Category Archives: 01 Mirrors

Exercise 3.3 Marginalisation

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:

  • Too old/young
  • Too fat/thin
  • Wrong gender
  • Too rich/poor
  • 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.
  • Homelessness

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).

Five cents a spot - unauthorized immigration lodgings in a Bayard Street tenement [New York] by Jacob A. Riis (ca 1890)
Five cents a spot – unauthorized immigration lodgings in a Bayard Street tenement [New York] by Jacob A. Riis (ca 1890)

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.

Reference List

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]

Jenson, Jane (2000) Backgrounder: Thinking about Marginalization: What, Who and Why? [online] Canadian Policy Research Networks Inc. (CPRN) Available at: http://cprn3.library.carleton.ca/documents/15746_en.pdf [Accessed 18 December, 2016]

Strictly Stress Management (n.d) Marginalization for All or None – Who Isn’t in Need after All? [online] Strictly Stress Management.com. Available at: http://www.strictly-stress-management.com/marginalization.html [Accessed 18 December, 2016]

Warner Marien, M. (2014). Photography: A Cultural History (4th edition). London: Laurence King.

Woodward, R. B. (2015). Remembering Humanist Photographer Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) [online]. Wall Street Journal. Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/remembering-humanist-photographer-mary-ellen-mark-1940-2015-1432854037 [Accessed 19 December, 2016]

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Exercise 3.2

The Brief:

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.

Friendly

Easy going

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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.

Reference List

English Oxford Living Dictionaries Personality [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/personality [Accessed 7 December, 2016]

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Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of a Sexual Dependency is the diary that she let’s people “visually” read (Aperture Summer 1986, p. 38). Her work is based on the quality of the relationship with the person she is photographing, a collaboration. “In doing so, she redefined what photography could do and what it could be – a mirror of oneself as well as the world” (O’Hagan, 2014).

The work which was originally made as a slideshow, begins with portraits of her parents when they were young and their relationship. It then moves on to alternating between portraits of women and men, first shown outside in the world, then in their bedrooms. Then abused, battered women are shown followed by men depicted as violent. The images of women are followed by images of prostitutes, brides and mothers. Children are photographed with their parents and alone, the boys always fighting. Drag queens follow next in their various jobs, clubs, home life and in their relationships with their lovers. This is followed by a section of men masturbating, followed by images of skinheads. The club scene features next, showing bars, parties and fashion and continues with couples. Couples having sex, couples together in rooms, empty rooms, empty beds and graves. Her final image in the series is of skeletons coupling. The slideshow contains about 700 – 800 images and lasts for approximately 45 minutes. Goldin states “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is an exploration of my own desires and problems” (Aperture Summer 1986 p. 42).

She does not regard herself as a voyeur as she says that the people she lived with and photographed viewed her camera as part of her and by extension part of their daily life. “It ceases to be an external experience and becomes part of the relationship, which is heightened by the camera, not distanced.

In the interview above, she stressed that her work was not about marginalized people. The work is really about the struggle between intimacy and autonomy, and about her friends with whom she lived.

Her images are very intimate and according to Cotton (2009: 138) this series has set the standards by which intimate photography is judged. Larry Clark’s work Tulsa was a huge influence for her. Goldin cares more for content than form in her work and also complete honesty.

Reference List

Holborn, Mark (1986) Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency [online] Aperture Magazine, 103 Summer 1986. Available at: http://issues.aperture.org/19860202/#!/38 [Accessed 5 December, 2016]

Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (2013). Nan Goldin – The Ballad of Sexual Dependency [user-generated content online] Creat. Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). 6 December, 2013. 10 min 30 sec Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B6nMlajUqU (Accessed 5 December, 2016)

O’Hagan, Sean (2014). Nan Goldin: ‘I wanted to get high from a really early age’ [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/mar/23/nan-goldin-photographer-wanted-get-high-early-age [Accessed 5 December, 2016]

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman’s work relies on the viewer’s memories and life experiences, rather than revealing anything about herself. In her work Centerfolds she poses herself in stances rather evocative of Playboy magazine centrefolds in such a way that the viewer is gazing down at her from a position of power.  Her characters, unlike those in Playboy, are all fully clothed and there is a common element of vulnerability running through this series. Her gaze does not meet that of the viewer, but is staring up or far off into the distance.

As David Bate states in his chapter Voyeurism and Portraiture if we extend the meaning of voyeurism past its common perverted meaning that we are all so familiar with, we move into the psychoanalytic framework, where voyeurism is one of two poles … of scopophilia. Scopophilia here simply means ‘visual pleasure’ and voyeurism refers to the ‘active’ pleasure which is derived from looking at someone or thing. This in turn “provides a visual satisfaction in the fantasy of identification”.

With the Playboy reference in mind, Sherman is enticing her viewers to engage in voyeurism. Each character seems to have her own story to tell. Some look afraid, some shy, others are tense looking as if they are waiting for something to happen. However Sherman herself has commented on “one of her Centerfold pictures which she refers to as “Black Sheets.” The artist explains that when she looks at that character she sees her as a young woman who is severely hung over and is just getting to bed after being out on the town all night, but that other people think of her as a rape victim” (Kendrick, 2012: 8). Her interview can be seen on Art 21’s website.

