Aftermath and Aesthetics-some thoughts and reflections

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Outposts- © Donovan Wylie

Aftermath photography is a very different approach to issues such as war and conflict. It takes a very oblique and less obvious perspective in order to explore theme of conflict. As Booth 2015 suggests:

‘contemporary versions of this form are usually devoid of people and engender a pensive mindset in the viewer’ pp28

A range of artist have employed this approach with Paul Seawright, Chloe Dewe Mathews and Donovan Wylie being exponents of this type of work that I am most familiar with. The image above by Wylie, from his work ‘Outposts’, explores the architecture of conflict through what to me is a very evocative landscape style. The serenity and loneliness of the image challenges the viewer to imagine the implications of the structure and the landscape in which it sits. It is the thoughts of the viewer that must make the link to the  conflict that look place at this location. It might be argued that the contrast between the desolate and lonely landscape and the history of conflict in the area create a tension between what is seen in the image and what we know bout its past.

Company’s essay ”Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of “Late Photography”” makes a very compelling argument for a shift in the way way still photography has been repositioned in the light of other visual and new media, perhaps summarised by his statement:

‘the still cameras are loaded as the videos cameras are packed away’

Campany describes how still photography was one present at the time of an event, it is now much more likely to be deployed in the aftermath to make a pun on Joel Meyerowitz’s slow and steady study of the aftermath of 911. Campy uses this to lustre the place of still images in contemporary society, photography as a summarises or account rather than the principle media for reporting in real time. this is far more often done with television and video. This was quite a deep and philosophical essay stringent the concept associated with memory and meaning and I Company makes a challenging link between whether memory is influenced by still images or do still images shape merry more than the actual event or video footage of it

A key learning point for me in this essay and my wider reading around aftermath and aesthetics is that in an age of fast real time video information, still photography still has a vital and perhaps even more impotent place than when it was to the principal media for transferring information in the pre video era.

I have for some time been interested and intrigued by the work of Paul Seawright.  the image in the course matures which I think is a classic example of aftermath photography is an homage to and earlier work by Roger Fenton. I think the comparison which i know will have been made many times reveals something about the power of late photography and most importantly that the concept to some extent existed at the dawn of the medium and is not in any sense new!

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Roger Fenton- Valley of Death 1855

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Paul Seawight – Hidden Series, Afghanistan 2002

References

Campany, D. (2003) Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of “Late Photography”

Wylie Image found at: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/PlanAVisit/Exhibitions/DonovanWylie/ImageGallery (accessed May 2016)

Fenton image found at: www. artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/123407 (accessed May 2016)

Seawright Image found at:www. paulseawright.com (accessed May 2016)

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Project 2 Photojournalism-Research Point

Some musings and personal reflections!

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Italian imigrants, Ellis Island, 1905- ©Lewis Hine

Do you think Martha Rosler is unfair on socially driven photographers like Lewis Hine? Is there a sense in which work like this is exploitative or patronising? Does this matter if someone benefits in the long run? Can photography change situations?

There is a lot to consider in the questions posed above and from my perspective there isn’t a simple binary yes no answer. In particular the time and context of for example of Hines work have to be taken into consideration in any analysis of their content, focus or intention. These questions also raise a number of sociological issues that I feel are inseparable  in any critique.

To consider context with regard to Lewis Hine’s work though, it is really important to note that when Hine was producing his images the photograph was far less ubiquitous than it is now. Hine’s motives I believe were genuinely honourable , indeed Hine had studied Social Science and Ethics and begun teaching in New York City before he became known as a photographer. He encouraged his students to use photography as an investigative tool. His photographic practice as far as I can see was rooted in his interest in social science and its links to tackling poverty.

‘Social Documentary photography was still  in its infancy  early in the 20th century, yet Hine gave it canonical form”            

Goldberg (quoted in  Koetzle 2011)

Whilst Rosler’s commentary specifically challenges Hine, his contemporaries and those that followed, such as Winogrand, Freidland and Arbus, I feel there is a context gap in some of her assertions. She poses a very functionalist (in the sense of Durkheim’s functionalist theory) narrative about the relationship between rich and poor and suggests strongly that the photographs of Hine made a direct contributions to what Durkhiem would have seen as shared societal norms, i.e. that there is an inevitable hierarchy and social stratification in society . If Hine’s images spurred the wealthy to give money, this still does not mean that Hine was exploitative. Of course that does not mean though that other photographers were not exploitative and there is a whole strand of thought about whether the transition from photography as a tool (as Hine would have seen it) to the far more art orientated work of Arbus, Rosler’s notion of the photographer as exploiting subject aor contributing to social norms may be more apposite.

