Photography, the shape-shifter

31 January 2020

Nature: I think that the nature of my photographic practice is self-expressive. I can only imagine that there are as many motivations to create an image as there are people.  Common reasons may be to appeal to an audience, such as in commercial photography.  My practice, at this point, is exploratory as I am still climbing a steep learning curve- and have many interests.  Though I have been connected to photography for years, I am growing my technical and expressive skills.  I have been exploring the theme of willful blindness using the tableau using both people and miniature models.  The type of photography could be described as the constructed narrative.  My intent has been to challenge the viewer to think about the situation portrayed as it relates to their experience. 

Context: Last term I created images which explored the dichotomy of America in the 1950s.  American’s were portrayed to themselves, through the growing advertising industry, as optimistic, white, wealthy and perfect. However, at the same time, the American government was conducting an atomic testing program which produced radioactive fallout, leading to the death of three quarters of a million Americans.  I am fascinated and horrified by this fact—and juxtaposed miniature people- maybe typical Americans—leading their lives literally against the backdrop of the atomic testing program.  I have described this in detail because, as it turns out, context may be everything to understanding the images.  My siblings and I grew up during the cold war and were fascinated by atomic technology.  People in the UK, such as my classmates, probably do not have the same perspective, and therefore, may not appreciate the images in the same way that an American of my age might. Barthes states that there are three components to a message- the emission, the transmission and the point of reception. Humans make meaning by using inferences based on information, humans take cues from placement, timing, color and all the senses to understand an object, moment or communication.  These inferences may be concluded so quickly that the decision/interpretation may almost be instantaneous.  Therefore, the message may not be received with the same intent as the image creator.

Consumption: I think that my past work would be consumed as art, such as in a gallery or a book.  Reading about the Benneton campaign, some of the images could be used to support an advertising campaign.  I have one that I think could be used as a gun control advert.

Practice:   Szarkowski’s  characteristics of photography seem, at first glance, to be a description of the choices a photographer makes with every single image. However, while all the elements are present in images, any one of the elements can be exploited in an image for different effect.  I am currently developing a still life project where the thing, the detail and the frame are of more importance than time or vantage point.  I also am intrigued by Shore’s idea that the image is a flat rendition of a 3 dimensional world where every image is a record of something that never really existed.  When I consider how the eye sees, the brain interprets; how experiences form contexts which then inform perceptions in context with Shore’s idea of the flattened image, i can only say… mind blown! 

Barthes, R. 1977. Image Music Text. London: Fontana.

Szarkowski, J. 1980. The Photographer’s Eye. London: Seckler and Warburg. P. 6-11.