Well since I began working on this assignment last month (initial planning post here), it has been a stop-start-stop pace which has been most frustrating. I’m finding that with the growth of the university I don’t have many free moments to slip out of my office and walk around and photograph anymore as I did a few years ago. With the result my shooting time has mainly been confined to my lunch hour (when I’ve managed to take one of those).
I’m lucky in that most of my colleagues are very used to being photographed as this is something that happens on a daily basis on campus, so I didn’t experience any resistance there. I would have liked to have more staged photographs by this stage but have only managed to get a few as getting all required people together at a specific time is proving to be a bit of a challenge what with folks being in meetings, out of the office and so on. At the moment my collection is a mix between staged and candid photos. I’m still struggling to figure out my new flash and when I’m finding a decent flash exposure I’m finding that my photos have quite a bit of noise in them and I haven’t been shooting above 500 ISO. My Nikon D7200 is supposed to perform marvelously in low light, but I’m not finding this. So not quite sure where the problem is although I’m suspecting it is probably something that I’m doing (or not doing).
At any rate I’m posting some contacts here to get some peer feedback, hoping for some pearls of wisdom! I really need to crack on with this as I’m going to be late with this assignment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The runner here in Fig 5 is very aware of the camera and is looking directly at the lens.
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.
For Assignment 3 we have to choose between doing a ‘mirror’ or ‘window’ series of images. For the ‘mirror’ option we are to choose a community that we are already part of, something that takes up a large amount of our time. For the ‘window’ option we are to become part of a community that we don’t know much about and tell their story with the aim of becoming an insider.
As my time is eaten up with work and studies I have elected to do a ‘mirror’ on my work place. I work at a small university. With the research that I have done thus far on the corporate environment – and there really doesn’t seem to be very much out there – I am particularly inspired by Brian Griffin’s work. I like the tension and quirkiness of his group portraits with the mixture of various gazes – so very unconventional for the corporate portrait! While researching gazes last night I came across a few paintings that also employ this mix of direct, internal and averted gazes like Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, Jan Steen’s The World Upside-Down, Pieter Claesz Soutman’s Cloveniers Haarlem and Ferdinand Bol’s Governors of the Wine Merchant’s Guild.
As with any corporate environment, universities also have the inevitable office politics and it is this concept that I would like to explore in my assignment. How best to depict power and hierarchy, passion and political behaviour and “tribal conflicts” within a university structure is something that is going to require quite a bit of thought.
The Mindtools website has a useful article on dealing with office politics with some pointers that I may wish to explore further:
Re-Map the Organization Chart
Office Politics often circumvent the formal organization chart. Sit back and watch for a while and then re-map the organization chart in terms of political power.
Who are the real influencers?
Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?
Who is respected?
Who champions or mentors others?
Who is “the brains behind the organization”?
Understand the Informal Network
Once you know who’s who in the organization, you have a good idea of where the power and influence lay. Now you have to understand the social networks.
Who gets along with whom?
Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
How does the influence flow between the parties?
I know the answers to most of these points as I have been with the university since its inception in Vancouver and have had the opportunity to observe a lot of comings and goings over the past ten years. My aim is to use these pointers as building blocks and see where I go from there.
After reading Marianne Hirsch’s journal article The Generation of Postmemory, which specificially deals with postmemory in terms of the Holocaust, I decided to create a mindmap detailing her thoughts and explanations on postmemory as an aid to understand this concept better.
I will include a PDF version of it here as well as the text might be a little small on the clickable image above.
Marianne Hirsch also discusses postmemory in this video, which again highlights most of the points mentioned above in my mindmap.
Hirsch, Marianne (2008) ‘The Generation of Postmemory’ In: Poetics Today 29:1 (Spring 2008) pp. 103-128
The gaze, or the look takes on different forms. According to Daniel Chandler we can determine the form by asking ourselves the question ‘who is doing the looking’. The most obvious forms of the gaze are:
the spectator’s gaze – the viewer looking at a person/object in the image
the intra-diegetic or internal gaze – the gaze of a person in the image looking at another person/object also in the image
the direct or extra-diegetic gaze – the gaze of the person in the image looking directly out the frame at the viewer
the look of the camera – the way the camera itself appears to look at the people/objects depicted (the gaze of the photographer)
Other less obvious forms of the gaze are:
the gaze of the bystander – the gaze of an individual watching another person looking at something
the averted gaze – a depicted person’s avoidance of eye contact with the camera lens
the gaze of an audience within the text – an image which shows people watching others performing
the editorial gaze – the whole institutional process by which some portion of the photographer’s gaze is chosen for use and emphasis. I’m assuming this would be the editor’s crop of an image.
There is also a basic distinction between an ‘offer’ and a ‘demand’:
an indirect address represents an offer – the viewer is the invisible onlooker and the person in the image is the object of the look, eg in surveillance video
a gaze of direct address represents a demand – the viewer is the object of the look and there is an urging for the viewer to enter into a relationship with the depicted person in the image, eg portraits, TV newsreaders.
