Monday, October 11, 2010

TERM 4 : Week 1

Photography as a social document & photojournalism.

Social documentary and photojournalism are the two major genres of photography where ethics become important.
Perhaps what defines this ethical importance most is the circulation of the images. The circulation of an image is very important when dictating the responsibility of that image. Context is everything.
Photojournalism started out as etchings in newspapers to support articles, this also raises the topic of the difference of using photographs and photographic images, two entirely separate things.
Social commentary and photojournalism also raise the major topic of tension between truthful imagery and photo manipulation as it is expected that photo journalists have a responsibility to be objective as the document side of photography is stating "THIS IS THE TRUTH".
This issue is raised in such things at the OJ Simpson photo in TIME magazine, in which Simpson's skin was portrayed as considerably darker than the original image on the cover of the magazine, hence changing the visual coding and the meaning of the photograph/the story that went along with it.

Mainly photojournalist / social documents aim for the audience to view an image, raise awareness and act compassionately -> give money to charities etc etc.

Issue of candidness is raise when Riis introduced spontaneity to his photos by using magnesium flash powder, which would shock his models and get them to react accordingly. Raised the idea that spontaneity is more real than something carefully constructed, which we know is not the case.

Today more people are aware of the ethical transaction as there is more awareness about camera's and photography. James Nachtwey -> not wanting to be exploitative by making human contact before doing a shoot.

Photo journalists have the power to say something on someone elses behalf.

Genre of documentary photography remains the same, generally subject positioned in the center of the photo and surrounded by elements that tell the story of that person

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 8 - James Nachtwey

James Nachtwey
War photographer.

James Nachtwey made an informed decision in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1970 to continue in the footsteps of earlier photographers in the field and lengthen their path(s) of creating confronting, documentary style imagery depicting the unjustness of war. His images are just that, front-on, confronting and strong visual truths that honestly depict the extreme destruction caused and developed by the tragedy in itself, that is war.
His photographs are a way of raising awareness to the wider world, and give the humans made subject in his pictures a (loud and clear) voice to the world that they otherwise would not of had. Making unspeakable scenes not only speakable, but visual.

Visually, his photographs are so ghoulishly breathtaking as he is not fearful to get in amongst the intensity of the situations he is documenting, where instinctively others would back away. Risking his life daily, if not hourly or more, to capture an image. Believing that it's not fear itself that rules you, but how you manage that fear. "Nobody feels sorry for themselves, it's just part of it".

Although he has obviously come across so many heinous scenes, and the countless harrowing effects that transpire, he has not become cynical, instead holding onto optimism in the form of motivation. Nachtwey describes being motivated by the fact that photography might one day cease the human war, even if the sheer notion seems out of reach.

Interesting thoughts raised from the video include the concept that advertisers are threatened by photographic stylings such as Nachtwey's due to the fact that they focus peoples attention on the problems pursued in them, in turn creating awareness to aforementioned problems and detracting attention from the products being advertised. He says his aim is not to get people to look away from reality, but deeper into reality to care about critical situations which are bigger than themselves.

Personally, I found this video so unthinkably captivating, which I felt was a common feeling in the room. Nachtwey's images are so ghastly revealing, and in viewing each single image I felt exposed, and confronted with tremendous force and power. As mentioned in the video, Nachtwey felt photography evoked a sense of humanity, well I sure felt that looking at his images too.

Week 7 - Frank Hurley

"Transforming the real world into images"

Frank Hurley was an Australian war photographer who endeavored through both World Wars, among other expeditions, such as the first Australian exhibition to the Antarctic.
His works work a constant source of conflict as viewers, other photographers and professionals debated the ethicality of using multiple negatives, or composites, to represent visual scenes such as battlefields.
In reference to the video 'Frank Hurley: The man that made history', it was noted that professionals were torn over whether Hurley was "A conjurer with a camera" or a master of the visual arts. Although Hurley never attempted to hide the fact that he was using composites to add drama to his visual scenes, there was a strong feeling of untruthfulness associated with his work, and much of it was branded fake.
Hurley, however, did not see his composites as untruthful visual captures, arguing that he could not possibly capture the vast scales in which he was working with single exposures, and was using an artistic angle as well as the actuality of the imagery to create a sense of relative size and dramatics. This led him to use his dark room skills to manipulate his images using a palette of patterns, usually associated with the sky, to add effects and impact. His work being referred to as a combination of photography + cinema + historical painting, using the battlefield as his canvas.

Hurley was also involved in the initial introduction of documentary stylings, documenting a whole range of human existence on his adventures and was also one of the first to use colour in war photography.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Today's lesson was an introduction to the subject.

We also watched the video 'The genius of photography', which brought about information of the photographic styling of daguerrotypes, which have been described as 'A mirror with a memory.
Daguerrotypes can not be copied, as in there can be no reproduction of the original, and hold a sense of being on the edge of present.

The movie also brought about the theory that photography is all about creating a frame, narrowing the viewers eyesight and telling them the subject you've chosen to capture is special and intentional, no matter what the subject may be.

This quote in response to photography really grabbed me: "BREAK DOWN THE WORLD AND DISSECT MOTION" .

The video also discussed the photographic stylings of Nadarz and Henri Lartigue and pictorialism movement which was recoiling from vernacular photography and trying to make photography fine art.

Vernacular : Everyday, colloquial.