Topic 5 – Fascinating Looks
Gazing at Photographs? FORUM & MODULE SEMINARForum Task
Post to the Forum below:
August 1991 More Demi Moore cover
I have selected this image that Annie Liebovitz took of seven-months pregnant Demi Moore, wearing only a diamond ring for the front cover of Vanity Fair in 1991. I see this as a positive gaze looking at this image in 2022, but over 30 years ago this image was very controversial. The Los Angeles Times printed “It’s tacky,” says Liz Miller, 23, of Sherman Oaks, who can’t imagine “why anyone would want to display her swollen stomach like that--and why people would want to look at it.”
Vanity Fair quickly realised that there would be a backlash for the distribution of the magazine and the issue had to be wrapped in a white envelope with only Moore's eyes visible, with some editions delivered in a brown wrapper evocative of porn magazines. Some stores and newsstands refused to carry the August issue, but in total approximately 100 million people saw the cover. Leibovitz's portrayal of Moore drew a wide spectrum of responses ranging from complaints of sexual objectification to celebrations of the photograph as a symbol of empowerment.
Comments on my post:
"I think that the confident nature of this image at the time would have made a positive impact to women going through pregnancy, as it presents a voice that comes from an impactful figure, encouraging pregnant women to be seen. I do wonder whether this would be seen as empowering now though, as it presents women with an ideology that isn't a true reflection of the reality of pregnancy, as it creates a language within the beauty industry that defines how a pregnant woman should appear. I do not have children, so my perspective is specific to my own point of view, but I somehow doubt I'd look like Demi Moore if I did ever have children! I think that the beauty industry is getting better at representing diversity, as I've questioned below, but in my opinion there is still work to do. I find it crazy that this was seen as offensive, but that is just my stance! "
"I can imagine this image was considered controversial and too bold 30 years ago, but I'm glad somebody at least tried to put a pregnant woman on the front cover of a magazine to show that pregnant women shouldn't feel left out just because they are pregnant. But I do agree with Jessica that this image nowadays can also be seen as an exaggeration of how pregnant women look like. Demi Moore looks very confident and beautiful in her 7 months of pregnancy on that front cover. Being almost 7 months pregnant myself at the moment, I can assure you, to look like Demi Moore is not the reality for everyone. I personally feel pretty miserable with every coming week, and definitely don't feel like I would like to be photographed in my current state. Advertisements with pregnant women in them usually contain pretty happy women, but pregnancy is not all roses. Apart from being happy about the upcoming baby, there are plenty of complex emotions connected with it. I found the following ad which sends to me a positive message because of it's text "we can't smack the lady who asked if you are carrying twins but we can make you deal with almost everything else" - this makes me feel like there's somebody on the other side (the designer of the ad) who actually understands how sensitive pregnant women can get."
Figure 1: MOMMY SHORTS. 2014. Healthy mama campaign [advertisement]. From Mommy Shorts [online]. Available at: https://www.mommyshorts.com/2014/03/healthy.html/comment-page-13 (Links to an external site.) [accessed 18 February 2022].
"I remember when this issue of Vanity Fair was released--and seeing it mostly hidden in a brown wrapper, so that you had to purchase it to see the entire photograph. This image created a loud conversation--many debates and horrified a lot people. But it sold! I remember the issue being sold out quickly... Got a lot of press for the magazine, and for the actress who modeled. Interestingly, I have no memory of Annie Liebovitz as the photographer. I do remember thinking that Demi Moore was brave posing like that...but I did not see the photograph as objectifying her. When I saw the photograph here, my mind remembered it immediately--like it is stored in my memory, which interests me.
Thinking about today--what if this photograph was first published in 2022? Would the backlash be similar? "
Reflecting on all my forum and webinar feedback there were some common interpretations of my work referring to nostalgia, calmness, memory and the thought of time passing which all relates to my intention, so it is pleasing to see I am progressing in the right direction for engaging with my audience.
