Part One – The Photograph as Document
Project 1 – Eyewitnesses?
Look up photographs of emergencies. Are these pictures objective? Can pictures ever be objective?
The definition of Objectivity is “Objectivity is a noun that means a lack of bias, judgment, or prejudice. Maintaining one’s objectivity is the most important job of a judge”. Photograph that feature in news stories can be objective. For example the photographer may have had a spilt second to take the photo, in order to capture the moment. The photographer is just photographing what they see. A photo can objective when the photographer doesn’t stage or position the people in the photo to get the picture they want, instead they just photograph as it happens. With emergency news stories, the event may happen very quickly, so there is simply no time to show bias, or judgment in the photo. One question to ask is how can you show bias when taking a photo in a fast moving situation, you just take the photos. On the other hand, photographs can be bias, so cannot be objective. There is always the chance that the photographer is being unintentially bias or judgmental. The photographer chooses what to photograph, this shows a level of bias, meaning the viewer is not getting the whole picture. The photographer can also choose to photography a certain side of what is happening, ignoring what is happening in another angle. News stories tend to try and shock or provoke emotion in the viewer, the same can be said of the photographs that accompany the stories, and this shows the lack of objectivity. The images we see as part of the news stories have been chosen out of hundreds of other photos, what made them choose the final images, what was in the other rejected images. This shows a clear lack of objectivity in photographs of news items.
BBC. (2005) Bomb attacks on London. BBC. [Online] Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/7/newsid_4942000/4942238.stm [Accessed: 13th of October 2015]
BBC. 1987: King’s Cross station fire ‘kills 27. BBC. [Online] Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/18/newsid_2519000/2519675.stm [Accessed: 13th of October 2015]
BBC. 2001: US rocked by day of terror. BBC. [Online] Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/11/newsid_2514000/2514627.stm [Accessed: 13th of October 2015]
Sharwood, A. (2015) 30 pictures of 9/11 that show you why you should never forget. NewsAU. [Online] Available from: http://www.news.com.au/world/pictures-of-911-that-show-you-why-you-should-never-forget/story-fndir2ev-1226717187453 [Accessed: 13th of October 2015]
The Telegraph. (2014) Lockerbie bombing: are these the men who really brought down Pan Am 103? The Telegraph. [Online] Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10688179/Lockerbie-bombing-are-these-the-men-who-really-brought-down-Pan-Am-103.html [Accessed: 13th of October]
Vocabulary. Objectivity. [Online]. Available from: http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/objectivity [Accessed: 10th October 2015].
Project 2 – Photojournalism
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?
Martha Rosler is an American artist, who concentrates on social issues. Rosler believes that certain photographers did not help the social issues as their work may apparent the distance between the richer and the poorer in society. She stated that, “Documentary, as we know it carries (old) information about a group of powerless people to another group addressed as socially powerful” (Rosler, 2004). She believes that the powerless people who relied on the powerful was not beneficial and instead increased the distance between the two.
I think Martha Rosler is slightly unfair on socially driven photographers. Lewis Hine for example, photographed child labour in American between the years 1908 and 1912 in an effort to show the working conditions and the dangers that those children faced. By doing this he raised awareness of child labour and helped to change the opinion on child workers. I personally do not think that the work is exploitative or patronising, as it the photographs are needed for the photographer to raise awareness in order to encourage change. But the people being photographed may find it distressing. Balance is important as to whether the feelings of the person being photographs outweighs those who benefit. It depends entirely who benefits, if the people being photographed, for example in Hines case, the children benefit from social change due to the photographs, then this is the best outcome for them. However, if the photographs are exploited by the media, and only used for selling newspapers and not actually helping anyone, then it does matter. Photography can definitely change situations, by spreading awareness of the issue, and informing the public of the problem. If done correctly, photography can help massively in changing situations.
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?
