Arielle Orem- Week 10 Wiki
Motion in Pictures, Pictures in motion, Pictures in Motion-Pictures

As I considered Professor Irvine’s challenge to consider two photographers from different eras, I was intrigued by the comparison between the work of Eadweard Muybridge and Melissa Moseley. Muybridge, working primarily during the 1870s and 1880s, is perhaps most-famously known for his series of photographs studying human/animal motion. A pioneer in using the camera to reveal what they human eye cannot observe on its own, Muybridge’s work slows down the locomotion and allows for a better understanding of individual motions involved in movement. Muybridge’s work captures motion within a photograph. When displayed in a series, these pictures seem to be in motion themselves, allowing us to watch the horse as it races down the quarter-mile stretch. Muybridge even went as far as to fashion a machine to present these photographs in quick succession, a precursor to the video projector.

Muybridge, Eadweard. "The Horse in Motion," 1878
Muybridge, Eadweard. "The Horse in Motion," 1878

The introduction of the video camera offered new possibilities for photography. Melissa Moseley takes a slightly different approach than Muybridge, but accomplishes the same task: capturing motion (and emotion) in still photography. Moseley works from motion pictures, freezing and printing single frames which she finds powerful. Moseley creates pictures from within motion-pictures. View Moseley's Work Here

Paulina Johnson
Week 10

“It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”- Henri Cartier-Bresson

Nothing beats the magic of your image appearing on silver halide emulsion paper in the darkroom. The sheer joy of developing a decent print is awesome, given that so many factors go into the creation of one image (light, exposure, paper, chemicals, etc), and it can take many tries to achieve the image you had envisioned.

I still believe that photography can be defined as “writing with light”, because a story that a photographer wants or needs to tell is still represented through his or her imagery. Photographers are still writing with light, it’s just that the story they tell may be fiction. Sometimes they add light to affect the mood of an image before a photograph is taken; sometimes this is done afterward during post-processing (Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, GIMP, iPhoto, etc.). The idea of manipulating photographs (reality?) is not a new one, as many of the “magic” techniques we see in tools like photoshop actually originated from photographers experimenting in the darkroom.

In order to look at images from different periods, I wanted to start with some of my favorite images by Mortensen. As we already read about, Mortensen was known for his pictorial style, which is represented in his work. I used to work in a museum, and we had some of Mortensen’s work on display in a past exhibit. I was surprised to learn that Ansel Adams had contemporary competitors from a different photographic style. Growing up, I learned about Adams and his straight photography, which revolutionized the photographic industry and helped us to understand it as we know it today, but I hadn’t heard of Mortensen or the pictorial style (Irvine). I suppose our readings were right when they stated “furthermore, the triumph of the short-lived by influential Group f/64 has caused the Pictorialist side of the debate to fade into near obscurity” (Irvine).

"Nude with Peacock" by Mortensen
"Nude with Peacock" by Mortensen

"The Kiss" by Mortensen
"The Kiss" by Mortensen

"Preparation for the Sabbath."  Mortensen, 1936.
"Preparation for the Sabbath." Mortensen, 1936.

Clearly this photograph has elements of light and dark (and even a spiritual undertone--that looks like a demon in the background) which is characteristic of the “chiaroscuro style” of paintings during older time periods (more specifically, Baroque).

An example of a chiaroscuro painting by Carravaggio.

"Judith Beheading Holofermes" by Caravaggio, 1598-99
"Judith Beheading Holofermes" by Caravaggio, 1598-99

Mortensen also wrote a book titled, “The Model,” in which he described various poses for subjects.

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“Only a naive realism sees the photographic representation of reality as realistic”-Pierre Bourdieu.

I appreciate that Cartier-Bresson recognizes that there are photographers who use light modifiers, extreme posing, etc. in order to bring their vision to life, and there are those who choose to capture life as it happens.

Posing is an idea that can be somewhat controversial because it is often done to the point of artificiality (although some would argue that posing itself is artificial because it requires intrusion from the photographer (observer) into the subject’s natural activities). However, many photographers understand that flow posing, or guided poses through actions, can help uncomfortable subjects fall into a natural, flattering pose.