I am still finding it difficult to articulate the intent of my photographic practice, both verbally and in written work, but I am hoping that collating my ideas and research for the Critical Review and being able to present this through the Video Presentation and Peer Review will enable me to be able to practice these skills.
I have been researching a wide range of material to make sure my work is critically, visually and contextually informed and have looked at a mixture of photographic theorists, practitioners, artists and psychologists including John Szarkowski, Roland Barthes, Stephen Shore, Paul Gaffney, Ori Gersht, Paul Nash , Chrystel Lebas, Donald Winnicott, Liz Wells, John Berger, Jesse Alexander, Idris Khan, Stephanie Jung and John Taylor.
I have found that by reviewing and consolidating both my own work and the research undertaken that I have been able to reflect on my photographic practice as work has progressed. This is helping to consolidate my ideas into a cohesive body of work. I have found that it is better for me to explore ideas extensively, then discard those I don’t feel are not as cohesive to retain a stronger core of successful work. I have not fully decided yet the context in which my work would be viewed but would ideally like to see it printed and exhibited.
The strengths so far have been with the images I have taken using pinhole cameras, infrared, and Intentional Camera Movement. I have explored constructed landscapes through mirroring and then layering images but although these have produced striking and mesmerising results, these do seem rather contrived and not cohesive with the rest of the body of work. I now feel I need to develop the pinhole photography further to incorporate more of these within my portfolio.
Photos from week 5:
Week 4: Into The Image World
Whose Meaning Is it Anyway? FORUM & MODULE SEMINAR
Post to the Forum:
This was an advertisement in 2013 for a drive safe campaign created by The Frontier Post to help create awareness for road accidents. I experienced the dominant reading that was the intended purpose of this advert.
The semiotics here are cleverly used to create illusion. Initially, you see the shape of a gun, with the text showing that a life is taken every 25 seconds. Once the viewer comprehends that the shape of a gun is a set of car keys with the relationship between this image and the statement showing that car accidents are a cause of death, it makes the statistics evident that safer driving is the issue.
Roland Barthes (1977) argues:
The birth of the Reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author (Barthes, 1977: 148)
Post to the Forum below:
Comments from my peers:
I believe they're trees and a path, but maybe they're not. The photo leaves me with nostalgia, calmness and an unquenchable thirst for clarity, like a half-forgotten memory of a place eroded with time. If I were to take a stab at your intention, I would say it was to resemble a feeling of a memory of a place.
Wistful, nostalgic, conjours the idea of memory and things lost. Almost "hiraeth" - the bittersweet knowledge you can't revisit a place. (Sorry to actual Welsh speakers - this is my understanding of a word that can't be translated.)
I can see trees, with a lot of noise. More blur on the left t han the right, which would be consistent with a long exposure whilst going round a curve.
It looks like a track in front with snow or vegetation down the middle and sides. On closer inspection it looks like vegetation. as you can see fronds at the end. It might be infrared, or having heard you chat more likely pin-hole.
The view, more blurred at the bottom, has an indexical linkage to the view one might expect if one fainted and collapsed.
In an earlier week we were taught 'E. H. Gombrich ... states that illusionistic images are not those derived from nature but, instead, are those which have been so made that under certain conditions they will confirm certain hypotheses which one would formulate, and find confirmed, when looking at the original scene.'
Which is interesting because I doubt if I saw the original scene I would even think of the view as I collapsed
I can only guess at your intent but my guess would be you are showing us the forest holds secrets. Your blurred shot definitely leaves questions unanswered as to what we are seeing. A pin sharp, perfectly lit, shot might delude us that there is nothing left to discover if we walked down the line of sight.
This image is great. I love the haze static type quality that seems to overlay what I assume to be trees in nature, I sense that the bottom is a shadow, or my eyes, make it out to be a shadow, but the more I look at it, it resembles a face like a portly man with a fu manchu, and trees growing out of his head.
In your webinar this week you are asked to consider the intent and authorship of your own practice and how you construct your work for a presumed audience and context.
You will reflect on your peers' interpretations of your photograph and consider how you might adapt your photographic practice (visually / technically / conceptually) as a response to this feedback.
