabrass    [Accessed 4/07/2017]

https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-192053616/brighton-photo-biennial-memory-of-fire-the-war-of [Accessed 4/07/2017]

https://thepracticalartworld.com/2011/06/19/how-to-create-a-press-release-for-your-art-exhibition/ [Accessed 4/07/2017]

https://thevaultimaging.wordpress.com/2008/06/20/recent-press-release-brighton-photo-biennial-2008-memory-of-fire-the-war-of-images-and-images-of-war/ [Accessed 4/07/2017]

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/guy-lane-memory-of-fire-the-war-of-images-and-images-of-war [Accessed 4/07/2017]

Are You a Vulture? Reflecting on the ethics and aesthetics of atrocity coverage and its aftermath Rughani, Pratap (2010). Book Chapter published in: Peace Journalism, War and Conflict Resolution Peter Lang : Oxford, pp 157 – 172.