Click on image above to access the video. The track on Cindy Sherman begins at 15:30 and ends at 34:50
Click on image above to access the video. The track on Cindy Sherman begins at 15:30 and ends at 34:50

In all her work she is both the artist and the subject. She intentionally leaves her work untitled so that the viewers are free to interpret the work in their own way.

Reference List

Bate, D. (n.d.) Voyeurism and Portraiture [online] Academia.edu. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/4600307/Voyeurism_and_Portraiture [Accessed 29 November, 2016]

Kendrick, C. (2012) When a “feminist” artist is not a feminist: Challenging Cindy Sherman’s constructed position in discourse [online] Academia.edu. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/1570280/When_a_feminist_artist_is_not_a_feminist_Challenging_Cindy_Shermans_Constructed_Position_in_Discourse [Accessed 29 November, 2016]

Transformation [webcast, online]. PBS.org Art 21. 54 mins 30 secs. 21/10/2009. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/video/1281770054/ (accessed 05/12/2016)

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Hans Eijkelboom

I reviewed Hans Eijkelboom’s work while working on Assignment 1 for this module. My review can be seen here. However, I mainly looked at his typology work so will look briefly at the With My Family and In de Krant series.

In de Krant featuring Hans Eijkelboom
In de Krant featuring Hans Eijkelboom

For In de Krant (which means “in the newspaper”) Eijkelboom stalked or tracked a press photographer for ten consecutive days and managed to insinuate himself into the background of each photograph. Seen individually the photographs would probably mean nothing, but together they make up a rather mischievous collection of photobombing. Eijkelboom is photographed in the background of various scenes: student demonstration, accidents, etc. As Eric Kessels (Aperture, n.d.) states “It was a performance that was recorded, daily and accidentally, by someone who did not know what was going on.”

In de Krant featuring Hans Eijkelboom, Tuesday, 8 May, 1973
In de Krant featuring Hans Eijkelboom, Tuesday, 8 May, 1973

For the With My Family series Eijkelboom approached four different households after the husband had left for work and persuaded the wives to allow him to pose in a family portrait with their children in place of their real father. Somehow Eijkelboom looks as if he belongs in the portrait. One review I read states that these are his neighbours which might explain the obvious comfort level the women and children display.

“Hans Eijkelboom similarly questions photography’s anodyne tendencies in “With My Family” (1973), where he subverts the concept of the saccharine family photo to great effect by inserting himself into his neighbors’ homes to pose with a series of wives and children not his own.”

O’Regan, K (2016)

By substituting himself for the real father, Eijkelboom is questioning the family nucleus and collective identity in a light-hearted manner.

With My Family by Hans Eijkelboom
With My Family by Hans Eijkelboom
Reference List

Aperture (n.d.) Eric Kessels on Hans Eijkelboom [online] Photobook Review. Aperture. Available at: http://aperture.org/blog/erik-kessels-hans-eijkelboom/ [Accessed 27 November, 2016]

O’Regan, Kirsten (2016) From Fluxus to Selfies, Photographs that Blur the Performantive and the Real [online] Hyperallergic. Available at: http://hyperallergic.com/298539/from-fluxus-to-selfies-photographs-that-blur-the-performative-and-the-real/ [28 November, 2016]

Esther Teichmann

Installation view (Mondschwimmen, Zephyr, Reiss­‐Engelhorn Museum) by Esther Teichmann 3x4 m inkjet print on canvas, ink, acrylic, 50x70 inch C-­type print, 20x24 inch toned fibre print
Installation view (Mondschwimmen, Zephyr, Reiss­‐Engelhorn Museum) by Esther Teichmann
3×4 m inkjet print on canvas, ink, acrylic, 50×70 inch C-­type print, 20×24 inch toned fibre print

Our course manual references Esther Teichmann’s work as “personal and universal”. She incorporates painting on her images as well as writing in her work. Initially when I viewed her first image on her website I was reminded of fellow student, Catherine Banks’ assignment in the Digital Image and Culture module which deals with collage, montage and overlays.

Esther Teichmann calls for a new way to look at photographs, not as mirrors of or windows into the world but as portals between the personal and universal, reality and the supernatural and photography and other mediums. Through the layering of memory, desire, fear, fiction and fantasy, Teichmann uses and extends the photographic medium as a passage between realms of experience and artistic creation. Her work exploits the tension between photography’s relationship to reality and a sense of otherworldly power. For Teichmann, this complex, even troubled relationship with the medium yields a passionate foray into others.