Susan Sontag as an American writer, who wrote on a variety of topics including photography. I do not think images of ware are necessary to provoke change. Whilst they do provide people with the knowledge of what is happening around the world, I do not think they are enough to cause a change. Seeing the images may provoke emotion, and some may feel the need to help, but the photographs do not provoke enough people into action. I do agree with Sontag’s view that horrific images of war numb viewers’ responses. We see these images everyday, on the news, in newspapers, even in films or television programmes. They have now become the norm. People are no longer as shocked as they would have been a while ago. Even though the media and photographers need to provide images, and images that would cause a response from their viewers, I believe this has caused the problem in the first time, as by showing these types of images almost everyday, people are getting less effected by them and it is now just seen as the norm.
Do you need to be an insider in order to produce a successful documentary project?
I managed to find a copy of Abigail Solomon-Godeau’s work Inside/Out in a book call the Basic Critical Theory for Photographers. In which she believes that the photographer should be taking a distant approach to the project instead of being an insider or an outsider. In general I do not believe you have to be an insider in order to produce a successful documentary project. The key is to be impartial. Being an insider can cause problem, as they will always be bias showing though on the photographs. The photographer may no even be aware of what they are doing, but they are going to have an idea of what they want to photograph, and by doing this they may not be showing the whole story, so would the viewer really be informed fully from their project. The same could be said for an outsider. The benefit of being an insider is that they have prior knowledge of the event and background, which the outsider would not have; this could cause problems for the outsider. But this insider knowledge is not necessary to create a successful documentary project. I believe it really depends on the project itself, as to whether being an insider or an outsider is more beneficial.
Bio. Susan Sontag. [Online] Available from: http://www.biography.com/people/susan-sontag-9488814#synopsis [Accessed: 25th of October 2015].
La Grange. (2013) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers. USA: Focal Press, Page 125-132.
Rosler, M. (2004) Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Writings, 1975-2001. USA: MIT Press, Page 179.
Rosler, M. Bio. [Online] Available from: http://www.martharosler.net/about/bio.html [Accessed: 20th October 2015].
The History Place. Child Labor in America 1908-1912 Photographs of Lewis W. Hine. [Online] Available from: http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/ [Accessed: 20th of October 2015].
Project 3 – Reportage
Research contemporary Street Photographers
There are many famous contemporary street photographers. Helen Levitt, who was born in 1913, was a very famous street photographer. She photographed the streets and people of New York. Her photos show people going about their daily tasks, people talking, children playing, just general life. But there is an element of surrealism to some of her photographs. She was also one of the first to photograph streets in colour. Joel Sternfeld is a famous American street photographer, who uses colour. One of his most famous images is of fireman buying a pumpkin at a farm market whilst there is a burning house in the background being put out by his colleagues. When first observing this photograph, you may look and think its terrible that a fireman abandons his post to buy a pumpkin but this is where Sternfeld proves that photographs can show a scene that could have two meanings. In actual fact the fire was a controlled exercises for the fire department and the fireman buying the pumpkin was on his break. Fred Herzog was one of the first photographers to do street photography in colour, using the kodachrome slide film. His photographs have provides a clear look into the cities and people of the time, with his photos being in colour, more detail is available. Rui Palha is a Lisbon born photographer who uses black and white to photograph streets in his area. He aims for his photographs to tell a story of the subject. Eric Kim is a another contemporary street photographer. He primarily shoots in colour but recently tried street photography in colour; he stated “Shooting color has also helped me see the world in a new and refreshing way” (Kim). He goes on to say that it shouldn’t be a choice of either or, both black and white images and colour have there advantages and are more suitable to certain areas.
What difference does colour make to a genre that traditionally was predominantly Black and White?
Street Photography has always been primarily black and white. But the use of colour is increasing in popularity. Colour can emphasis features in a picture for example the time of year, with colour things such as autumn leaves are easily seen whereas in black and white it could be any season. Colour also allows the photographer to highlight certain parts of the images, and make them standout. For example a street scene with a Coca-Cola vending machine illuminated in red, this would standout, but in black and white it wouldn’t look as appropriate as it would in colour as everyone would recognize Coca-Cola by the red colouring. Other items such as clothing would standout in colour, in all colour could produce a more informative picture against the black and white norm. However black and white continues to be the norm for street photography. This could be down to tradition, as that’s what the original and famous street photographers used. But a black and white photograph has a way of showing emotion. Black and white photographs have a classic and simple feel to them; they draw the viewer’s attention and are less distracting than colour photographs. Some photographs are more appropriate in black and white, for example portraits in black and white have a artistic quality to them. Black and white photography has the benefit also of being able to hid certain technical faults, which would otherwise be very noticeable in colour.
