Late Photography

I read with interest David Campany’s essay “Safety in Numbness”, in particular his reference to Joel Meyerowitz and his photographic project of Ground Zero following 9/11. Meyerowitz was the only photographer to have been granted comprehensive access to the scene and the clean-up operation. Following a Channel 4 programme and international exhibitions, he went on to publish the photographs in a large format book Aftermath. Campany comments on how Meyerowitz’ imagery is not so much the trace of an event as the trace of the trace of an event.

Late photography, showing the aftermath of events, particularly in war-torn countries is often said to be beautiful, quiet and serene. Far removed from the scene of conflict where the pictures were taken.  Usually depicting buildings reduced to rubble, empty streets, injured people (often children) and discarded weapons and ammunition. Can these “late” as opposed to “as it happened” images have the same impact on the reader? Campany argues that video – whether manipulated or not, is the preferred method of capturing the moment and that photographs come later appearing in newspapers, magazines and on gallery walls.
DoubleCheck062606-001

This bronze sculpture, “Double Check” created by John Seward Johnson Jr. was so named for what it depicted, a businessman making final preparations before heading into a nearby office building. The familiar sculpture was situated in New York’s Liberty Park, across from the World Trade Centre.

Mermelstein-Jeff-911

 

 

 

After 9/11 the sculpture became an icon as New York photographer Jeff Mermelstein captured it in a very different context and covered in ash. So lifelike, rescuers approached the statue to offer assistance. Mermelstein’s usual subject is everyday life but this was not everyday life “I was on autopilot the day of the attack on the World Trade Centre. I don’t really remember finding that statue covered in debris…..I am not a war photographer, so this wasn’t an easy experience for me. The constantly shattering glass was terrifying and distracting….But because for years I have been taking documentary pictures of New Yorkers out on the sidewalks, there is a way in which I was prepared”. (Bjp Nov 15 “Quintessence of Dust”). This example of aftermath photography I think it works very well. One is drawn into the scene to search through the rubble and take a closer look at the man preoccupied with his briefcase. The image is a permanent and poignant reminder of the tragic event.

Aleppo boy, Omran

omran
Omran Daqneesh, silent and in shock in the back of an ambulance, became the face of Aleppo overnight. The photographer, 27 year old Mahmoud Rslan, from Aleppo, took the picture of  5 year old Omran at the scene.

This image points to the fact that the power of war photography is still strong. It conveys a human story in war-torn Syria. The little boy has become a ‘poster boy’, a symbol of suffering. For me this image is so visceral, it transforms the ordinary (a little boy sat in a modern vehicle, in a clean plastic seat), into the extraordinary (he is covered in dirt and blood). Dazed and bewildered, he sits still and patiently, almost as though the experience is a daily occurrence for him. There is video coverage of this event showing Omran wiping the blood from his face, as he would if it were chocolate or ice cream.

I agree with Campany that photographs rarely break the news these days, but I still think late photography has a firm place in photojournalism. It can allow the reader to contemplate, much like one does on Remembrance Day or Holocaust Day. The stillness may remove some of the action and violence but the late photograph is an aesthetic response, its purpose is still to freeze a moment in time, but more remotely and provides an air of melancholy and poignancy as in the image above.

So, having read this section my view has not changed, if anything it has strengthened it. Aftermath and aesthetics photography for me is less harsh on the eye (and possibly the conscience). I feel drawn to the style of Late photography for the reasons given above.

References
http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbers/ %5Baccessed 27th May 2016]
http://www.forgottendelights.com/doublecheck.html [accessed 27th May 2016]
British Journal of Photography. “Quintessence of Dust”. November 2015.
http://www.time.com The Night Omran Was saved. By Andrew Katz. 26th Aug 2016.[accessed 30th October 2016].
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/18/boy-in-the-ambulance-image-emerges-syrian-child-aleppo-rubble [accessed 30th October 2016].

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Dawn Woolley “The Substitute”

Dawn Woolley – The Substitute

My artwork forms an enquiry into the act of looking and being looked at. I use photographs of objects and people to question issues of artificiality and idealisation. Referring to psychoanalysis, phenomenology and feminism I examine my own experience of becoming an object of sight and also consider the experience the viewer has when looking at me as a female, and a photographic object. 

Dawn Woolley’s self-portraiture work is not pursued in the traditional sense. For The Substitute, her work gives a really interesting example of a first-person point of view as she becomes literally the viewer as well as the object.  For the series she replaced her real self with printed life-size portraits of herself in various poses and photographed them in compromising positions with male subjects taken in real surroundings. Initially (some of) the photographs appear genuine, but on closer inspection they may be viewed as cut-outs. Woolley claims that “This wilful delusion is inherent to the medium of photography – the desire to look at a 2-dimensional photograph and believe in the integrity of the 3-dimensional objects that are suggested by the surface.” [1]

woolley-1 woolley-3  woolley-2

For me, by depicting her own body in this way Woolley is able to suggest her presence while confirming her absence – look but cannot touch. The work displays the female body as an object that can be picked up and used, however it does not exist in reality, therefore creating a fantasy. Woolley goes on to say, By producing artwork that establishes me as an object it could be argued that I reinforce stereotypical images of the female body.” 

