Exercise 3.4 The gaze

The brief

This exercise gives you the opportunity to explore the image as a window with which to trigger memory.

The objective here is to produce a series of five portraits that use some of the types of gaze defined above. The specifics of how you achieve this are down to you; you choose which types of gaze you wish to address and who your subject might be in relation to this decision. What you’re trying to achieve through these portraits is a sense of implied narrative, which you can explain through a short supporting statement. Don’t try and be too literal here; the viewer must be able to interact with the portraits and begin to make their own connection to the work, aided by the type of gaze you’ve employed.

For me the main statement of this brief is in the first sentence “a window with which to trigger memory”.  This set of portraits triggers various memories for me of times when we would get into the car with the family dog and take her for a walk and a run along the sea wall in West Vancouver. Her favourite activities were running loose, exploring the nooks and crannies in the rocks on the breakwater and meeting the other dogs. My favourite activities were watching the dogs interacting with each other as well as people watching.

Fig 1 The internal gaze and the gaze of the bystander
Fig 1 The internal gaze and the gaze of the bystander

In Fig 1 there are two types of gazes happening. The man in the cap has his attention focused on the man with his back to the camera (internal gaze), while the boy in the red shorts is looking at the boy on the left who has his back turned on the group (bystander gaze). This boy in turn is staring at something off camera (internal gaze). One might get the feeling that this boy is the subject of the conversation.

Fig 2 The Averted Gaze
Fig 2 The Averted Gaze

Although the lady in the pink jacket looks as if she might be looking directly at the camera, she is in fact looking off to her left (averted gaze). She seems to be in her own mind space.

Fig 3 The Direct Gaze
Fig 3 The Direct Gaze

In Fig 3 both subjects are aware of the camera and are looking directly into the lens (direct gaze). There is no tension between the couple and they are out for a stroll with their dog intending to soak up some welcome winter sun after a couple of weeks of snowy weather.

Fig 4 The Averted Gaze
Fig 4 The Averted Gaze

Both individuals in Fig 4 have an averted gaze. There is a tension in this photograph in that they are sitting very close to each other and obviously not interacting with each other, but each is looking at something different – the man is looking at the view which is out of frame, while his companion is busy on her cell phone.

Fig 5 The Direct Gaze
Fig 5 The Direct Gaze

The runner here in Fig 5 is very aware of the camera and is looking directly at the lens.

Fig 6 The Photographer's Gaze
Fig 6 The Photographer’s Gaze

I suppose Fig 6 could also be classified as averted gaze as each person in the image is looking away from the camera. However, I’m going to include this as a photographer’s gaze because there are a number of crops that I could make to this image and result in different photos.


2 thoughts on “Exercise 3.4 The gaze”

  1. This exercise really does make you look at photographs and ‘people watching’ photographs in a different way doesn’t it. I particularly liked this last you. You are so right, there are so many different pictures in that one image. Glad you are finally getting some respite from the long hard winter though I’m sure it’s not ove yet!


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