Pictures do have impact impact though irrespective of the photographers motivations and can support change, I have no doubt about this although impact and change are not the same thing. I will pick this them up later.

Do you think images of war are necessary to provoke change? Do you agree with Sontag’s earlier view that horrific images of war numb viewers’ responses? Read your answer again when you’ve read the next section on aftermath photography and note whether your view has changed.

The theme of war photography and its impact is a huge area of debate. There are widely differing approaches to war photography ranging from the famous photographs of Robert Capa, which present a very ‘in situ’ view, almost an early version of embedded journalism,  to the stark and at times horrific work of photographers such as James Hatchway and Susan Meiselas’s whose work can be horrifically graphic to the aftermath images of Paul Seawright and Chloe Dewe Matthews. The latter two photographers taking a very different and oblique take on war imagery and seeking to present a more reflective and perhaps cerebral (in that the view has to work differently to interpret the image) approach to what are still horrific themes.

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from ‘Shot at Dawn’ © Chloe Dewe Mathews

Yes some of this works shock, some is much more subtle and all has an impact of some sort on the view. I do subscribe to Sontag’s notion of compassion fatigue and believe this is not only about images in the news media but also a numbing of the sense by progressively more graphic drama and fiction presentations on the television and in cinema.

Sontag’s critique of Arbus for example does suggest that to shock photographs have to be novel, contrasting Mc Cullen’s images of starving Biafrans with the work of Bischof two decades earlier she suggests that the impact has been lost as consumers of images become more accustomed to seeing and ultimately ignoring what had once been shocking. The notion that photograph can represent  a real truth but this truth is open to debate. As more images of the same (what ver the subject might be) are shared what started as revealing truth becomes common place, even banal.

That said even in the second decade o the 21st century images of horror still command power. The recent photographs of Aylan Kurdi the syrian toddle drowned in an attempt to each Europe created an understandable hiatus with a number of news outlets deciding the image was too upsetting to publish. This position appears to challenge the notion of compassion fatigue, there are still things that shock the public and lead to an outcry. Indeed the reaction to this desperately sad image suggest some hope for humanity!!

Do you need to be an insider in order to produce a successful documentary project?

Solomon-Godau makes the the very valid summarising  point in her binary analysis, suggesting  that we see the truth as being something derived from the insider view point and objectivity being the domain of the outsider.

There is a real tension in this point that I can only resolve by reflecting on the fact that insider and outsider perspectives might tell us something different, but equally valid t about the same situation.

t the heart of documentary photography there seems to be a What we see and interpret  does of course depend on the nature of the project and both insider and outsider perspectives will bring advantages and disadvantages. The key for me however is that the perspectives will be different and may contain their own truths. I am reminded of debates in anthropology about the varying degrees of validity between external observation and and participant observation. I think there sea some real parallels  to the debate about documentary photography.  Both viewpoints have merits and both have weakness, objectivity emerges from a syntheses and analyses of all perspectives and even then there will still be gaps in understanding. Bias added by the researcher (or photographer) and bias created by the reader (viewer) add to the ultimately subjective nature of a research position or an image. At the heart documentary photography  there seems to be  dilemma regarding truth that is is ultimately reductive and fruitless. Far more important is that the viewer needs to be aware of the perspective from which images were made and use this to moderate what is  seen and ultimately  communicated by an image.

I suspect that all of the above themes will be revisited  throughout this course!!!