A rising trend within the photographic industry is lifestyle portraiture. In a way lifestyle portraiture is reminiscent of Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment because you have to wait for the perfect moment to click the shutter, when the subject is engaged in an activity that makes them look naturally attractive.

"Lindsay" photographed by Jordan Voth
"Lindsay" photographed by Jordan Voth

"Lindsay" by Jordan Voth
"Lindsay" by Jordan Voth

"Lindsay" by Jordan Voth
"Lindsay" by Jordan Voth

Lifestyle photography is often seen in advertising, but has branched out into portraits and weddings for those who desire a more natural feel in their images.

"Twilight Cast." Vanity Fair. photographed by Peggy Sirota, 2008
"Twilight Cast." Vanity Fair. photographed by Peggy Sirota, 2008

couple, photographed by Jose Villa
couple, photographed by Jose Villa

However, we can also see that much of photography today includes a production and/or additional painting-inspired techniques that purists may not have necessarily approved of, if they have a fantasy-inspired effect.

photographed by fashion and portrait photographer, Lindsay Adler
photographed by fashion and portrait photographer, Lindsay Adler

We can clearly see that a beauty dish or other light modifier was used in this photograph (above), because of the odd shape of the catchlights in the subject’s eyes.

photographed by Lindsay Adler
photographed by Lindsay Adler

The photograph above has been photoshopped and altered to give it a more symmetrical appearance. It balances between reality and fantasy as we as viewers perceive it. It's real enough for us to understand the context, but is too perfectly symmetrical for it to be one-hundred percent reality. The photographer who took this works in fashion, a genre which involves quite a bit of fantasy.

Jeremy Cowart is a celebrity and commercial photographer who also does a bit of experimental and humanitarian personal work.

"Bree Dixon" photographed by Jeremy Cowart
"Bree Dixon" photographed by Jeremy Cowart

"Tim Tebow." photographed by Jeremy Cowart
"Tim Tebow." photographed by Jeremy Cowart

"Imogen Heap." photographed by Jeremy Cowart
"Imogen Heap." photographed by Jeremy Cowart

In the YouTube video below, Jeremy Cowart goes into the modern day digital darkroom and talks about his techniques in creating the image above. He calls this genre Experimental Portraiture, and teaches a whole CreativeLive course on the subject.

He brings a digital, drawing and painting-like aspect to his experimental work, which definitely puts it in a league of its own within the photographic industry.

list of works cited:

Langfor Wiggins

During my reading I grasped a connection between ancient Egyptian rituals of mummification and the preservation of life to the purpose of photography today in different news mediums. In Egypt, during the time of mummification, all were able to become mummies but the wealthier the deceased the more elaborate the mummification process and rituals were. In today’s society the photograph can be held to the same status as Egyptian mummification. Photographs have the capabilities of preserving life and creating memories, the more prestige or wealthier one is the better the photograph.

Photographs are important in obituaries, museums, and news mediums in an effort to celebrate life and death. With this understanding I thought of major pictures that are used as elements of celebrating and respecting life. I stumble across pictures of past and present presidents embarking on campaign trails and in office. I focused on the different but similar mediums and genres of the photo, and noticed how they still served one purpose.

The following pictures of President Obama and First Lady and Former President JFK and then First lady Jacqueline Kennedy can be viewed as a lifestyle like snapshot of the duos. These photos serve the purpose of showcasing family values and American dreams.


The next photograph depicts both presidents speaking to the masses. Another snapshot used to showcase the followers of the, then, candidates and their desire to address all people from rich to poor.

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The next photos show the presidents interacting with citizens and the ideal that the President is not only a political figure but a celebrity.

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The final pictures show the presidents in informal position or attire showcasing the idea of being everyday people.

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These photos were mostly snapshots and were used in the media as a campaign strategy. The media usually publishes pictures with the hopes of invoking action. These photos also have or will be used in publications, memorials, museums, or books as a means for celebrating their life and accomplishments.


André Bazin, "The Ontology of the Photographic Image," Film Quarterly, 1960. (Focus on pp. 6-9.)