So, I now reflect on how do I see myself? How much of my self-image is based on how I believe others see me? How much of it stems from how I would like others to see me?

References
1. Woolley, D. (2008). The Substitute. available from: beautifuldecay.com/2014/03/03/dawn-woolleys-unusual-self-portraits-address-female-stereotypes/[Accessed 20th January 2017]

Maria Kapajeva “Interiors”

Maria Kapajeva

Born 1976
Estonia

Interiors 2012
London-based Maria Kapajeva produced a series Interiors  in 2012, it focuses on Russian women advertising themselves online for marriage. Posing half-naked in their homes, they mimic sexual poses most likely taken from Western mass media. Instead of showing the explicit detail of the women, Kapajeva has manipulated the images by covering the women’s bodies with patterns from the wallpaper or curtains from the same photograph, so they merge in with the background of their domestic environment. Appearing as cardboard cutouts, the poses are still easily recognisable, this method does thankfully, protect the identity of the women.

kapajeva-3  kapajeva-1  kapajeva-4

These women want to stand out and be noticed, but ironically they conform to stereotypes of sexual availability and domesticity by all posing in similar ways. Kapajeva highlights the women’s domesticity by literally blending their bodies in with their home environments. Kapajeva says,  I saw that these women were trying to be noticed by men via their profile; to stand out.  Ironically most adopted a pose which made them fit the stereotype of their culture even more. Even in these pictures I saw a culture where women are seen as part of the domestic landscape in a variety of roles (sexy wife, dutiful mother, housewife, cleaner etc) but not much more”. [1]    

The digital manipulation of these images portrays the women attempting to attract attention by being distinctive, but what they are actually doing is highlighting and blending into their domestic lifestyle. We all tend to like to be ‘different’, Kapajeva says that often ‘different’ means ‘better’.  The focus here is on women in modern society and how cultural and social stereotypes are represented via mass media.

References
1. Kapajeva, M. (2012). Interiors. Available from: photoparley.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/maria-kapajeva/ [Accessed 20th January 2017]

 

Joachim Schmid

Joachim Schmid – Why do we all take the same photographs?

Over the years, German photographer, Joachim Schmid has bought and collected over 100,000 photographs. ‘Collected’ is not the term Schmid uses. He prefers ‘gathered’ – he see himself as a consumer of images, not a collector. As well as prints he now ‘gathers’ images online.

Other People’s Photographs’ is a series of 96 books comprising of more than 3,000 images that follow specific patterns – bride and groom, groups of friends, hands, nudes, parking lots, all manner of subjects. I read Sharon Boothroyd’s interview with Schmid on weareoca [1]. By curating the pictures into themes he takes a critical look at our relationship with photography throughout the last few generations and how we continually repeat ourselves by taking the same pictures. Schmid states that we all take very similar photographs but we never learned how to do this. “Our parents don’t tell us, we don’t learn it at school, and people all over the world do it nevertheless. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the resulting snapshots do what people expect them to do, and that’s all there is.”  I tend to disagree, this is something we are brought up with. We watched our parents take family photographs, as children we have posed with our beloved pets and favourite toys, we all attend weddings and corporate events where taking photographs are obligatory. We look at albums, more recently online images and we copy the ideas. I say we have learned to all take the same, or very similar, photographs.

Schmid’s archive: photographs of girls with dolls prams….

Joachim Schmid. Archiv 321

Joachim Schmid. Archiv 321

…..And me with my dolls pram.

janet-3-copy

I am interested in how he retains the physical materiality of the photographs by organising and recycling the found images into ordered arrangements, then into books. Schmid talks about this saying: “An important feature of the work is the physical quality of photographs. They are kind of objects. They have an object like character, people have them in their wallets or wherever and then they tear them apart. I like the physicality of that work and I think it makes most of the fascination.”[2]  It is difficult to cast an opinion on Schmid’s work without seeing one of his photo books, which he suggests are an important aspect of experiencing the work.  His first works with images drawn from the web were presented as digital slide shows. He commented that people spend much more time looking at his books of images, page by page, going from book to book, and that he never saw anyone looking at a computer screen for more than ten minutes.

References
1. Schumacher S (2013). ASX Interviews Joachim Schmid. American SuburbX. Available from: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/12/asx-interview-interview-joachim-schmid-2013.html %5Baccessed 20th January 2017]
2. Boothroyd S (2013). Open College of Arts. An Interview with Joachim Schmid. Available from: http://weareoca.com/photography/an-interview-with-joachim-schmid [accessed 20th January 2017]