 

References 

Cotton, C (2004) The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Thames and Hudson, London

Haralambos, M. (1980) Sociology-Themes and Perspectives, University Press, London

Harrison, J. (2010) A Lens on History-Photographer Susan Meiselas’s quest to understand via images, Harvard Magazine,-found at: http://www.harvard magazine.com/2010/11/a-lens-on-history (Accessed April 2016)

Koetzle, H-M. (2011) Photographers A-Z , Taschen, Gmbh

Natchway, J. (1989) The Deeds of War, Thames and hudson, London

Also the following web resources:

http://www.paulseawright.com/hidden/ (Accessed April 2016)

http://www.chloedewemathews.com/shot-at-dawn/ (Accessed April 2016)

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/europes-border-crisis/aylan-kurdi-syrian-toddler-drowned-bodrum-beach-report-n420776

 

Martha Rosler- some personal reflections

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I enjoyed Rosler’s (1981) essay, ‘In, Around and Afterthoughts (on documentary photography) it is quite accessible and raises a range of familiar and new to me, notions about the purpose of documentary image making. The essay also offers a sort of highlighted mini history of the genre, using the work of some iconic documentary photographers to illustrate the argument she is positing.

I felt there was quite a marxist feel to the tone of her arguments, and a clear sense of the power and inequality in capitalist societies where the poor are very much part of a structured and perhaps necessary hierarchy or order of things.

She makes a strong case for the  gap between the ideals and intent of photographers such as Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis, who saw the genre as a tool to first identify and then tackle injustice on the emerging post modern society of 20th century America, and newer 20th Century image makers such as Winograd, Freidland and Arbus. Hime and Riis were perhaps making images as a tool to highlight a perceived injustice and create change. The latter photographers are used to sharply contrast with earlier documentary image makers approach and fundamental motives. New Documents in 1967 gave a platform for exposure at MoMA of a different form of documentary photography.  Szarkowski, the director of photography and curator of the new Document exhibition offers an entirely different take on documentary image making where there is perhaps a greater shift into the art world and away from social commentary and indeed social conscience.

Highlighting Winogrand, Rosler (1981) says of him that he:

“aggressively rejects any responsibility (culpability) for his images and denies any relation between them and shared or public human meaning.”                                                 pp10

The essay culminates in the assertion that we do do not yet have a real paradigm of documentary, all that has proceeded does not achieve the notion to document.

There is a strong sense of a cubical but realist view of much documentary image making as supporting the prevailing orthodoxy of class and wealth hierarchy.

I suspect I will write more about this theme  but I wanted to record some of the key themes that struck me on initial reading of this essay. These are summerised as bullet points below:

  • Challenging questions about documentary photography as a genre or series of connected genre
  • An historical survey of approaches in the genre revealing something about motive and intent
  • Draws strong links between early documentary work and liberalism
  • Riis after reading a German magazine saw the power of the image over words
  • The notion of documentary photography offer the possibility of rectifying wrongs
  • Documentary images linking to social reform
  • Victim and Victimhood photography
  • The poor and needy being captured or visited upon by the ‘Nikon Set’
  • Documentary is a little like a horror movie
  • The liberal approach to documentary photography often references misfortune and natural disaster
  • More recently there has been less charitable views, the drunk the benefit chat, duster brought on by the subject and their behaviour
  • Documenatry as voyeurism
  • Documentary photographers taking the viewer to places they could not visit, like astronauts going to the moon
  • a new and manipulative take on quasi anthropology- Edward Curtis dressing north american aboriginal people in clothes he carried about!!!
  • Sentimentalism
  • The New Document and shift aye from reform to expression and srt
  • Documentary photography supporting and  underpinning the prevailing class and social order orthodoxy

References:

Rosler, M. (1981) In, Around and Afterthoughts (on documentary photography) found at: http://www.everyday.org/awt/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/rosler-martha_in-around-afterthoughts.pdf (Accessed April 2016)

MoMA (1967) New Documents Press Release February 28th 1967 found at: http://www.moma.org/momaorg/shared/pdfs/docs/press_archives/3860/releases/MOMA_1967_Jan-June_0034_21.pdf?2010 (Accessed April 2016)

Project 1 Eyewitnesses? Exercise (1)

Find some examples of news stories where ‘citizen journalism’ has exposed or highlighted abuses of power.

How do these pictures affect the story, if at all? Are these pictures objective? Can pictures ever be objective?

Write a list of the arguments for and against. For example, you might argue that these pictures do have a degree of objectivity because the photographer (presumably) didn’t have time to ‘pose’ the subjects, or perhaps even to think about which viewpoint to adopt. On the other hand, the images we see in newspapers may be selected from a series of images and how can we know the factors that determined the choice of final image?

