Entitled ‘My Life Is About To Change‘ the last meaningful article here is over 5 months ago. It’s an excitable announcement that I’m going to university to study Photography & Video suggesting I was about to start sharing ideas, work and articles as I begin my degree.
Like many people, I get lazy. I read about photography, I generate ideas for my own photo projects and I’m excited that I’m starting university soon. In the past 5 months though, when it comes to actually taking photographs or conducting research, or writing about photography, I’m not so good. I’m not particularly skilled at writing, (in fact, I’m having an assessment soon to determine if I’m dyslexic) which is why I need to do this more and do it online in the open.
I’d love to promise a worthwhile and meaningful photo essay once a week, I’d love to share every useful and decent article or book I read. I’d love to write more and share my research. I want to do these things, but I’m no good at the process or routine of it – it doesn’t make any sense, does it? – All of this will become automatic in a couple of months, so I’m trying to give myself a head start, share more and try to do this more regularly.
Where do I start? – I guess the most obvious question is…
Photography isn’t about holding a camera, taking a picture and sharing photos, that’s what the majority of people do every day with their smartphones. You could be forgiven if you believe that the purpose of taking photos is to share them on social media, whether or not they are faked selfies or emotional acts of expression. For the most part, the cameras which most of us carry every day are used to take photographs. There is another group of people, we use our cameras to create photographs.
This is an important distinction because photographs are created for different purposes, they are created for art, for documentary reasons, for memories, for sharing on social media, to sell products, to take photographs of dead babies, the list goes on and on.
What is always evident is that photographs are created for a reason and I’m interested in the reasons behind the photographs. This is why I can look at photographs of tower blocks or people pushed up against windows as works of art.
Justine Varga caused outrage when she won $20,000 in a portraiture competition with her work ‘Maternal Line’. In her photograph, she captures her grandmother’s portrait.
The controversy appears to stem from people being offended that her portrait did not conform to their idea of what a portrait is. Photography is subjective, it can mean different things to people.
A photographic portrait isn’t necessarily the image of a person. Isn’t it better when the photograph is a real portrayal of the person? – Anyone can snap a photo, some people take great shots, others take great portraits while some really think about how to portray an individual using photographic technology.
People are upset because they were expecting the winning photograph to be an image of a person, they may look at Varga’s work and say “my 4 year could have done that” but you know what, your 4 year old didn’t, and neither did you!
As Justine Varga’s grandmother was testing pens on a sheet of paper, she noticed the action and wanted to ‘capture’ a portrait of her Gran doing this. With so many photographs (or portraits) already, she decided to explore and capture the essence of her Gran, rather than a traditional photograph. She asked her grandmother to test her pens on a 4×5 negative and after it was developed, you see her scribes, her movements, an imprint of her hand and even some saliva stains.
- Is it a photo? Yes, a negative film with an imprint was developed and printed in colour.
- Is it a portrayal of someone? Yes, there is a likeness of someone together with evidence of their DNA.
- Is it a traditional portrait? No, it violates everything we have come to expect from traditional portraiture photography.
By these definitions, Maternal Line is a portrait of Justine Varga’s grandmother. The sense of a traditional portrait is replaced by a different sense of a portrait, that doesn’t make it any less of a portrait. Instead, the photograph has pushed the boundary between what is ordinary and what is unexpected, it has made people talk about what a photograph is and further advances Photography as Art (whether people like it or not)!
Aside from Photography as Art, (or any visual representation) the nature of photography is interesting and in this example we can explore the connections between different acts of picture making and how we are connected to it at all times.
In Carlos Pacheco’s ‘Found’ project, photographs found online are matched with CCTV footage of the same time and location which provide an additional recording of the moment the original photograph was taken. What I find interesting in Pancheco’s example is that people are taking photographs for their own purposes and at some point in the future, a visual artist is linking the CCTV footage to the snapshot. You have seen a further copy of the original photograph here and you are now, forever connected to the girl on the road. Work begets work, art begets art, how very meta.
An hour of footage is removed every hour from the Abbey Road CCTV Camera, there is a time limit to how many images can be found and displayed in this manner. Once the photograph and footage are linked together, a new record is created of the event, stored on a different server before the footage is deleted forever. Adding to, and extending the life of the original footage. Big Brother is watching you, but you may not realize that photographers and artists are using the data to create new things.
The case of Heather Whitten
The mininterpretation (or subjectivity) of photography is another reason why I enjoy the genre. In November 2014, Photographer Heather Whitten posted a picture to Facebook of a naked child cradled in the lap of a naked man. It caused controversy, some people saw nude images between children and adults as offensive and others saw a beautiful bond between a sick child and his father. Facebook even removed the photograph because it didn’t meet the ‘expected standards’
She has also been investigated for child neglect because an online user reported her to local authorities. Read the full story here and here and here, I don’t believe you’ll find any reason for her to be charged for child neglect.
This is why I enjoy photography, it’s why I believe there is no such thing as a bad photograph and I hope my own photographic work will transcend what is deemed acceptable by other people’s definitions of the genre.
What does photography mean to you? – Why do you like it? What is the best example of your reasons?
- My life is about to change
- Without My Eye
- Photographers Interview
- Photographer’s Interview Part II
- Photographs which should have been.
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