Sara Anderson

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSHkwpme74NndKL7_hmGj6yqOgOg-vqZvR2i9WFp09V_TOIaLWTOne of the famous photographs I would like to focus on is Einstein sticking his tongue out. I love this one, because it’s just so light hearted and fun. This was his response to being asked to smile for the camera on his 72nd birthday. His expression conveys the spontaneity of the image, and generally is a bit of a mood lifter for me. Capturing the humor of a moment and helping it persist is one of the many uses of photography. Typically, families and friends collect memories this way, but sometimes images of well known people circulate in the same way. It almost serves to make us feel connected to the people in the images when you see them being informal.

This image of Martin Luther King Jr. serves a different social purpose. In photographs he generally seems very earnest and passionate. The cultural memory of his speech factors in to how we view this image. You can almost hear him speaking to the crowd, and it stirs emotions related to his life and his passion. Photographs of people from certain historical periods are very deeply tied to their societal role and contribution.external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRUQH1MyeZqQayU_iA72H18dc1I7E8TcwxPWcfdZteV3SNSGRHD

In a similar way, some people’s images are primarily tied to their attractiveness and their fame in popular culture. For example, Marilyn Monroe’s subway grate images are so prevalent because she was firmly situated in the role of sex symbol/ starlet. It is a fairly quintessential image of her, and in a way it served to solidify how people already saw her. It was an image with an intended use as well, as it was taken as video for the film The Seven Year Itch.

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Meggie Schmidt

This weeks readings focused on photography as an art form, image making process, and a representation of reality in time, culture, and society. Photography is a tool in the art world through structuring the focal point, scenery, or characters create an image of fantasy, narrative, or replication. These photographic genres are used to play with the viewers emotions and create a sentiment that cannot be forgotten from the image.

Photography in the fantasy genre made me think of Los Angeles photographer Tyler Shields. Shield’s is able to manipulate an image, creating a world of fantasy and evoking the viewer’s emotions through capturing a moment of pure insanity.
This bag is worth around $100,000 and it is being burned. This erotic image is disturbing to the viewer but at the same time it is irresistible to look at.
This image gives the impression that the man is swimming to save his life. It produces fear in the viewer and makes the viewer creative a narrative for the man.

Below are a few more of Tyler Shields images that are disturbing but nonetheless staged photographs that convey a representation of something or a warning against one’s actions in a materialistic society.



Photography as a copy of other works is prevalent. Specifically, photography based off of famous paintings. Many photographers copy Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Super” as they are referencing the scene for a theme or deeper emotional goal. I have seem many people replicate this painting, such as those involved in photography, and those only playing around with the art form.





The “Mona Lisa” painting is also widely copied in photography. This goes off of the theme that a painting has become the model for image making.

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Lastly, another example of a photo styled after the painting: “The American Gothic.”

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Photography has allowed art to expand to another medium that often can produce things that were never before possible until the 19th century. Through the context of photographs in different genres the meaning of works change. It allows people to experience different emotions and captures scenes in real time. Although photographic images are not all based off of reality, their hyperrealism and fantasy is what makes them so appealing and encourages others to continue to reproduce images.

Irvine, Martine. Introduction to Photography.

Wiki Week 10:

Elizabeth-Burton Jones

Photographically Manufacturing the Cultural Image: Native Americans

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Truth. What is truth, but a word that flows in and out when needed. Where can we find it? Where does it reside? When the snow melts, is the truth left behind?

When looking at images, we breathe in the message and exhale the truth. But, what happens when we cough? What happens when the air that we breathe in is polluted? Is the truth still in the air?

This air that I speak of is the image. The moment that you see it you gasp, you pause, you digest. But, in this art fusion that is somehow created into a new food group, there is some room for question. Are you eating organic food or chemically engineered food?

This brings me to this week’s lesson on photography. A few weeks ago I wrote about the manufacturing of history through photography. This week, I would like to write about the manufacturing of cultural images through photography and the dissemination of stereotypes through said photography.