Think about objectivity in documentary photography and make some notes in your learning log before reading further.

In researching for this exercise and considering citizen journalism in relation to the abuse of power it is an uncomfortable truth that the internet is full of images of apparent brutality at the hands of Law Enforcement Agencies. It is perhaps the contradiction implicit in brutality dealt out out by those charged by society to protect us that sits uncomfortably.

With the spread of phones as cameras and recording devices perhaps we are just being more of what has always been there but this makes the reports of brutality none the less disturbing.

In considering citizen journalist it is perhaps alleged police brutality in the united state that has mad the news and the wider media. Few people will not recall the infamous Rodney King case. King was a Los Angeles taxi driver who was beaten by four police officers following a high speed chase on March 3 1991. 

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A nearby observer, George Halliday record the incident with a video camera and sent to footage to a local TV station.

That King was beaten seems to be beyond doubt, but the motives of Holliday are unclear. He made the tape and was clearly a witness to the event. I suspect he didn’t feel he could call the police about what was going on. Sending the tape to a new outlet seems on the face of it a pragmatic choice. But not knowing anything about Holliday leaves some gaps in intertepring his actions.

That said, the images of King led to widespread Rioting and a nationwide outcry about police behaviour. The story that developed did not just focus on the police officers involved but sections of the media also presented less than favourable in formation about King. I this sense the image shaped multiple stories in spite of what appears to be prima facia evened of brutality.

There have been many more similar examples of brutality, particularly against black men and boys and there is a growing archive on the internet of examples of such brutality. It appears to only be matched by a similar number of related articles reflecting the lack of prosecutions flowing such incidents. One contribution that citizens journalism unmistakably makes is that many of these incidents would have gone un recorded but for the presence of camera and came phone. In this sense there is a real contribution made to evidence gathering by citizens. What impact that evidence has is unclear though.

A more oblique take on this theme of abuses of power and citizen journalism is the recent resignation of the Icelandic Prime Minister following revelations about his tax affairs and the use of off shore accounts revealed by the release of records in Panama.

People demonstrate against Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson in Reykjavik, Iceland on April 4, 2016 after a leak of documents by so-called Panama Papers stoked anger over his wife owning a tax haven-based company with large claims on the country's collapsed banks. REUTERS/Stigtryggur Johannsson

REUTERS/Stigtryggur Johannsson

Crowds assembled in the capital to demand his resignation and under pressure the pressure Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson did resign. In this case the abuse of power is around tax avoidance amongst the political class, suggesting one rule for them and something different for the rest of the populace. The spread of images of the gathering crowds on social media s well as the news media may have contributed to peoples choice  to go and join the protest. In this sense such citizen images contributed to the intended effect in quickly spreading the scale of the protests. 

Objectivity in documentary photography

“…documentary photography shows the camera at its most potent and radical”

Clarke (1997)

Clarke’s statement highlights the power of the image perhaps more than that of the camera. The two examples I used above demonstrate how an image can influence people, particularly when they are spread quickly to the masses.  None of this though says anything about objectivity. This is an altogether more problematic idea. Yes Rodney King was beaten by police officers and crowds did assemble in reykvic

Can picture be objective?

Arguments for:

  • There is an immediacy about the images I have selected.
  • The photographers were  present and witnesses to the events
  • there was an element of opportunism
  • Events are being captured that might have gone un noticed in a time before cameras and social media
  • There is an element of truth in these images

Arguments against

  • Are we seeing the whole story?
  • What bias might be present in the image maker
  • We don’t always know the image makers intention-for example what was Holliday’s motive for filming the King assault?
  • A documentary photograph may well have a very specific intent on the part of the photographers that may not always be obvious to the viewer

Summary Learning Points

 

References

Clarke, G. (1997) The Photograph, Oxford Publishing, Oxford

Love, D. (2015) Study: In Civil Rights Cases Involving Police Brutality, Federal Prosecutors Fail to Indict 96% of the Time-Atlanta Black Star  Found at: http://www.atlantableckstar.com/2016/03/Study-In-Civil-Rights-Cases-Involving-Police Brutality-Federal-Prosecutors-Fail-to-Indict-96-of-the time/ (Accessed April 2016)

Adverts, passive racism, cynical advertising ploy?