Can you spot the shift way from the influence of surrealism?
Surrealism has been used in photography for over a century. The images convey anything from dreams to hallucination. It questions the boundaries between the irrational and the real. But with photography there are limitation to be able to show surrealism. Lee Miller and Man Ray were one of the first to overcome this limitation, and were able to convey surrealism with ease in their photographs. Surrealism became apparent in photography after the First World War, in an attempt to free people from the restrictions of the time. Some have argued that surrealism in photography started much earlier, one such person is Susan Sontag who believe that surrealism in photographs begin as early as the 1850s. Surreal photographs can vary, but in general there are certain characteristics that can be seen in surreal images. These included blur, intense texture, increased sharpness, increased contrast or colour, composites, illusions, primitive, or even a movement frozen. Surrealism in street photography can be found in the early beginnings of surrealism in art. Famous street photographs such as Lewis Hine, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helen Levitt and Manual Alvarez Bravo had a surrealist quality to their photographs. Manual Alvarez Bravo was asked by Andre Breton, who had invented surrealism to provide an image for an exhibition cover. Alvarez Bravo produced a number of surrealist images in his lifetime. There was a shift away from surrealism in street photography after the Second World War, but I do not think it has completely finished. There are still photographers today who try to capture the surreal on the streets. One such photographer is Natan Dvir, who uses billboards and the street below them to create his surreal images.
How is Irony used to comment on British-ness or American values?
Irony is a common theme in photography, and it can especially be seen in street photography. The definition of irony is ‘a situation in which something which was intended to have a particular result has the opposite or a very different result’. Irony in photography can be used to remark on American values. For example in a photograph taken by Margaret Bourke-White in 1937, there is a billboard stating that the World’s highest standing of living was found in America, and That there is no way like the American way. The billboard features an image of a ‘typical’ American family, with two parents, two children and a dog. But in front of the billboard is a line of African Americas; this photo was taken after a flood caused devastation in Ohio. These people had probably lost their homes, and were queuing for help.
Irony is also used to comment on Britishness. For example Matt Stuart, tries to convey irony in his street photography. The image here shows a businessman, who has just brought a copy of FHM and is putting it in his bag. This is not what you would normally see or think of when you think of a British businessman. Irony can have several effects in photography.
Atget Photography. Helen Levitt. [Online] Available from: http://www.atgetphotography.com/The-Photographers/Helen-Levitt.html [Accessed: 22nd of October 2015].
Iconic Photos. Joel Sternfeld; McLean, Virginia; December 1978. [Online] Available at: https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/joel-sternfeld-mclean-virginia-december-1978/ [Accessed: 26th of October 2015].
Magazine. (2013) Fred Herzog: Street Photography. NGC Magazine. [Online] Available at: http://www.ngcmagazine.ca/exhibitions/fred-herzog-street-photography [Accessed: 27th of October 2015].
Kim, E. (2011) Interview with Rui Palha, Black and White Street Photographer Extraordinaire from Lisbon. [Online] Available from: http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2011/04/13/interview-with-rui-palha-black-and-white-street-photographer-extraordinaire-from-lisbon/ [Accessed: 21st of October 2015].
Kim, E. (2012). 7 Things I Have Learned About Shooting Street Photography in Color. [Online] Available from: http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2012/08/06/7-things-i-have-learned-about-shooting-street-photography-in-color/ [Accessed: 22nd of October 2015].
Leica Liker. Photograph. [Online] Available from: https://leicaliker.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/2-gabi-girl-dog.jpg [Accessed: 21st of October 2015].
Editorial Today. History of Surreal Photography. [Online] Available from: http://www.streetdirectory.com/etoday/history-of-surreal-photography-ujwwpe.html [Accessed: 23rd of October 2015].
