Documents of Conflict and Suffering

“You are damned if you remember – condemned to re-live, re-enact the images of your fathers; you are damned if you don’t – condemned to repeat their hypocrisy.” – Gilles Peress

I am quite struck by this quote. There is no easy way out of the dilemma, because pain and suffering will always be there and every individual has a choice to make regarding the amount of pain and suffering they expose themselves to, besides the personal misery they are already dealing with. If one chooses to ignore this completely, you are bound to become part of the inflictors, responsible for the suffering you are choosing to be oblivious from.

This is such a difficult subject. I live in an international community and have German friends. We have talked about the roles their parents and grandparents played in WWII, the sense of responsibility and guilt that they still feel, the suffering their family has gone through, but don’t feel they can or want to talk about, because they are on the side of the enemy. It’s a burden they still carry, even though they themselves had nothing to do with it.

I think about this conscious covering of pain, whether inflicted or suffered and wonder about the effects of actually being confronted with it, what would be the purpose, would it make a difference in avoiding a repeat in the future? Also, what about the bystanders, do they need to know and if so, what will their response be? How about the sensational feelings that might be triggered, like ‘medical or violence pornography’? What kind of images do justice to the stories that need to be told and learnt from?

After reading the articles and listening to the interview with Don McCullin I came across a video ‘Choose Pussy over Pain‘ that tackles the fact that there is hardly any censorship when it comes to violence, but a healthy, human thing like sex or nudity is quickly condemned and banned in social media. Not only is this a strange phenomenon indeed, saying a lot about the taboos we have, but it also shows that there is an entertainment factor in violence and pain that we need to be aware of.

As Don McCullin noted, we need a ‘marked reflective attitude’ towards the suffering we portray and show, being aware of the fact that in order to learn from history you have to experience some of it, have knowledge and a personal attachment. However, violence can be off putting and trigger the wrong sentiments, the ‘goriest pictures don’t tell the story well‘.

It’s walking on a thin line, being aware that when it comes to telling about pain and suffering there cannot be easy answers and black and white opinions, only an open attitude that has respect for the victims and a striving for telling the story in such a way that will contribute to preventing it to happen again, even though we know it will.

Anon, (2017). [image] Available at: https://vimeo.com/213723715 [Accessed 3 May 2017].

Bbc.co.uk. (2017). BBC – Radio 4 Excess Baggage – 13/02/2010. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b00qlgzg [Accessed 3 May 2017].

issuu. (2017). Issue 23. [online] Available at: http://issuu.com/foto8/docs/issue23 [Accessed 3 May 2017].

 

 

Gaze and Control – Exercise

The article ‘The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes: The Example of National Geographic’, touched an area with which I struggle almost every time I photograph. Because I move around from country to country, I always find myself in places that are culturally and linguistically unfamiliar and fascinating. Even when on holiday in my home country, I feel that I am photographing people who are culturally different than I am.

When photographing in the street I am aware of the short encounters that take place between me and the subject and the fact that I will have a tangible image of the person while the person will probably forget me in an instant. The image starts leading a life on its own, sometimes on social media, sometimes used as an object of study, sometimes even sold on print. In what sense do I do justice to the people and places I ‘capture’?

I am aware of the ‘female’ as well as the ‘cultural’ gaze when I photograph my daughters or people in the country I reside in. How will men look at photos of my girls? Will they objectify them in a way I am not comfortable with? In what sense do my choices in the way I photograph influence this gaze? Do I let me daughter’s give me the a duck face, or pose in a way that enforces it?

Yesterday I photographed an NGO that educates slum kids. Before starting I wanted to be sure to have a very clear of the message that I want to bring across. Happy children, beautiful smiles, proud people, just as we like to see them. This in order to promote the NGO and get Westerners, or rich people to donate. I hear myself saying when looking at the images later on: “They all look very happy, but they have such miserable lives when at home” and “We have no idea what these kids go through on a daily basis”. Even though I have portrayed them as proud, happy kids, my Western, rich view is stuck in my own understanding of the scenes.

So yes, there are a lot of implications of the gaze that apply to my photography. I am never sure if my practice is ethically sound and find it very hard to develop an understanding and way of working that is right, or at least defendable. Till then, I trust my gut intuition, always ask for permission when photographing and try to explain as much as possible about the people and circumstances I photograph.

Gustainis, Thomas, Thomas Gustainis, and View profile. “Reading 08”. Theoryandcrit2011.blogspot.in. N.p., 2017. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.

Lutz, C. and Collins, J. (1991). The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes: The Example of National Geographic. Visual Anthropology Review, 7(1), pp.134-149.

Assignment 3 Rework – Reflection

Most of my reflections will remain similar to the ones written down in the previous one, but I will add a few extra remarks about the rework here.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills
In the rework I have channelled my ideas around the constructed photographs. I have explored more options to work towards a consistent narrative and feel that I have succeeded in that. I realise that I need to get a shutter release, because to take these images took a lot of running back and forth between the scene and the camera! While writing this down I have at least two more ideas of photographs that would go well in this set. Maybe I’ll add them while working on assignment 6.