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The Gap fashion chain of shops has come in for some attention in the last week following the publication of the image above. The Gap must spend a serious amount of money on marketing and advertising so I was surprised at what seemed like an obvious faux pas in the release of this image.

Fresh from reading a chapter of Williamson (1978), introduced to me by the opening section of this course , I could not help feel there is something more cynical going on here?

In analysing the image there is the obvious, a group of children striking a range of poses, wearing the merchandise the store is peddling, there are some linking colours in the clothes with the exception of the one black child in the image. Wearing a Pink top, the child is smaller than any of the others. Whilst all of the children have confident looks, the greater stature of one of the children central in the image draws the eye. Not least because she  is resting her elbow on the  black child’s head. It is this  that has casued all the attention and the image has been seen across a range of social media channels with attendant messages about passive racism, exploitation and the inappropriateness of the content of this image.

The Gap’s management team have been quick to apologise and remove the image, but far more people are aware of this campaign because of the inappropriate nature of the content than would have been the case if this supposed error had not be shared. The Gap have also been quick to remind us all that they have done much to promote the cause of equality and many will also recall images of the Queen photoshopped to be black and leading black figures presented as caucasian.

I am left uneasy about this avery and whilst the passive racism is quite unacceptable in my view, I do wonder is this all a deliberate part of a campaign to creat inters and drive traffic. I and many others would not be blogging about this image had it not been so racially and culturally provocative and the Gap has a history for being provocative!

References

Williamson, J. (1978) Decoding Advertising-Ideology and Meaning in Advertising, Maryon Boyers, New York

Petapixel website – found at: http://petapixel.com/2016/04/05/gap-sorry-racially-insensitive-kids-pose-ad-photo/ Accessed April 2016)

Metro Website – found at : http://metro.co.uk/2016/04/07/is-this-gap-advert-racist-5801238/ (accessed April 2016)

Thinking about ‘Narrative’

Wikipedia suggest we can define a  narrative as a:

‘story or any report of connected events, actual or imaginary, presented in a sequence of written or spoken words, or still or moving images.’

It is a term in every day use but I need to think more carefully about it application to the still image or to a set of still images

The picture below that I am using as the banner image for this blog does I think contain information that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. I made the image some years ago and have often pondered on the real story behind the image. The reason i raise this is that whilst the photographer has some control, the view also makes choices about what an image or set of images might be saying. I hope that through the study of this course I will learn more about how I can control how the viewer receives  and interprets the images I make. That ability seems to be at the centre of the notion of personal voice. I can see and interpret in the work of others but at this stage it remains elusive to me!

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The reunion, Brighton 2001, John Adrian Orr

Erik Kessels- Dealing with the Flood

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Copyright Erik Kessels

Dealing with the flood is a range of student reflections on a short but thought provoking blog entry by Gareth Dent about a piece of work made by Erik Kessells.

Kessell produced an installation cal;ed Photography in Abundance  when he down loaded and printed all the images that were uploaded to flickr on a single day.

The work  highlights in a physical form the sheer scale of images being shared with the world through just one channel (flickr) in a single day. Dent describes this as a flood and poses a challenging but engaging question around how doe we deal with the flood?

To be frank, before I even thought about answering the question my mind set off thinking about the water analogy. I am sitting at a desk flanked by two filing cabinets in which hang thousands of negatives, the fruits of my photographic exploring over years, I have boxes of prints and dare not even think about the hard drives full of TIFFs and JPEGs.

I am thinking about a torrent poring out of flickr on a daily basis while sitting at the centre of my own pool of images. How many ponds, pools lakes, seas and indeed oceans are out there in the privacyy of peoples homes.

What is the narrative to these images, what story, however personal do they tell to the owners?  Many of these images will never be seen by others but they exist none the less. In fact for the fleeting moments that an image appears on flickr and is seen by who ever is looking, it is inevitable consigned to the depths of the groups it is filed in forever.

So whilst I can see that millions of people are making images and millions can see them, we all to some extent just accept and live with and amongst the never ending flow.

Perhaps the real question is what in the flow influences us? Also how do we read the flow. I need to ponder on this for some more and then return to this blog entry.