Suler, J. Surreal Photography. [Online] Available from: http://users.rider.edu/~suler/photopsy/surreal.htm [Accessed from: 24th of October 2015].
Blumenkrantz, D. The Surreal Theatrical: Street Photography on Broadway, Los Angeles. [Online] Available from: http://david-blumenkrantz.squarespace.com/mfa-thesis-street-photography/ [Accessed: 24th of October 2015].
Britannica. Manuel Alvarez Bravo. [Online] Available from: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Manuel-Alvarez-Bravo [Accessed: 26th of October 2015].
Dvir, N. Natan Dvir. [Online] Available from: http://natandvir.com [Accessed: 27th of October 2015].
Cambridge Dictionaries. Irony. [Online] Available from: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/irony [Accessed: 28th of October 2015].
Time. (2014) Behind the Picture: ‘The American Way’ and the Flood of ’37. Time Magazine. [Online] Available from: http://time.com/3879426/the-american-way-photos-from-the-great-ohio-river-flood-of-1937/ [Accessed: 29th of October 2015].
Stuart, M. (2011) Matt Stuart’s Street Photography. [Online] Available from: http://buruburu.gr/matt-stuarts-street-photography/ [Accessed: 29th October 2015].
Find a Street that particularly interests you. Shoot 30 colour images and 30 black and white images. Comment on the differences between the two formats. What difference does colour make? Which set of you prefer and why?
I decided to photograph a main street through my local town. I have noticed that in colour the pictures seem more alive and vivid. With colour, it can emphasis something particular in the picture. In colour, the pictures can show a lot more, such as the weather or the time of year. Whereas when in black and white the images are more somber. This may be suitable for certain images but not all.
I prefer this picture in colour, as it emphases the colour of the building, the drain pipe and the warm from the sky.
I do like this images in black and white, as it helps mask the bright sun from the right hand side shining on the buildings. However I think it is better in colour, due the colours in the images.
I think this images is better in black and white.
For me, there is not a lot between these images. Due to the colour of the buildings and the dark door, it is hard for me to choose between them.
Another picture, which I am finding it difficult to choose between. The colour one is bright and shows the building colours, but the black and white one gives the sense of an atmosphere, which I like.
I do prefer this images in black and white.
The colour image has warmth, that the black and white images lacks. But the black and white images has a classic look about it.
There is no doubt I prefer the colour images. But the texture achieve in the hanging flowers in the black and white is a lot better than in the colour photograph.
Personally I prefer the pictures I have taken in colour. But I do think that in general it depends on the street or the subject, which is more appropriate.
Project 4 – The Gallery Wall – Documentary as Art
Look online at Paul Seawright’s work Sectarian Murders.
In 1988 Paul Seawright photographed the sites of sectarian attacks, in and around Belfast, from the 1970s. Seawright did not give his work a title, instead it became known as Sectarian Murders. Whilst growing up, Seawright kept a diary, which he wrote down what happen locally, including the sectarian attacks. He used his diaries to revisit the sites. He also did research from old articles about the murders. His photographs were of the location of the attacks, usually from the victim’s point of view. There is nothing in the pictures to hint at reasoning behind the photographs, it is only when you read the accompanying text that it informs the viewer of what the images represents.
How does this work challenge the boundaries between documentary and art?
The line between documentary photography and art photography is very thin, and easily crossed over. Documentary photographs record events, moments and stories. Seawrights photographs could be seen as documentary style as they are showing places where something significant happened. But Seawright has photographed them in colour, this moves away from the documentary genre, which is usually in black and white. Black and white photographs usually show emotion, whereas in colour these photos are just photos that the viewer must interpret. There is no people in the photographs, which also suggests a switch away from documentary photography. Each image has a text accompanying it, which are from newspaper articles of the time explaining the scene. Without the text, the images just look like a normal photograph but when put together the photograph gets a whole new meaning. For example, the following photograph, has the caption “Thursday 14th December 1972. ‘The Sixteen-year-old youth was standing at the corner of Dandy Street talking, hen a motorcycle with two youths on it drove by. The pillion passenger was carrying a Sterling sub-machine gun and opened fire on the group. The boy fell dying in a hail of bullets’”.