Jessica Brier (Into, Out From, Through: Esther Teichmann and the Photograph as a Portal, Daylight Digital) in Artist Statement

As can be seen from the image above, she incorporates three images to make a unit. The big 50 x 70 inch C-type print is overpainted with dripping paint, creating a surreal type muted pinkish mist over the jungle scene. The smaller sepia toned inset to the right features ribbons of seaweed. This seems to be a common motif in her images, which in my mind could possibly refer to entanglement or separation, depending on the use in the image. The 3 x 4 m print inset on the left features  a woman with her back to the viewer, who looks as if she is about to submerge herself in the river. The background scene in this inset seems to be a replica of the scene in the large print. Without knowing the background to Teichmann’s work, I found the images quite difficult to interpret.

On reading her artist statement one learns that her work is about  “loss,  … grief and a sense of inherited home-sickness”.  Much of her work is fantasy based and she uses dark, encapsulating liquid filled spaces in her images to represent the womb. Throughout the series we see men, women and children moving away from the viewer/photographer as if in an attempt to cross over some threshold into another world.

Some of her work can be seen here (Drinking Air, and Lulled into Believing). I find its the kind of work that one must look at, think about, read about, then repeat the whole process again a few times. It requires a lot of introspection and reflection.

Reference List

Teichmann, Esther (n.d.) Artist Statement [online] esterteichmann.com. Available at: http://www.estherteichmann.com/artist-statement [Accessed 26 November, 2016]

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Research point 1 – Elina Brotherus

For the first research point for this section, we are asked to watch a video of a talk given by Elina Brotherus. I had researched Brotherus during the Context & Narrative module which can be seen here. In this video Brotherus explains and gives the background to her method of working, going into detail about her first major body of work, Suites françaises. Having never learnt French she took a few crash courses in the language before taking up a residency at the Musée Nicéphore Niépce located in Chalon-sur-Saône, France. However, when she arrived in France she realised that she could not help herself in the language and her knowledge was extremely basic. So on recommendation from a friend, she adopted the “post-it” method of learning her new language. She would stick post-it stickers with the French word written on it on objects so that she could learn the vocabulary and so began her work for Suites françaises. Gradually her vocabulary evolved from basic words to complex phrases and sentences. Suites françaises is a body of work about an “effort to learn a new language, to get acquainted with a new country and a new culture” (Brotherus, 2013). I think anyone moving to a new country and having to deal with new language and cultures would regard this series as a mirror. Having experienced emigration myself I can definitely empathise with certain aspects of her work, although I did not have the language issue to contend with. For someone not having experienced such an upheaval, the series would act as a window – a sometimes comical way of dealing with unknown circumstances.

Der Wanderer, 2003 by Elina Brotherus
Der Wanderer, 2003 by Elina Brotherus

Twelve years later she had the opportunity to return to Chalon-sur-Saône for a workshop project among school children and she requested that she stay in the same dormitory she had lived in during her residency. Thus began another project “12 years later” where she went back to her roots, where she began as an artist. She repeated the post-it exercise, but this time her post-its were more philosophical. One can see that there is less chaos (the profusion of the post-it notes) and the adult artist is now quite evident in her series. Her expressions are more intense and serious. Life is not as carefree as it was twelve years previously. Another difference between the two series is her use of language. In the initial series, she was “obliged” or perhaps “limited” would be a better word, to using vocabulary post-its on objects within the frame. In the second series she was free to choose the text she wanted to use in a given image (Brotherus, 2013).

She regards this stage as a turning point in her life (she turned 40) and one where she took up a position statement. A position statement is something she recommends an artist make from time to time. It is an exercise where one looks at where one is in now exactly at this point in one’s life, what one has achieved – basically taking stock. Many times artists focus on the past instead of where they are at in the present. Her project started to build around this position statement image and various works have evolved from it.

Her advice to the audience is if one lets the life guide the work, the art will push through. When the work is personal it is hard to have someone else there. She prefers to be on her own when working, as having someone around just distracts her. Brotherus also lets her work rest for as long as six months before looking at it again, so that she can obtain the necessary distance and objectivity she needs when editing. She doesn’t always start off with an idea, but recognises it when she sees it. When asked about her figures in landscape images, she replied that as one can see her cable release in the image, this reminds the viewer that the model and author are the same person, that there is a double role being played out. The image is both landscape and portrait. Because her figures are standing with their backs to the camera, there is more of an invitation to share the contemplation from behind the subject. If the subject was facing the viewer it would be more of a confrontation and the image would then be about the person and not so much the landscape. With the subject’s back facing the viewer, this turns the image into a window I believe as the viewer is sharing the same view as the subject – there is no interaction. Where the subject to turn around it would be a mirror image as there would be a level of engagement with the viewer/photographer and the subject.

The link to the full video can be obtained from this article.

Reference List

Brotherus, Elina (2013) Interviewed by Sharon Boothroyd in Elina Brotherus Interview [online] Photoparley. Available at: https://photoparley.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/elina-brotherus/ [Accessed 25 November, 2016]

Open College of the Arts (2012). Elina Brotherus – “It’s better to work more than sit at home and think” [user-generated content online] Creat. Open College of the Arts. 12 December, 2014. 48 mins 31 sec. Available at: https://www.oca-student.com/content/photographers-talking?page=1#comment-72335 (Accessed 25 November, 2016)

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