Currently, I am trying to find out when the truth starts and where the creativity ends. Perhaps, it doesn’t start or ends. Specifically, I am wondering when photography created and edited truth. At first, I thought that older photos chose to bear all of the truth. However, when looking at the Native American culture when recoding the past, I steadily learned that recording the Native American past was just as manufactured today as it was many years ago.

All photography mediums are not as honest. For illustration, we exercise ways of fooling the camera. Creating this false hope is nothing new, it just proves that the truth is hard to find within photography. But, in the action of teasing out the truth from the creative, we as intellectuals can better understand the culture, the world, and the significance. This false precept is not all bad; it just creates a different route in deciphering the past.

If we look at many images of Native Americans we can find that the image was carefully manufactured in different ways, just as it is today. Therefore, things aren’t so different after all and the ability to control how a person looks has only changed by the increase of the filter.

Native American photography is important because the sieve was the camera, instead of the camera being the sieve. There were different types of photographs that could be taken of Native Americans therefore each group could be carefully separated and
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external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSKAUJUaqHni-apqpCnCKqQM5wtPOoKChRqxmvPXN_C4gJNuplvwAThrough my research I found the Native American Studio photographs. I learned that, "At first, many Native Americans were wary of having their photographs taken and often refused. They believed that the process could steal a person's soul and disrespected the spiritual world. Over time, however, some Native Americans came to cherish photographs as links to ancestors and even integrated them into important ceremonies". This webpage continued to nudge the reader with various prompts about the Native American photography. It was very interesting because the website told stories about people that were forced to take the pictures, and people that were not forced to take pictures, and the choices of these photographs. The website mentioned the dress in all of these pictures and asked what did all of this suggest? "If subjects sat willingly, what does the choice of clothes, pose, expression, props, and backdrop suggest about how the subjects wanted to be perceived?".

All of this information caused me to look further into history. After digging deeper, I found out about the cultural assimilation of Native Americans. This point in time was very interesting because there were different laws placed into society that tried to strip Native Americans from their culture and make them more “Americanized”. The forced acquiescence shattered a culture and created an even greater divide. "
Then I found out about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. "The schools visually boasted the transformation of their young charges bodies by publishing before-and after photographs (see below the image of the Navajo Tom Torlino, in 1882 and 1885 at Carlisle Boarding School in Pennsylvania)."
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Go to Galleries:

external image charles-l-tailfeaters.jpgNative American photographs are very interesting because of the time frame. Native Americans were often thought of in such a negative light, however through photography Native Americans were able to show their version of the "truth". Through the photographs the Native Americans were able to show that they were (and are) human as well. To show that they were human they, would dress in a certain fashion like their counterparts would dress. Therefore, in this sense photography favored the side of controlling the truth.external image 2487594201_22ed59f2cc.jpgexternal image EmilyAdams.jpgexternal image three-year-carlisle-small.jpgexternal image 325px-Group_of_Male_and_Female_Students%3B_Brick_Dormitories_And_Bandstand_in_Background_1879.jpgexternal image carlisle_indian_school.jpgexternal image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSyigcUT8pwlkNiprTI0UQwA-jzP6z4jqmbkU9y7Ian2G-_WfBz1gexternal image rogers-will-tm.jpg

However, photography had a way of perpetuating the stereotypes as well. Photography often dictates how Clio writes history. You could say that for people of the this century, history is a picture book. In many instances, if the photographs were used for commercial use, it can be assumed that the pictures were used for exploitation and perpetuation of stereotypes. external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQIV3lsKfcdgXeqO-seSYAWIXmhG00c9bwlRd9pdoALfx4ItfUj7Q

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In the current time, we can see that photography is now used to show some version of the truth. Maybe it is used to help create change. For instance, the pictures of the Native American people now seem to be used to create awareness of the reservations. However, just as in the past they can be used to mark groups and perpetuate the stereotype that Native Americans still do not belong. Therefore how can images help and hinder? Also, currently, images of Native Americans can be seen as more comical.
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Posted at 01:00

PM ET, 11/05/2012

No Doubt apologizes, pulls ‘Looking Hot’ video
By Veronica Toney
No Doubt’s new video for “Looking Hot” is getting the cold shoulder for being offensive to Native Americans. The video features the band in the Wild West with lead singer Gwen Stefani as a Native American princess dancing in front of teepees and bonfires before she is captured, tied up and held at gunpoint by cowboys, including fellow bandmates Adrian Young and Tom Dumont, and eventually saved by tribal chief Tony Kanal. Phew.”