Quality of outcome
The quality of the images that I have added to the new pdf are in par with the images that I had taken before. Because I photographed in the dark, some images have some noise and sharpness issues, but I have been able to get rid of most of it in post processing.

Demonstration of creativity
When challenged to take more images in a same style, I noticed that I started looking different at locations and ways to photograph. Even though I felt that I had tapped into new channels of creativity when working on the earlier version, this going deeper into a certain style triggers a more profound necessity to be creative, which was good to experience.

Context
Only after I had made the images and looked at them as a set, I realised that they all portray a certain kind of longing and isolation. With having the same theme throughout the work, there is a deeper thematic and narrative to the set that wasn’t there in the earlier work. I find that this reword is more embedded in the reconstructed photography genre and has a more poetical feel than my earlier work.

I still doubt whether you can define this as documentary photography, but maybe it shows that the margin is very broad and there is room for creativity in documenting a certain emotion or state of being.

Assignment 3 Rework – Longing

“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” – Fernando Pessoa

Whether a person is happy, successful in life or not, I believe everybody has an internal personal space that stores doubts, regrets and a longing for an other time and place. When I go to this space, I mainly feel a sense of grief over friendships lost because of my nomadic life, careers that never happened and relationships that did not turn out the way I would have liked them too. There is no trauma, nor extreme pain, but a nagging discomfort.

I don’t think it is very wise to get stuck here, it is the shadowy side of ourselves, with no getting out or finding relief. Still, sometimes I like to allow myself to let my thoughts flow freely and feel all alone, thrown back to who I am.

The images in this PDF all represent the act of being in that place, excluding oneself from reality, escaping from the every day hassles of life and people that want your attention. It may trigger feelings of recognition and maybe pain. However, there are options to escape; to dive in the pool, open the gate and run away. To not stay where you are, but go back in the light and face reality.

Longing 2

“Fernando Pessoa Quotes (Author Of The Book Of Disquiet)”. Goodreads.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.

Assignment 3 – Rework – Preparation

After the Google Hangout with my tutor and reading his report, I set out to work on making the changes he suggested and create a narrative in the style of the images he found most striking. Of all tutors, Russell has been most directive in what kind of changes I should make and what works and what doesn’t. I have to get used to this and find myself doubting if this is what I would have actually done myself. But I have to say I do feel really challenged to push myself, look for other possibilities and be more creative. I think this has worked in the images I have added to the narrative.

Again, it took sometime to get the tone and idea clear in the layout. I have decided on a very clean and simple layout, which has the effect I am looking for. The images are all a bit dark and reminded me of a person who is longing for something. So I looked up some quotes of which I think that they will enforce the narrative in the images and I think that it adds an extra layer of understanding to the story.

On the other hand, I might be taking away some of the personal interpretation of the viewer, but I always like to read captions and ideas that come with images, so I think this is okay.

Again, it took about three different versions before I was kind of happy with the result:

Escapism

Longing

Longing 2

As you can see, I have changed a few photos in the process as well. This was because I think the image below adds to the variety of images and has a better quality. My tutor had suggested that I take the photo again, this time looking through the window, but I realise there actually are already quite a few where I am looking through a window, so decided to stay with this one.

self portrait 3-7899-Edit

Assignment 3 – Tutor Report

Last week I had a Google Hangout with my tutor, which was very helpful and motivating. We talked about my progress in my studies, experiences with the OCA so far and my submission for Assignment 3. It turned out I had taken Russell’s idea of self portraiture too literally, as well as the remark in the reader to add diversity and variety to the images. His idea had been to explore the type of self portraiture that Vivian Maier shows in her oeuvre, finding herself in the image and making herself part of the environment she’s in.

Anyway, Russell was quite pleased with all the different efforts and ideas that I presented in the PDF, but thought it lacks a narrative element. He then suggested to explore the constructed self portraits at night, in the style of Gregory Crewdson, a bit more. More about that in my next post. Below you will find the report in cursive and my comments below.

Overall Comments:
The set of images you have submitted are very good; they are engaging and evidence some strong and considered compositions, which through your postproduction skills have been developed to a good degree. You have slightly waived in the focus of the assignment, which was the formation of a visual story that explores the local environment. However, your self-portrait series demonstrates a developed awareness, which is supported through a very good level of experimentation and contextual underpinning.

Thank you! I did enjoy digging deeper in the ideas of notion of self and the way we perceive ourselves and others.

Feedback:
You have produced a varied set of images, which evidences a very creative and technically interesting investigation. Overall, the series would benefit from an edit and a restructure to refocus its direction to portray a narrative. Looking at all of your images in the book and in your supporting contact sheets, there are a few emerging themes coming through. The most visually engaging theme that is evident is that of the ‘staged photograph’.