Fine art photography is difficult to definition as it means different things to different photographers. Fine art photographs are down to the creativeness of the photographer, but they usually have a message. Which Seawrights work does. I believe this work does challenge the boundaries between documentary and art, but it is down to the viewer’s interpretation.
Listen to Paul Seawright talk about his work at: http://vimeo.com/76940827
What is the core of his argument? Do you agree with him?
In a video posted online by the Imperial War Museums, Seawright is asked, ‘Much of your work is not explicit in its context or narrative, the viewer has to piece it together, can you talk about this?’ In his answer, he talks about the balance of being journalistic and being too obscure. He wanted ‘to make work that visually engages people, that draws them in and then gives itself up, gives it’s meaning up slowly’. This is true of his work, as just by looking at the photograph, you don’t know it’s meaning, only when you look at the text can you start to see the image in a different light. He didn’t want his work to become journalistic, “The construction of meaning is not done by me, it is done by the person looking at the artwork, and you must leave space for that to happen, if you don’t then you really are back to an editorial picture in a magazine that has to function in a different way. It has to be quick and it has to give its meaning quickly” (Seawright, 2004). I do agree with his argument, the way he has photographed the sites, has given rise to an engagement with the viewer that other photographs lack. The viewer has to interpret the image, it doesn’t show everything, this allows the viewer to engage with them and begin to ask questions.
If we define a piece of documentary photography as art, does it change its meaning?
As I mentioned earlier, documentary photography photographs events and moments. If we being to label a documentary photograph as art, we are going to look at it in a different way. The point of the photograph would become somewhat lost; people may just see it as the photographer’s creativity which is what fine art photography is. It would change the way we view the photographs.
British Photography. Paul Seawright. Sectarian Murders (1988). [Online] Available from: http://www.britishphotography.org/artists/17199/ei/1739/paul-seawright-paul-seawright-sectarian-murder-1988 [Accessed: 10th November 2015].
Ekin, A. C. (2007) Fine Art Photography. [Online] Available from: http://www.keptlight.com/fine-art-photography/ [Accessed: 27th of November 2015].
Nieman Reports. (2001) Photojournalism and Documentary Photography. [Online] Available from: http://niemanreports.org/articles/photojournalism-and-documentary-photography/ [Accessed: 21st of November 2015].
Seawright, P. Sectarian Murder. [Online] Available from: http://www.paulseawright.com/sectarian/ [Accessed: 22nd of November 2015].
Vimeo. (2004) Catalyst: Paul Seawright. [Online] Available from: https://vimeo.com/76940827 [Accessed: 11th of November 2015].
Project 4 – The Gallery Wall – Documentary as Art
Look at some more images from Sarah Pickering’s Website. How do Pickering’s images make you feel? Is Public Order an effective use of documentary or is it misleading?
When I first saw Sarah Pickering’s Public Order, I had mixed feelings. I can honestly say I didn’t know how to feel about the images. It felt weird looking at the buildings and the roads, and knowing that they are fake, but in some pictures you could say it looks like a real town. For example, the train stations, has the signs on it, shops have their signs, it even has a small green with plants and trees and in the picture entitled Flicks Nightclub, if it wasn’t for all the windows being white, it would look like a normal street, but then Pickering photographs behind the nightclub and you can see that it is all a façade. However, on doing some research into Public Order, I found that the place where she photographed is used to train people in the Police Service. What I find interesting is the details that have been kept in, like the names on the buildings, the street names, the litter on the streets, the cars, the traffic lights and so on.
I do not believe that Public Order is an effective use of documentary style photography. Documentary photography is used to record any historical or significant event. Personally I do not believe photographing a place where the police use to train is strictly documentary photography. However, it could be seen as a version of it, as Pickering has photographed something significant, which could be seen as historically as one of the places where the police train.