After the Webinar
Deborah Barker (In Paradiso), Ingrid Weyland (Topographies of Fragility), Helen Sear, Dafna Talmor. Out of these the work of Ingrid Weyland particularly resonated with me as through the materiality of the printed image she highlight’s the violent damage caused to nature by manipulating and distorting her photographed landscapes. I can see this as a medium I could use within my research project looking at Time, Memory and Mortality as using the scrunched-up images within the landscape acts as a visual metaphor for ‘that which has been’ and represents mortality.
Ingrid Weyland - Topographies of Fragility I, 2019
What are your action points? Where are you going next?
I feel this week my intent has been strengthened and I have now found my ‘voice’ of looking at Time, Memory and Mortality reflecting my own experiences. I think this has given me my ‘Why?’. I now intend to stick with Intentional Camera Movement to give a focus and cohesion to my work, but will refine my work by using different strategies with exposure times, infrared, pinhole photography and layering to explore the subtle differences in the resulting images and the feelings they are likely to evoke in the viewer.
A summary of the independent research I have undertaken this week is below:
Gerhard Richter - https://www.gerhard-richter.com/en/art/paintings/photo-paintings/landscapes-14/?&categoryid=14&p=1&sp=32
Movement through layering:
Idris Khan - https://www.saatchigallery.com/artist/idris_khan
Stephanie Jung - http://www.stephaniejung-photography.com/nature#0
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”
― Hermann Hesse,Wandering
Tacita Dean - https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dean-majesty-t12805
Sonja Braas - https://www.sonjabraas.com/you-are-here
Gustav Willeit - https://www.guworld.com/_plata/index.html
Ingrid Weyland - https://www.artsy.net/artist/ingrid-weyland/works-for-sale
How Photography Impacts the Psychology of Attention and Visual Processing:
Movement, Layering and trees are all an important part of my current work, although I am growing more interested in exploring the idea of constructed landscapes and will consider this as a future direction.
Photos from week 4
Topic 3: Photographic Fictions
Subjective Realities? FORUM & WEBINAR
Susan Sontag (1977) makes the observation:
"In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects" (Sontag, 1977: 6)
Post to the forum below:
I am interested in the work of Ori Gersht as his career his work is concerned with the relationships between history, memory, and landscape, which resonates with my own recent ideas and work for my research project. This photograph from the ‘Liquidation’ (2005) series adopts a poetic, metaphorical approach to exploring the difficulties of visually representing conflict and violent events experienced by his family living in Poland during the German occupation in WW2.
Gersht’s compositions often reference the landscapes of German Romanticism, with the work of Caspar David Friedrich being particularly pertinent to this series. Gersht achieves a painterly fluidity through long-exposures, sometimes taken while moving, and often overexposes his film images to achieve a liquefied effect. In doing this, he muddles the landscape’s legibility and the photographs faithfulness to reality. Although his work is rooted deeply in his family history, the images themselves call into question the ability of photography and human memory to reflect our histories accurately.
I have been exploring my own past through walks or derives in my surrounding area. I am reminded of Barthes words of every photograph being a chilling reminder of human mortality and have tried to capture this feeling of time passing and the memory of ‘having been there’ in the style of Gersht using movement and long exposure. The green tinge of Gersht’s image has given an ethereal, almost twilight aesthetic to his image, probably through using tungsten film in daylight, whereas I have used an infrared filter to help with the long exposure I needed and to give a colder, wintery feel to reflect the feeling of mortality in my photograph.
In your tutor webinar you are asked to consider the way(s) you 'make' or 'construct' photographs and identify and evaluate the visual choices you have made.
You will reflect on your peers' interpretations of your work and consider how you might adapt your photographic practice (visually / technically / conceptually) in response.
Prepare for your Webinar
I have also been exploring focus stacking to get a real sense of depth to an image, which was inspired by the work of Edward Burtynsky who also adopts this technique. The idea is still of time and memory, but to make the images more immersive. It is hard to achieve this when viewed on screen, but I feel would look better as a large print.
four ways, in terms of flatness, frame, time and focus. ‘They define the picture’s depictive content and structure. They form the basis of a photograph’s visual grammar’. I have attempted to show more of a reality feel to my landscape photographs by using focus stacking to add more depth to the images.