Direction of gaze
It is important to note how directly a depicted person gazes out of the frame. A depicted person may direct his/her attention
towards other people
to an object
to the viewer/camera
into middle distance (as in a state of contemplation)
direction of object of attention is not discernible
There is also a relationship between those depicted:
reciprocal attention: the attention of those depicted is directed at each other
divergent attention: each person depicted has their attention directed at different things
object-oriented attention: each person depicted is looking at the same object
semi-reciprocal attention: the attention of one person is on the other person, while that person’s attention is directed somewhere else.
Marginalization is the act of excluding or ignoring somebody by relegating him/her to the outer edge of a group … Furthermore, marginalization as a term is related to ‘othering’ as it is approached by post-colonial and feminist studies … According to such studies ‘othering’ is a way of defining and securing one’s own positive identity through the stigmatization of an ‘other’. Whatever the markers of social differentiation that shape the meaning of ‘us’ and ‘them’ – whether they are racial, geographic, ethnic, economic, or ideological – there is always the danger that they will become the basis for a self-affirmation that depends upon the denigration of the other group.
Agelides P & Michaelidou A. (2009)
The above definition of marginalisation serves to emphasize the various social differentiations where marginalisation can occur. In a quick search through my university’s online database various journal articles appeared about marginalisation ranging from occurrences in globalization and global inequality; public administration; and domestic violence to name but a few.
When society assigns people to groups or labels we in effect pass judgement on them, reducing their rights and powers and social status. We are probably so used to some of these groupings that we don’t even view them as such:
House or car too small/too big/too old/too new
Wrong education – not enough degrees
Wrong language – too much accent/not English speaking enough
Persons with disabilities suffer from exclusion, aren’t fully included in society due to physical differences.
Visible minorities and immigrants run the gauntlet of racism and discrimination when seeking employment.
Those lacking long-term employment lose respect from friends and neighbours. Identity issues arise for young people who cannot find jobs or older people who are laid or forced into early retirement.
Concentration of poverty in urban areas results in the polarization in community composition.
Marginalization exists for a number of reasons. New technology takes away peoples’ jobs, ineffectual public and social policies, individual circumstances, market failures, and the 80/20 wage gap to name but a few (Jenson, 2000).
Social reform photography had its beginnings when British suffragists photographed the lives of poor women and children. Two consequences arose from this public exposure: by continually exposing the public to images of the poor in squalid conditions the concept that these people were inferior was reinforced and secondly “compassion fatigue” set in. (Warner Marien p. 203). Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine were two well known social reform photographers, photographing people in their squalid tenements in New York and young children working in factories. Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Jack Delano were photographers of the Farm Security Administration era documenting the depression and the struggles the American farmers were undergoing. More recently we have photographers like Chris Killip who moved away from promoting social reform to concentrating on “personal observation and interpretation of particular instances of social life” (Warner Marien, 2014: 416).
As photographers we need to take care when photographing the marginalised. We would do well to remember some of the words written in Mary Ellen Marks’s obituary in the Wall Street Journal: she had “a style that demands blending in and a cloak of invisibility”. Marks had “empathy with the marginalized and the square pegs”, and (told) “the story from their point of view”, “portrayed street kids in Seattle in a sympathetic light”, and “you do have to push your limits, if you want a certain intimacy in your pictures” (Woodward, 2015). We need to treat the subjects with respect and empathy, preserve their dignity and encourage their true story to emerge.
Agelides, P., & Michaelidou, A. (2009). Collaborative Artmaking for Reducing Marginalization [online]. Studies in Art Education, 51(1), 36-49. Available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/40650399 [Accessed 17 December, 2016]
Make a list of some aspects of your personality that make you unique. Start taking a few pictures that could begin to express this. How could you develop this into a body of work?
Personality is described in the Oxford Dictionary as “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.“
I always describe myself as being a WYSIWYG person (what you see is what you get). Someone who is determined, sometimes impatient, caring, a bit of a perfectionist, friendly, organised in a disorganised fashion, street-smart, loyal, warm, level headed, easy going, introverted, open-minded and independent.
These are all abstract qualities, something that is unseen, except perhaps for the “organised in a disorganised fashion”. So I expect I will photograph subjects or objects that mirror something back to me that, in my mind, would represent a personality trait. I would imagine the body of work would turn out to be a bit of an eclectic mix. I’ve had a quick look back at some of the photos that I’ve taken in the last few months to get an idea of what would be representative of me. I’ve purposely not provided captions, leaving the viewer to decide which characteristic is portrayed.
As I expected, the results are eclectic and my layered and abstract images are more on the forefront than the straight images, just as my second assignment in Context and Narrative was. I’ll need to put some more thought into how to develop this further and revisit this post with some updates.