Having thought about this a little more I thought the idea of the flood or flow needed further exploring. I found a very interesting article by David Campbell a media commentator that challenges the use of the flood metaphor and sheds some light on this date.

Campbell suggest that while there is a dirth of images it is inappropriate to compare it to a flood or sTsunami. He suggests that these are natural phenomena over which we have no control. We do have a choice in the consumption of images on the internet. we have to log, look at the people we flow and make  conscious attempt top see this work. We can also filter and be quite desiring about what we see.

So what does this all mean in terms of context and narrative? Well i think it says something about then two way process of engaging with an image? It does emphasis the context in which the image is seen part of the process of decoding it, but it also highlights that the viewer also makes choices about when and how they see an image and quite probably what meaning they assign to the image. This present an challenge for being clear about a narrative, particularly in a single image. i hope I can explore this idea further and return to this thought as the course progresses

References

Campbell, D. (2013) Abundant Photography-The misleading metaphor of the image flood. Found at : https://www.david-campbell.org/2013/09/05/abundant-photography-misleading-metaphor-image-flood/ (accessed April 2013)

Dent, G. (2013) Dealing with the Flood found at: http://www.weareoca.com/photography/dealing-with-the-flood (accessed April 2013)

Joachim Schmidt- Surveying the repetitive

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Copyright Joachim Schmitd

There is no doubt that the supply of images being created on a daily basis is overwhelming. Schmidt, who gathers found images, himself says in the interview with Sharon Boothroyd that more images go on Flickr in a day than he can manage and review. Schmidt is very specific  about the fact that he is not collecting but gathering images, he sees this as a different act to that of the collector. He cites the anthropological definition of the the term to define what he is doing is gathering for his own consumption.

Schmidt started gathering images in flea market and using them as the source for his own exploration and art. Through hard work and painstaking review, rather than eureka moments, he has in a way begun to classify images through his survey of this material. I perhaps use the term classify loosely for he has actually identified and distilled recurrent themes and patterns in the vast amount of photographs he has reviewed. Theses them and patterns lead to the conclusion that photographers whether professional , amateur or family event snapshot shooters continue to make essentially the same images.

He has published more than 90 books of found images in which he reveals the recurring images that we all seem to make.

I pondered for some time on this idea. I had in my Expressing Your Vision blog reflected on the reductive and ultimately dead end making contribution of the popular amateur photographic press and although this might sound cynical I have worked hard to exorcise my self of the years of influence of these publications. I have now long since stopped looking at the publications because they tend in my view to encourage one form of the repetition that that Schmidt has identified. Not only this but they also have a motivation , driven by advertising revenue, to sell us the latest thing that will assist in creating that excellent replica image that some else has already made. Further to this and thinking about Williamson’s writing around advertising, one might argue that rather than being the audience of the popular amateur photographic press, the amateur photographer is in fact the product, with adversities and manufactures being the real consumer!

That said there are many other reasons for the reputation that Schmidt describes, the cultural place of the family snapshot in our lives. The obligatory snap taken at beauty spots and places of interest. A professional photographer friend recently shared the back story to one of his images of an abandoned fishing boat on the shores of a Scottish Island. The image is dark and evocative. what you can’t see though is that he had to que for several hours to make the image because of the long line of image makers wanting to create  a version of the same image. There is an irony to the idea that an image of a lonely and desolate place was really , just out of shot, a veritable hive of activity!

Learning points

  • I wonder if there is a cultural determinant to the range of similar images, do different cultures photographic different version of the same thing?
  • How does the artist create something different?
  • What drives this human compulsion to record the same things
  • Is this process perhaps part of the process of cultural transmission?

Lots to ponder!

References

http://weareoca.com/photography/an-interview-with-joachim-schmid/

Judith Williamson ‘Advertising Articles’

Designed by Apple in California

images apple

Copyright Apple Corporation

Judith Williamson’s  article from the Source Photographic Review brings a familiar but much more analytical perspective to decoding advertising.

It is not surprising the position taken by the author and her comment on deity like of presence of Apple in the technology market is not new. Neither is the on going debate about the poor labour conditions of workers at Foxconn and other Chinese manufacturing plants who produce Apple products. The sharp contrast between the buy line;

‘Designed by Apple in California’ and the reality that this statement seems to be an attempt to counter the; ‘Made in China’ that is the reality for much technology hardware. The dichotomy between the claimed ease and benefits that Apple products bring to the lives of western consumers starkly contrasts with the conditions for workers in the far east is explored in the text.  Williams rightly in my view suggests the lot of chins worker making these products can be compared to the conditions of mill workers in England in the 19th century.