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Everyday we are bombarded with commercial images. Whether it’s advertising in magazines or fashion ads. The material context frames the meaning by the possibility of adding credibility. The material and “context of the photograph” create a new world a world of fantasy however, some people do not know how and when to get out of this world and some struggle to control their image. external image governor-schwarzenegger-signs-renegotiated-gaming-compacts.jpgexternal image john-collier-with-blackfoot-indians.jpgexternal image president-bush-tribal-sovereignty.jpg
In regards to Native Americans, it is very interesting to look at pictures from the past specifically when signing important documents. How did they dress?

How did they want to be viewed in the sense of revolution? This idea of photographically manufacturing history and cultural images can be applied to many various cultures.

Questions (in addition to the questions listed above):
Can culturally manufacturing an image have positive aspects or is it mainly negative?

Works Cited:’re-a-culture-not-a-costume-campaign-features-native-american
Henri Cartier-Bresson, "Statement on Photography" ("The Decisive Moment" theory), 1933.

Lauren Jones

The Portrait

Before photography was an artistic media, it existed as a way to capture images in an instant. The world at one moment as it would never be again. Timeless.

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The first form of portraiture in photograph form was that of the daguerrotype, which was to be replaced by the ambrotype due to the fact that the daguerrotype was much too costly. By the 1850s, the tintype had overtaken that of the ambrotype, again for fiscal reasons. People would sit to get their tintype made, much like nowadays when they sit for school pictures or GlamourShots. Over the years, I don’t believe the sentiment has changed despite changes in culture and the historical context from which they derive.

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Sitters are dressed up, not in their usual garb, and are posed, sometimes rather uncomfortably so as to give off an air of candid. In other words, the over-exaggerated posing and attire are an attempt to make the individual appear normal or everyday (to an extent)! In the end, however, despite a valiant effort, the resulting product is highly stylized and affected.

Henri Cartier-Bresson in his “Statement on Photography” talks about the joy of an instant, the spontaneous moment in which a photographer snaps a shot that will last forever – the thrill of the un-posed everyday.

All of this effort in the production of portraits seems to be just an attempt to perpetuate the image behind the individual – no matter realistic or otherwise. In photography, you can dramatize angles and lighting so that the scene depicted is much more affected than it originally is, and nowadays with all of the enhancements such as Photoshop and airbrushing one has to ask themselves: is a photograph a true representation of something everyday? Even more so, has it ever been?

Works Cited:
Irvine "Making a Photograph" vs. "Taking a Picture"
Henri Cartier-Bresson, "Statement on Photography" ("The Decisive Moment" theory), 1933.


Death and Photography
Elisabet Diaz

Inspired by “ El Día de los Muertos” I decided to dedicate the blog to some aspects of the relationship between death and photography.
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In contemporary culture, the representation of people whose death comes from “natural causes” is almost nonexistent. However, it was not always like this. In the early years of photography, the idea that a photograph was a representation of reality with fidelity, plus the emotional willingness of the family to keep “alive” the memory of their beloved deceased, triggered the proliferation of Post Mortem photography. In the mid-nineteenth century, this social practice was widely extended in The United States and although a Post Mortem Photograph was around 65 dollars, ten times more expensive than a regular portrait, poor people were very active in this practice (Varea 155). One of the most popular and typical photographs of that period was the portraits of a child and his/her mother after one of them die during child bearing.

