Reading Photographs - Forum
Before continuing, post an image of (or a link to) an advertising image in the discussion forum. Write a few lines about what the brand or organisation is trying to communicate about the product or service being advertised. Don’t labour this task: the prose can be as loose as you like, bullet points or note form is fine. Make sure you credit the source.
In 1982, Benetton hired Oliviero Toscani as creative director, which led to a change in advertising focus towards raising awareness for various issues worldwide. This image from 1991 depicts an interracial, homosexual couple with an adopted child at a time when advertising and indeed the media was devoid of such imagery. United Colors of Benetton is a clothing brand renowned for its bold colours, so the interracial colours, along with the contrasting green blanket with burgundy edging is also symbolic of their ‘united colours’ theme. ‘We did not create our advertisements in order to provoke, but to make people talk, to develop citizen consciousness’, Luciano Benetton.
These were the responses from other students:
Great campaign and wonderful photo: the direct gazes, the child in an extraordinary pose - like he/she is giving a rousing speech. I am left concerned about how staged this is - presumably involving models, rather than any kind of genuine family group. Citizen consciousness or building brand loyalty?
I can only imagine the meeting room. 'How do we make the most socially engaging, controversial image possible?'
I don't really see it so cynically. I think inclusiveness is important and showing a range of families (which is reality) is progressive - the antidote to some of the sexist ads like the ones posted by others. Yes it's 'staged' and yes it uses models, but the image helps to move society toward inclusiveness and representativeness, rather than another white, traditional, nuclear family model. And yes, I realize it's imagery created to sell products. It also speaks to the ethos of the company.
It raises the question of the spectrum in concerned photograpy that runs from witnessing to raising awareness to actual activism which is a very different question. There is pretty much nobody who will run an ad like this today - perhaps Nike and Colin Kapernick might run it close, but that's also very different...
READING PHOTOGRAPHS: Activity
Consider these two examples of different Afghan women who are of a similar age.
Write a short post in the forum below (maximum 200 words) reflecting on how you read these two images. What are their similarities and how do they differ? You are free to research further before considering your response. You should also take into account the different dates, the photographers and the titles used here.
I feel these two images have more differences than similarities. They are both of young Afghan women, wearing headscarves and with similar poses and composition, both separated from the background by use of a shallow depth of field. When McCurry photographed Sharbat Gula the connection he had was fleeting. He did not even know her name at the time. He was drawn to her piercing green eyes which had an intense haunted look which was quite penetrating. Was it fear from what she had experienced, or was it the fear of McCurry himself, as it is not usual for a girl of traditional Pashtun culture to reveal her face to a man who does not belong to her family? Bieber had more time to take the shot of Aisha on assignment in a women’s shelter and spent time getting to know her and make her feel comfortable. She asked Aisha ‘Would it be possible to not think about what happened to you for a few minutes and just focus on your inner power and beauty?’. Bieber wanted people to see Aisha as a woman before they saw what had happened to her.
READING PHOTOGRAPHS: Reflection
Consider also the points raised in the presentation. What factors influence how you might read and interpret photographs. Think about:
Methods and Meaning - Forum
Post an image to the forum that you think is an example of a good use of a photographic ‘faux pas’ or what we might traditionally think of as a ‘mistake’.
This might be a ‘happy accident’ or it could be when someone has deliberately subverted, or broken, the technical rules of photography. It could be one of your own images or a picture taken by someone else.
This photo was taken on a 1954 Voigtlander Vitessa (http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Vitessa). It has an unusual film winder mechanism in the form of a large plunger rod. For some reason on my camera the film does not always wind on, resulting in the occasional double exposure. I do like the randomness of not knowing when this will occur and the resulting ‘happy accident’.
This particular shot was taken at Fort la Latte in Brittany where I was on a high vantage point on the fort and so took a photograph of part of the fort and another of the surrounding scenery. The combined double exposure has blended these 2 shots giving a surrealist feeling to the resulting outcome and also created a layering effect to the background, giving a further sense of depth to the image.
These were the responses from other students:
I like the multiple horizon lines almost looking like hills in the background behind the castle. Works in B&W but I don't think it would work in colour.
Oh yes... a double exposure is a great example of a happy accident.. I had to think quite hard to get my head around what a 'happy accident' or faux pas would even look like. Thank you for opening my mind!!
This really is a happy accident. I've had often had similar issues with my analog cameras and the accidental exposures have a special place in my heart. The unexpected and unintentional beauty is often the powerful.
METHODS and MEANING: Activity and Webinar
Write a short entry (c.150 words) to the forum below explaining, in your own words, how their methodologies contribute to how you interpret the work. Please insert an image or a hyperlink to examples of the work with your entry.