Project 5 – The Manipulated Image
In this exercise, I was able to use various techniques to create a composite image. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements to do this. I found the method for creating a composite easy to use in elements.
For my composite image, I decided to choose a scene that couldn’t happen. When searching on the Internet I found an image of President Obama, running at the white house, being chased by a dog. I combined this image with that of a tiger, so it would appear that a tiger is chasing him.
This is the final image.
Read the section entitled ‘The Real and the Digital’ in Wells, Liz (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction (4th Edition). Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 73-75.
Does Digital technology change how we see photograph as truth? Consider both sides of the argument.
I believe technology does change the way we see photography. With the invention of Photoshop, people can edit photographs to a high degree. In Photoshop you can remove or add objects, change colours, adjust the contrast, or even make the photograph look more appeasing to the eye. Today, it can be very difficult to know weather a photo is real or has been edited. For example, here are two photos of the Lagoon Nebula, one is red and the other is blue.
How do you tell which is real, you can’t unless you have prior knowledge of the Nebula and know which is real. In this instance the red is the real picture, and the blue was edited in Photoshop. Photoshop has changed the way photography is seen as it can change a picture quite convincingly and the viewer is none the wiser. This causes a distrust of photos; people could be constantly looking at them and not knowing whether what they are seeing is real. But historically, there has always been ‘editing’ or manipulation in photography. One such example is the Cottingley Fairies. The image was captured in 1917, and features a young girl with what appears to be fairies.
People were convinced that these were real fairies, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the photographer admitted they had faked the images using images of fairies cut out of a book. Photographic composites were also popular, often being used to add people into a photograph, such as a family portrait. Whilst these manipulations are not as refined as Photoshop, it did still happen, so it is nothing new. But Photoshop has made image editing easy and accessible to everyone. It can turn a technically bad photograph into a good picture. The software is so refined that it can easily create a false image that people will think is real, and as such photographs are no longer admissible in courts of law.
Digital photography has also changed how we view photography. There are a wide variety of digital cameras on the market today, ranging from cheap compacts to expensive DSLRs. This has aloud photography to be accessible to everyone, not just photographers, and in a way it has ‘turned everyone into a photographer’. Digital photography allows you to be creative, whereas with film, it had its limitations. But nowadays photography is so available that you can even use your phone to take good pictures. Digital technology has aloud progression n the world of photography, but at what cost? It is good that photography is accessible to everyone, but it has changed the way people perceived photography, anyone who picks up a camera, be it a compact, a DSLR, or even an iPhone can call themselves a photographer.
Photography is no longer seen as an art form, it is so wide spread it could be seen as a necessity. As technology and photograph has progressed separately, there have also progressed together, for example having a computer is necessary to photography, this has changed people view of photography as it wasn’t long ago that you didn’t need a computer. It won’t be long before computers are as important to an image make-up as optics are.
Social media has had a huge effect on the view of photography. In 2010, instagram was created. Instagram is a photo-sharing app, which can be used on twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. Millions of photographs are upload daily, all taken on smartphones. People use instagram to share photos of their daily lives, from the food they eat to memorable events; it basically documents their life. But it has also allowed people to be creative and express their creativity through photography. Some see it as an art form, as people are noticing art in their lives.
The main problem is that technology is changing the way people see professional photography. There is a massive difference between a professional photographer and someone taking a picture on their iPhone, photographers are having to adapt to a new era of technology and photography.
Lodriguss, J. The Ethics of Digital Manipulation. [Online] Available from: http://www.astropix.com/HTML/J_DIGIT/ETHICS.HTM [Accessed: 24th November 2015].
Murphy, D. (2015) Instagram: How It’s Changing the World of Photography. Huffington Post. [Online] Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diana-murphy/instagram-changing-percep_b_6727100.html [Accessed: 21st of November 2015].
Naughton, J. (2011) Digital Photograph’s Bright New World. [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/dec/04/digital-photography-latest-camera-technology [Accessed: 22nd of November 2015].
Theme. (2013) How Technology Changed Photography. [Online] Available from: http://www.the.me/how-technology-changed-photography/ [Accessed: 21st of November 2015].