The Relation between photography and death is constantly appreciated in photography theory, Barthes experienced the death of his mother while writing his book Camera Lucida. While looking at one of his mother’s pictures Barthes states that “can never deny that the thing has been there.There is a superimposition here: of reality and of the past”. He also implies that photography is taking the social function of a space for death that religion use to have and reducing “Life/ Death” to a “simple click”. (Barthes 92,93)

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Since in today’s culture we avoid to picture an “ordinary death”, is then the representation of contemporary death a simulacrum? For example, photojournalism has depicted death since its beginning as one of the most important of its features. James Nachtwey is a prestigious American war photographer that has captured human suffering and death from all over the planet. In 2007, After winning the TED prize, he received $100,000 for the program “one wish to change the world” and he started a worldwide report of the devastating consequences of tuberculosis. In his pictures he captures individuals that are about to die. He states that by depicting emotional scenes of human suffering "I have been a witness, and these pictures are
my testimony. The events I have recorded should
not be forgotten and must not be repeated." One can argue that photojournalism aims to raise awareness, but how does photojournalism approach death? It shows death only when it is happening for something that “must not be repeated”. Do we need a justification to depict death?
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Nowadays pictures of “natural death” are almost nonexistent but when they are taken are always subject to controversy. One example is The Travelers by New York artist Elizabeth Heyert. She created a collection of thirty post-mortem portraits, amazed by the Southern tradition of dressing up the corpses as if they were “going to a party” and created the photographs as if they were alive. Another example is the wedding invitation of Carmen Electra and Dave Navarro, created by David LaChapelle, with the caption “Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen + Dave.”
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David LaChapelle " Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen + Dave" . Carmen Electra's Wedding Invitation

It is fascinating to realize that although we live in a moment of mass-production and mass-exposure to personal and ordinary pictures, “natural death” is ignored.
Mentz’s states another real death which each of us undergoes every day, as each day we draw nearer our own death. Even when the person photographed is still living, that moment when she or hewashas forever vanished”. Maybe contemporary society already recognizes the passage of time in its pictures and this is a sufficient reminder of death.


Article about the lost of the post mortem photography in Contemporary culture.
Jesús Jiménez Varea.
James Nachtwey TB project
Elizabeth Heyert website

Week 9
Sagorika Sen

This week’s readings on photography were extremely intriguing in a sense that I am now starting to look at photographs and images in a whole new way.

I decided to look at the green eyed afghan girl who was on the cover of the National Geographic issue of 1985 that captivated the attention of the world. This image was taken by Steve McCurry during the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. This was also his first foray into photojournalism. The name of this girl is Sharbat Gula and McCurry took this picture of her when she was at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp at Pakistan. Seventeen years later Steve McCurry found the girl with the help of a search party.
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McCurry’s work has always been about documenting authentic diverse differences that exist between the several races of people around the world, particularly Asia. So why did this image of Sharbat Gula become famous and the most known/seen cover of our time? In my opinion I think it really is a mix of a lot of things. Her eyes are extremely beautiful and there is also a certain amount of mystery that is associated with her look at the camera. To a lot of people in the west, Afghanistan is the end of the world and to see a girl like Sharbat who almost looks very western European (and could possibly fit in had she been from different economic background) was different and very surprising. Sharbat became the face of terror, the face of poverty in a war torn land and for several avid nat geo readers she became synonymous with the Afghan war. When asked what the photo represented to him McCurry said that “First of all she’s a very beautiful little girl. I think there’s an ambiguity, a mystery about her expression. I think there’s a kind of haunted, troubled quality on one level, but there’s also fortitude, perseverance, respect, and pride to her look. It’s clear that she’s poor. She has this torn shawl. But with her poverty she has this dignity." This is indeed the sense of dignity that the west thinks of as the ambiguous Mona Lisa mysterious expression. Here is where I am reminded of in Rosalind Kraus’s Photography & the Simulacral, where she says that “By exposing the multiplicity, the facticity, the repetition, and the stereotype at the heart of every gesture, photography deconstructs the possibility of differentiation between the original and the copy”

This ambiguity that she could be “one of us “if she dressed differently is what makes Afghans diverse and authentic . It’s McCurry’s obsession with this property of authentic diversity exuded by the east that he tries to propel through his photographic work. Even in the mother & Child outside glass window or with the Afghan girl in Kabul and the Peshawar boy his portraits give meaning as Henri Cartier-Bresson says “ photography is about putting one’s head, one’s eye & one’s heart on the same axis.”

