Micro-project: Portraits

While some of the work I produced in Arles relates to my theme of “wilful blindness’, most of the work I produced was created through systematic exploration. My purpose for attending the workshop was to gain experience with lighting in the studio and on location. I took photos in stores, on the street and in an empty gallery called MYOP. This experience opened my eyes to the use of more purposeful lighting. Lighting adds dimension and focus to the photo. I had some access to models, but many of my models were fellow students and local people.

Week 6-7 Oral presentation: My photographic practice from the past to the future.

Lessons learned: This project required hours of preparation, and time to reflect on the assignment, how I can meet the criteria for evaluation, collecting materials and creating the video. I have learned to appreciate my past work in a different way, mainly, that I have improved in technique and composition over time. I have expanded my field of interests, and become more confident in my ability to approach photography. I also learned that power point is fine for producing a set of JPEGs to utilize in video editing software.

I am looking forward to creating more of the work which I describe in this presentation- mainly, the tableau, but also experimenting with the snap shot. I discovered work to do- like improve my use of lighting and tightening up my composition. In total, this project has been an amazingly rich learning experience.

Note: What is posted here is version two of my oral presentation. A few days after posting, I re-reviewed it and realized that I did not like the ‘ken burns’ effect that I had used in V1. I tweaked the presentation – changed some slides and slide sizes, re-recorded the voice over (several times). Though this project has taken many, many hours (and it’s now midnight), it’s been a valuable exercise which has helped me appreciate my practice, locate my practice among other practitioners, and look ahead to what I would like to explore.

Week 5: Power and Responsibilities

While a moment can be fleeting, a photo can be forever. A photograph is a visual representation of a fraction of a second, taken from a single perspective. It’s not possible to see what came before-or after the picture was taken- or- to hear, taste or smell the moment. This lack of information force an interpretation of the photo without any other context. Lack of context and a single-perspective can lead to photos which can be not representative of a situation. For this, photographers have the duty to consider the consequences of taking and circulating photos of people and vulnerable objects.

Ethical principles are an aid for considering what the “right thing” is to do. These principals have been developed from Judeo-Christian values, and are in no way absolute. A sub-set of ethical principals is commonly applied in health care and expresses a set of shared values: 1) every person has a right to make decisions for themselves, and their privacy (Self-Determination); 2) people have a right to be treated equally ( Justice); 3) people have a right to the truth (Veracity); 4) people have a duty to do good (Beneficence); and 5) People have a duty to do no harm (Non-maleficence). These ethical principals can be applied to photography as well.

Considering my photograph (header photo: Man in Window, Lisbon, Portugal), I can make a judgement regarding this photo, and whether I was practicing ethically when I took it, but applying some ethical principles. 1) Did this man in the window give his permission for me to take his photo (Self-determination)? Yes and no. He leaned out of the window and I looked at him and nodded. I picked up my camera– and he didn’t say “no”. I feel uncomfortable as he didn’t say yes, either. 2) Did I treat him like I would treat others (Justice)? A good test is to consider if I would take a picture of a neighbor leaning out of her house in my neighborhood. I probably wouldn’t have taken the photo. Therefore, I did not treat this man as I would others. 4) Did I do good? Did I have good intentions? (Beneficence): I didn’t have bad intentions. The guy looked really cool leaning out of his window. But, in taking this photo, there was no advantage for him. 5) Did I do harm by taking this photo (Non-maleficence). I don’t know if I did or not.

Reviewing my analysis above, I would judge that I didn’t follow the ethical principles which I uphold. For this, I have reconsidered street photography and am turning my interest to a type of photo where individuals can make an informed choice about the use of their image.

Of note: My image was used, without my express permission, to advertise a local cancer research fundraiser. I received an invitation to this fundraiser a few days ago, opened the email and saw me looking back at me. It didn’t really feel good. Although the fundraiser is for cancer research and is related to my employer, I still would wish to have my permission sought. I would have given it freely:

My picture is at the top of this advertisement.

Week 1: The Global Image

June 8, 2019.

In this first week, The Global Image, I have been challenged to articulate a singular definition of “The Global Image”.   My initial thoughts about the definition of the Global Image, prior to watching the lectures and reading the resources, include the following: a) The literal image of the globe; b) the universal (global)  understanding of the concept of “image”; c) The universal experience of creating an image and d) the universal understanding of the subject or types of images recorded.  My concern regarding my difficulty in wrapping my head around a singular definition of “The Global Image” is somewhat assuaged as Bate, (2019), states that globalization and it’s relation to photography is an “underdeveloped and neglected issue” (p. 189).

My thoughts have been somewhat more developed over the past week of consideration.  I am thinking about “The Global Image” in terms of Bates (2019) concept regarding the “globalization of the photographic representation” p 191.  The photographic representation- as in the ability to take pictures- has increased rapidly with the brilliant addition of the camera to the cell phone, and dissemination of these photos online is pretty easy and fast if a person has access to the internet. So what is the product of the increasingly ubiquitous photographic image? 

Amy Eilertsen. Family: Lisbon, Portugal. April 2019.

A theme running through Bate (2019) “Global Photography” was criticism of “humanist” photography, such as the contents of Steichen’s exhibit The Family of Man, or image collections, such as Getty.  Bate states that the “global leads to banality and ignorance of local issues” (2019).  Examples include images of which typify and are symbolic of concepts which are universally accepted as the human experience—families holding hands or taking selfies.  I was surprised at the lack of exploration of this phenomenon. I believe that the rapidity of communication of photograph images has outstripped human capability for interpretation and acceptance of culturally specific images. Like Emily Post’s “Etiquette for a Modern World” (Post, 2019) the globally communicated photograph, such as what is found in online image banks, is frequently one which expresses universal proprieties and conventional requirements of social behavior.  My thought is that the global image, in order to be universally appreciated, must be of a subject that is universally relatable.  The common acts of being human, such as enjoying pets or beautiful scenery are generally universally relatable.  Photographs which contain material not which is not readily relatable, or challenges assumptions, can create a psychological discomfort for the viewer.  The rapid and ubiquitous sharing of photographs, particularly in public venues such as social media do not easily allow exploration of the viewer’s reactions.  

Bate, D., 2016. Photography: the key concepts. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 189-210.

Post, E., 1934. Etiquette:” The Blue Book of Social Usage”. Prabhat Prakashan.