In our 10/10 session with fellow students, I have received good feedback again, with ‘other worldly’ and ‘horror’ both being mentioned as to how my images have been decoded by them. I am pleased with this response as I do not expect the viewer to share my code but would rather the images invoked their own memories and thoughts.
What are your action points? Where are you going next?
I will now work at refining my long exposure/ infrared images and build a series ready for my next 10/10 meeting. I also intend to start printing out photos to put up and ‘live with’ to start planning sequencing and editing.
As secondary projects I will continue exploring focus stacking and start to create constructed landscapes in Photoshop.
Photos from week 3:
Topic 2: Is It Really, Real?
Topic 2: Joel Snyder & Neil Walsh Allen (1975): INDEPENDENT READING
I disagree with Andre Bazin theory that photography is an illusion by a mechanical reproduction in the making of which man plays no part. Man very much plays a part in the ‘mechanical’ process to control the outcome of the image. I also disagree with Arnheim’s theory that photographs have “an authenticity from which painting is barred by birth”, as since the invention of photography images have been subject to manipulation so authenticity can always be questionable. Arnheim also states that photographs lack the “formal position” and “expressive freedom” from which the “private visions” of the painter possess. Again, through the control of techniques, processes and materials the photographer has almost unlimited expressive freedom, and even control of the formal position through the use of the focal length of the camera optics.
Photography is a unique medium and as quoted by the director of the Department of photography at MoMa is a “different kind of art” unrelated to traditional types but closely related to perception.
Photography does share conventions with painting because artists made use of camera and lens as an aid to render perspective and detail for several hundred years before Fox Talbot was able to fix the camera image to make what we know today as a photograph. Arnhem questions “authenticity correctness and truth”, these conventions can also be questioned in painting, film, writing, poetry and theatre where there is room for manipulation in representation.
Mary Price (1994) argues:
"The camera may be thought of as comparable to the eye. The difference is that the camera is not more than an eye. It does not think. Any connection with judging, choosing, arranging, including, excluding, and snapping has to be with the photographer" (Price, 1994: 4)
Post to the forum below:
This was my first attempt at exploring the concept of time and light, leaving a pinhole camera overnight for a 21-hour exposure. Unable to visualise the result was challenging, due to not being able to accurately gauge exposure or composition, but I thought the resulting image was successful as it has captured detail in the foreground while still maintaining almost ghostlike image of the tree as it fades towards the brighter sky. The composition shows a pleasing balance of the formal elements.
This result was less successful as was exposed for a shorter time resulting in an underexposed image. The foreground is dark and lacks detail or interest to draw the viewer in to the image. There is too much foreground which upsets the balance of the image, leaving the trees looking too cropped.
Paul Nash, We Are Making a New World, 1918
The ragged stumps were all that remained of the Polygon Wood in Ypres Salient in 1917, which was recorded by Paul Nash in his painting ‘We are making a New World’. It is a haunting image that shows the destruction man has wreaked on this woodland and leaves you thinking that if this kind of mechanised warfare can do this to sturdy trees, what has it done to the men who were fighting here. Today I see this as a metaphor for deforestation and the resulting environmental impact.
Chrystel Lebas, Abyss, Untitled n.16, 2006
To record the forest at night is a nearly impossible task. The photographs of Chrystel Lebas were taken during twilight, when light is still present outside the confined space of the forest, and darkness has already spread under the trees. She uses long exposures so the camera can record the barely visible forms of the forest at night, making visible to the viewer's eye what would otherwise be shrouded in darkness.
I am going to continue exploring the use of light and time through both long exposure pinhole photography, infrared photography to explore the spectrum beyond what the eye can see and the use of movement to visualise the passing of time within the image.
In the tutor webinar you will take it in turns to present your work, articulate your ideas, and receive feedback and comments from both your tutor and your peers.