The next photograph that had me interested is a photo taken in 1948 during the funeral of Mahatma Gandhi. Few know that this photo that was also circulated among the western world was taken by Homai Vyarawalla India, first female photojournalist. In this picture as they wrap Gandhi’s body with the tricolor, one only notices scores of men in the crowd. Homai was the only woman there in a sari and to take this particular picture she has to climb a drain pipe and squat with her Sari in order to get this aerial view of the scene. Homai was also there to record the Dalai Lama’s first entry into India via Sikkim in the east.



At this time press photographers were using the Rolleiflex camera which only allowed for 8 to 12 exposures at a time. Press photography was not particularly hospitable to women and for Homai to be extremely sucessful in this field is very commendable. She died at the age of 98 two years ago.


Stevie Chancellor
Week 10 - Photography and Its Discontents

As a graphic designer and web developer, I am often presented with photos of clients to add to websites. I would be lying if I said that I did not edit, retouch, or otherwise “Photoshop” many of the images. What I do is nothing compared to many professional retouchers in magazines, but I will admit I have experimented with these techniques. Without a careful eye, sometimes it is hard to tell when something has been Photoshopped without some advanced image processing techniques. One can't tell if there has been a blemish removed, though you can see overall that the skin has been smoothed. What intrigues me the most about Photoshopping photography in particular is the dichotomy between the aesthetic and the real that Bazin talk about.

Bazin and Bourdeiu both discuss the power of representation of photography. Bazin talks about the crisis of painting in the 16th and 17th century, where painting tried desperately to reproduce the outside world but was unable to. "Thenceforth painting was torn between two ambitions: one, primarily aesthetic, namely the expression of spiritual reality wherein the symbol transcended its model; the other, purely psychological, namely to duplicate the world outside" (Bazin 6). When the camera was invented, however, photographs served as representations of reality that were so close to our visual perceptions of it. No wonder painting shifted so much during the early 20th century- the electric tube camera was developped in the 1920s and quickly became a consumer commodity.

The dichotomy between aesthetic and psychological representation of the world around us through photography has however become more apparent with the advances of digital technology. Photoshop allows a person to alter a photograph such that. Now, many examples of "Photoshops" are apparent - we can tell, for instance, when someone has been superimposed into a fantasy world or had arms added to their bodies. However, the confusion between untouched and retouched skin in a magazine spread, for example, is much harder to pinpoint. We have no frame of reference for what the model initially looked like. Moreover, abstract or fancifal Photoshops often have credit given to the image manipulator as author. Magazine spreads, on the other hand, do not normally credit their photo editing team at all, which sort of implies that they weren't part of the image-making (and thereby semiotic-making) process at all! They are invisible, unattributed artists.

Photoshopping is redefining the gap and creating the same spiritual problem with painting we had with painting in the 16th and 17th century! I would argue that this confusion amplifies the aesthetic and psychological representation paradox to a point that not only distresses the artist but society at large. Because of our immense media saturation In a sense, society is struggling with the paradox of digital photography - we are confusing the realistic with what is now becoming an art form, filled with distortions of reality. And, in response, several companies, including Dove, have started the Real Beauty campaign, advocatign for. There has also been a push in fashion to label images as retouched. Many magazines - link to Dove Real Beauty campaign

What I am wondering is if this societal dilema is encouraging the recent "throwback" culture I've seen in photography social media. Instant photography, aka Polaroids, have recently become more popular than they were, even when I was a child. Instagram relies heavily on cell phone users snapping photos with their cell phones. To add to the throwback charm, it offers filters to make your photography look old, dated, or otherwise improperly developed. I wonder if the popularity of throwback photography is a result of society's discontents with photography as a representational medium. It is no longer always representational as it once was.
A photograph from Instagram with filters liberally applied
A photograph from Instagram with filters liberally applied

Are we in a post photography world where we can't trust photography to be real? What else could take the place to represent the reality around us?

David Hockney on "Secret Knowledge" (video).