Brassai’s was inspired by the work of Eugene Atget, although whereas Atget’s is best known for capturing the disappearing architecture of ‘Old Paris’, Brassai was more intent on capturing the Parisian nightlife, especially the ‘shadier’ side of nightclubs, bars and brothels. Brassai’s methodology derived from his training as a painter and sculptor. Brassai framed his shots so that small areas of light pierced large areas of blacks and shadows. Light reflected in wet streets and diffused by fog, would define shapes within the dark. This contrast gave his printed images richness and depth. In order to light the darker areas of Paris at nighttime, Brassai was equipped with a Voigtlander 6.5x9cm camera, a slow lens and a wooden tripod. He used harsh, direct lighting with long exposures, which were often given an excessive contrast from streetlights or car headlamps. This resulted in a cinematic quality to his images with a film noir feel to them that I find distinctive about his work.
METHODS and MEANING: Reflection
Consider also the points raised in the presentation:
We were asked to post the following on the forum last week:
Post an image to this forum by way of an introduction to your peers and your tutors.
Try and respond to ideas and examples discussed in the presentation. You could use a mirror quite literally, or think about views into your personal world that reveal something about yourself or your interests in photography. Include one or two lines about your concept and/or visual strategy.
This was my response:
I have chosen to use this 'selfie' for as I feel this both introduces myself and acts as an analogy for 'Mirrors and Windows'. This image was taken at the Goodwood Revival on Friday which is a celebration of bygone days, vintage fashion and motor racing around around the classic circuit from the 1948-1966 era. It was part of a series I was taking as a window on the event itself, to try to capture the mood, atmosphere and context. I was using an Olympus Pen-F which is a retro camera based on the original 1960's Olympus film camera of the same name, but to get more of an authentic feeling to the images I used a vintage Asahi Takumar lens. This is shown in the reflection in the mirror which I feel also gives an insight into my interest in the evolution and history of photography.
Here are a couple of responses, one from one of the tutors and another from a fellow student:
'I love that the camera (or the lens) has become the mark of the nostalgia of the even and that's reflected in the image itself and its out of focus swirls of red (Saul Leiter again).'
'The camera and lens immediately captured my attention... Your story about the image and the event has me wanting to see the entire series! There is a great reverence shown--photographing a vintage event with vintage gear... Profound. Thank you for sharing!'
Topic 1: MIRRORS and WINDOWS: Reflection
What do you make of the ‘mirror’ and ‘window’ analogy? How helpful is this in understanding the nature of photography?
I think that the ‘mirror and ‘window’ analogy really helps to break photography down to a very basic level, as it could be said that all photographers are showing you a window of the world as they see it and also mirroring their own vision, mood or feeling in the context of how they choose to show this. Photographers such as Niépce, Fox Talbot and Daguerre showed the use of windows both physically and metaphorically from the very beginnings of photography. Mirrors have also been widely used in photography in the physical sense from the first ever ‘selfie’ by Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna in 1913 to Brassai, through Brassai’s image ‘Couple Souriant, Balmusette des Quatre Saisons, Rue de Lappe, 1933’ to Elliot Erwitt’s California kiss, 1955.
The metaphorical mirror is not always as easy to highlight through a photographer’s work, although the clues are often there for you to interpret and get an insight into the photographer themselves. Robert Adams described landscape photography as being a mirror of what goes on inside you. In Beauty and Photography, Adams writes of ‘…something in the picture that tells us as much about who is behind the camera as about what is in front of it’ (Adams, 1996, p. 15.). Don McCullin’s landscapes are often dark, haunting vistas that reflect his inner turmoil after years as a war photographer.
As an image maker, do you identify more closely with one or the other?
My own images tend to both show a window of my world and how I want my viewer to see it and I do like to use different photographic equipment and techniques to achieve the effect I am trying to get across in my work. I believe by doing this I am reflecting my own personality into my images. I have been inspired by a lot of photographers and I think I draw on this when taking my photographs and think this is also reflected in my work.
What other metaphors do you know of, or can think of, that provide an insight into photography?
Another metaphor which you often hear associated with photography is ‘Eyes are the window to the soul’. This is certainly true in the iconic Steve McCurry image, ‘Afghan Girl’. In portrait photography it’s the eyes more than any other part of the image which draw us in and make us feel connected to the person.
What is your motivation for photography? What do you want to learn about and how can photography help you get a greater understanding of it?
My motivation derived from working in a professional photographic laboratory after leaving college. I loved the whole process of creating photographs which made me realise that the camera is just part of the image making process. Through teaching photography I have myself learnt a lot more about the history and evolution of photography and I am fascinated with both historical processes and the latest technology and how photography is continuing to evolve.
Photographers are often using their images to highlight environmental issues such as global warming, but I am interested in looking at the environmental impact of photography itself with both the current digital technologies and historically through analogue photography and processes. I would like to explore the most eco-friendly approach to taking images using both current and past technologies.