You will be asked to:
I am investigating our relationship with the countryside and the effect our surroundings have on how we feel and behave. There are physical and mental health benefits of walking, being in the countryside and taking photographs and taking photographs and I have been looking at the impact that immersing yourself in photography and the countryside can have on your mental health through finding your voice at different points in time.
I have found my work has progressed from taking photographs which simply ‘document’ what I am seeing, to images which display more of an ethereal look which is more representative of how I am feeling and reflects my own inner landscape.
I have titled my photographs using What3Words locations, where in the relationship between the photograph and words, the photograph begs for an interpretation, and the words usually supply it, adding a further dimension to the images themselves for the viewer to interpret to inform their own response to my work.
The webinar will encourage you to consider how you represent the world and identify / evaluate your 'human choices' (Berger, 1974).
Prepare for your Webinar
Spending time in nature has also been found to improve creativity!
The Japanese term Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing involves consciously connecting with the forest surroundings by engaging all five senses. Smelling the air and the musty scent of damp soil; listening to the bird song and the wind in the branches; looking around you at the form of trees, the patterns in the bark and the light streaming through the canopy; touching the bark of trees, the damp moss and feeling the warmth of the sun as it breaks through the leaves; and tasting the freshness in the air.
I have tried to represent the feelings that being in immersed in nature invokes by trying to make the images ethereal to reflect my own ‘inner landscape’. I have used techniques such as pinhole photography, ‘tree portraits’ where I have heavily edited the images to make the trees more ‘sculptural’ in appearance, infrared where the chlorophyll in plants reflects the infrared light rendering them lighter in colour, and movement to show the passing of time within an image.
All the techniques have been successful, although certain images within that have been more successful than others. Ansel Adams wrote of ‘visualisation’ as one of the four steps in the creation of a photograph, but with all the techniques I have been exploring I can visualise the feeling I want to bring into the final image but cannot visualise the outcome as the techniques are unpredictable.
While on my derives and immersing myself in the countryside I am constantly looking around me and certain subjects just seem to ‘reach out and grab me’. I then decide which technique will best fit that subject.
Walking in the woods - Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Capturing Mindfulness – Matthew Johnstone, The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle, Paul Gaffney – We make the path by walking, Jem Southam, Flora Mary Bartlett, Guy Debord, Beth Moon, Chrystel Lebas, Chris Friel, Stephen Gill, Paul Nash and Jesse Alexander.
I think I’m ok, I just need to see through the mist and find my ‘voice’.
In your critical research journal (CRJ):
I think that Barthes is implying that the importance of the authentication, or reality of the image is more important than how the image is represented. I think this is dependent on the context in which the photograph is intended to be viewed, for example photojournalism versus fine art.
My own work represents rather than authenticates, as I want to show my surroundings as I see or feel them, so I use camera and editing techniques to manipulate my images for this purpose, although it could be argued that this process authenticates the images as now the images are viewed as my visualisation.
Ori Gersht (liquidation), Charles Sanders Peirce characteristics of signs, Barthes, Patricia Townsend, Thomas Demand.
I have read Photography, Vision, and Representation by Joel Snyder and Neil Walsh Allen as this was the essential reading from this week. From the additional resources I have also read Barthes ‘That-has-been’, I watched the video of Thomas Demand ‘Presidency’ and read chapter 6, Ectoplasm from Each Wild Idea : Writing, Photography, History by Geoffrey Batchen, an RPS magazine article on Edward Burtansky. I’ve just received the book Walking in the woods by Yoshifumi Miyazaki and have ordered Informal Beauty: The Photographs of Paul Nash by Simon Grant.
I have continued exploring the concept of light and time through infrared photography, intentional camera movement and also experimenting with focus stacking to add more depth to the image.
Cemre suggested that I needed to connect the reader/ viewer to the process, making me realise I need to show my story/ feelings alongside my images. One of my fellow students suggested (re)- reading Patricia Townsend from the Tallis list (‘Between Inner and Outer Worlds’).
Photos from week 2