The use of a child in the advert, a child that might be far eastern also raises questions about what this narrative is saying. Along with this the near religious status that the combined words and image appear to be creating is also explored.

There is of course a particular  issue when talking about Apple and its questionable ethical position given that its products are often the choice of photographers, designers and other creatives. Indeed I sit  at my desk in rural Norfolk typing this blog entry on an Apple keyboard, looking at an Apple screen, all driven by an Apple desktop computer. 

What Williamson does in this article though  is break down in some considerable detail the links between the elements of the picture in the advert, that advertorial text and the real context in which the image exists. I was so engaged by the level and detail of analysis that while searching the internet for other articles by Williamson. I ordered a copy of her book about decoding adversing. Her capacity to track in minutiae every element of what is seen in an image and text is very strong and illuminating and something i am keen to explore further.

In her article about a Wedgwood advertisement that appeared in the Guardian Weekend magazine (date unknown) she deconstructs the advert image an picture elements unpicking notions of class, culture, heritage, consumerism and also makes contemporary new links. The comparison of the model to Rebeca Brooks, the editor embroiled in the News international phone tapping scandal brings an added political dimension to interpreting the adverts and indeed the photographers intention.

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The image of a lavish table in an oppulant room, we assume in an up market house is described by Williamson as ‘Post Downton Posh’ and simultaneously manages to create a sense of the exclusive while actually seeking to make the product, Wedgwood chine more accessible. It strikes me that this is a central notion in adversing, managing competing and at times contradictory ideas

Key Learning Points

  • Image and text can exert control
  • Deconstructing every detail can assist in not only understanding motive and intent, but also as a photographer assist me in creating meaning
  • Advertising and semiotics are area I need to study in greater depth

References

Williamson, J. (date unknown) Wedgewood Source Photographic review found at: www.shootgroup.com/blog/judith-williamson ( accessed April 2016)

Williamson, J (date unknown) Designed by Apple in California, Source Photographic Review found at: http://www.ca-student.com/content/her

Understanding Context-First blog post, making a start on the course!

 

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NOUN

“The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood”

I am familiar with the word context and its various meaning , so I considered the notion within the confines of what it means about an image or set of images.

In its simplest sense I think we can say that what surrounds a photograph, to some extent , its physical location, has much to say about how we interpret the contents within the frame. The idea of what is in the frame, what the photographer chose to include (and not include) is influenced by where the image is seen. By location I mean, gallery wall, photobook, travel book, magazine, billboard hoarding. I could go on but the point i am making is that the there is a range of information to process, that leads top some understanding of the photographers intent.

That said as Barrett(1997) suggests in several articles, the External context of an image is central to the creation of meaning, he also comment that this is not always within the gift of the photographer, as an image may be appropriated by others for purposes other than the photographers intent.

Exploring the idea of context further I couldn’t help think of the Latin origins of the word itself. As a 50 something, it amuses me how much of all that Latin I was made to study, nearly 40 years ago, has come back to haunt me in the most positive of senses and I should perhaps regret the negativity I felt to it in my youth!

The word Context is a construction, probably in middle English from two Latin words, the first ‘con’ meaning to join or together and the word  ‘texere’ which means to weave. The terms ‘text’ and ‘textiles’ have a common origin in the Latin word texere.

I like the notion of context literally meaning:

‘weave together’

I am sure I will learn more as I work through the course material but I am particularly struck and mindful of Boothroyd’s (2015) statement in the opening page of the course:

‘It’s also  important to be alert to the messages contained in your own images so you don’t transmit unintended meaning or fail to recognise your own visual narrative.

This seems pretty important advice at this stage in the course and going forward

References

Barrett, T. (1997) Photographs and Contexts in Goldblatt,D. & Brown, L (Eds) (1997) Op CitBurgin, V. (1982) Thinking Photography, Macmillan London

Boothroyd, S. (2015) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

Gwynne, N. (2014) Gwynne’s Latin, Ebury Press, London