16 February, 2020

“…a text’s unity lies not in its origin, but in its destination”.

Barthes, R. (1967). Death of the Author.


The final phrase in this essay reads “we know that to restore to writing its future, we must reverse its myth: the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the Author.” This is an interesting idea when applied to the making of an image, and could read something akin to “in order for photography to have a future, the photographer must sell out to the viewer”. My choice of words here may be not quite reflecting the original quote, however, i feel that this idea is true on a number of levels. Firstly, the arts wouldn’t exist without appreciators. If there were no audience, the work would remain invisible to the world, to be consumed only by the creator. Nothing wrong with that, it is more like a closed circuit– a pulse is created, but travels the wires in a circular pathway until the impulse is deleted. Secondly, I wonder if Barthes’ supposition could be applied to cases where artists find a niche which resonates with and becomes popular with viewers. Viewers want more of what they like, and the artist falls into a loop of producing similar work to please the viewers, and as capitalism is wild and free– to make a living. It seems that the term “ransomed” as above, could literally true for the popular artist.


19 February 2020

I had my weekly tutorial group today.  We viewed the work of one classmate who is exploring the experience of soccer (sorry- football) fans of a team local to him. I think that his work has a fresh and almost reverent feel.  A group of young boys who were kicking balls around for fun was captured in one image, and I was struck by the scene.  The youngest boy was playing alone with the ball as his older friends were playing together.  This image seems iconic as this situation – the youngest not keeping up and being excluded- is a human experience.  I felt a little bit wiser for viewing this as it clicked that it’s not about exclusion, but maybe more about the desire for the older kids to be recognized as a pack.  The composition was well balanced, and the colors were fresh. My perspective on color may be skewed as I live in a region which is currently covered in white snow. 

Two group members were catching up and planning work.  It’s very encouraging to see how other classmates work, plan and reflect. My work: I had experimented last night with hanging fruit in a windowsill a la Juan Cotan (late 1500-1600 Spanish still life painter) and employed a hen to stand in for the game featured in his painting.  I felt like I just couldn’t get the look I wanted, in fact, I feel that the image resembles a failed elementary school science fair project. I presented this image (as a cautionary tale) about 5 of the poultry/ Dutch still life images I had styled. I received feedback that the failed science project image was the most interesting!  Just when I was ready for a laugh about it.  But I can see now why it is more interesting.  I will describe this in more detail in my project progress page.  Several people talked about how it seemed surreal, and the tutor suggested that surrealism could be interesting to explore. I am suspicious and slightly uncomfortable with surrealism. I believe that my background is solidly middleclass. I am intrigued by Sontag (1977) who said:

Surrealism is a bourgeois disaffection; that its militants thought it universal is only one of the signs that it is typically bourgeois.

Sontag, S. (2011). On Photography. p 49.

21 February 2020

Viewers make meaning: Weekly discussion.
Our task was to post an image which fellow students had not seen before, then comment on the meaning or intent of our peers work.

Red flowers, rooster and blood orange

I posted this image of the red rooster, velvet, flowers and orange. My original intent was to practice the style of the Dutch still life from the early part of the 17th Century. I styled it with sparse decor thinking that the rooster would dominate the image.
I appreciate the time and effort demonstrated by my peer group. The feedback was generous and insightful. The majority of the feedback reflected the dominant (my intended) reading, where the rooster was viewed as a paramount component– not only in his size compared to the decor, but also in his presence. In regard to a negotiated reading, several peers referred to Dutch still life, and one said that the rooster was a symbol of vigilance against sin- which lends a greater meaning to this image in light of the subject of vanitas paintings.
In response to this feedback: I will keep experiment with the painterly/still life/ Dutch master look and lighting as I think it is successful. Peers immediately connect to it and recognize it. The saturated red is strong and can have negative connotations- I think I will not use that again. I am thinking about where my work is going next, and this exercise has increased my awareness of how people read work. I will probably style my images with more visual sensitivity.

Barthes, R. (1967). Death of the Author.
Sontag, S. (2011). On Photography.