Firstly, I recommend removing the following images: 

• Close-up/macro shot of the eye
• Reflection in the kitchen sink tap
• Digital manipulated portrait that represents ‘perception’ set
• Forces of gravity on facial features set
• Reflection in the table lamp

As discussed in our conversation; in the previous report I suggested; ‘putting yourself into the frame’ through shadow play and reflections. This was to encourage you to explore the environment and document your surroundings, with yourself being present in each scene. For example, revisit this street scene by Vivian Maier:
http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/self-portraits/#slide-15

The image depicts a rich and detailed environment, where there are multiple narratives taking place; it serves as both documentary and self-portraiture. With the remaining images it is possible to create a narrative; as mentioned there is the notion of the ‘staged photograph’ emerging form your set, but with a touch of ‘film noir’. You have already stated that the night-time shots remind you of the work of Gregory Crewdson, and you are right. His work sprung to my mind when I saw these images.

The shots titled ‘nacht selfie-1-1’ and ‘Assignment 3-7-1’ allude to something more, perhaps something ominous, which are part of a larger narrative based upon a movie or story. However, it is your image titled ‘mermaid-1-1’ that is the most intriguing and somewhat mysterious; obviously this is largely down to the mermaid flipper, which adds to an interesting if not quizzical narrative. What I recommend is to re-edit your book with a set of images in this style, this then would form a narrative. As part of the rework, conduct a couple more shoots based upon this staged style. Then lay them out in a line to produce a story that is underpinned by a strong sense of intrigue.

I have worked on this, but left out the remaining images in my first book as well. I find myself a bit lost in the documentary aspect of this result, but assume that I have worked on the edges of the term, which is an interesting area anyway.

Learning Logs or Blogs:
There is some very engaging material found in your learning log, your ‘Seeing is believing’ post was clear and good to read. Exploring reality and how photography can serve to evidence aspects of our existence is a topic worth researching further. Your level of visual research is suitable for this project, it seems that you gravitate more towards the theoretical investigations.

Your sentence, ‘All three show a certain disruption of the scene through my presence, changing the subject from a domestic object or street scene into an experience of me being there, showing an integration self with the exterior world and the change of function and meaning of myself and the place I am in.’ is very good, your awareness and commentary about your environments is becoming very interesting.  

Suggested reading/viewing:
The ‘Forces of gravity on facial features’ is great and has the potential to be transformed into a Zoetrope; although this is sidestepping from the focus of documentary, I believe it would be a great and rewarding exercise to explore. Please see the link below for an idea:
http://www.reframingphotography.com/content/animating-photographs

For something a bit random, but quite interesting, have a look at Broomberg & Chanarin’s series ‘People in Trouble Laughing Pushed to the Ground (Dots)’. This work explores an archive and the B&W photographic contact sheets, where they have peeled back the round stickers that were used as markers for which image to print, see:
http://www.broombergchanarin.com/installations/people-in-trouble-dots/

Pointers for the next assignment:
As discussed during our tutorial, you have yet to formulate an idea. Have a read of Baudrillard’s text on the Simulacra and Simulations, this may trigger some ideas exploring reality and the hyperreality, see:
https://web.stanford.edu/class/history34q/readings/Baudrillard/Baudrillard_Sim ulacra.html

Overall, I find Russell’s comments and remarks very helpful and inspiring, but am not so sure about the final result of this assignment. More on that in the next post!

Gaze and Control – On Foucault

This interesting piece explains Foucault’s ideas on knowledge, power and its connection with surveillance and photography. ‘Man’ is subject and object to knowledge, therefor establishing a complex relation between power and knowledge. This insight gives room to new forms of knowledge and modalities of power over man. This is not necessarily negative, because power enables the production of knowledge.

An interesting point was made that with the decline of corporal punishment, ways to punish have been centered around increasing the amount of surveillance. ‘The target is no longer the body, but the soul, understood in terms of subjectivity, consciousness and personality’. When we are surveilled, we essentially become subject of the power of the surveyors, which in this article is connected with imprisonment.

The prevailing panopticism in society has become normal, we are all part of the carceral network, which accepts the powers who see us and make us subject of their knowledge, which has become economically useful.

Photography plays a big part in the observation and classification of individuals, partly because of the belief in its objective nature. The observant style of photography has normalised disciplinary power even more, using the same ways of collecting, archiving and labelling photographs of people with an ‘unreturnable gaze’ as is done for crime suspects.

A criticism of this approach is that it ‘creates a picture of society in which the presence of power is so pervasive, it would appear to make implausible any form of resistance’. In order to resist, we must engage power at the points of its application and operation. In the moment when photographing and being part of the powers that survey.

Green, D. (2005). On Foucault: Disciplinary Power and Photography. The Camera Work Essays, pp.119-131.