Informing Contexts - Pornographic and Phallic?
Who'd have known?
Webinar tutorial today with Paul,
A lot of this week has been trying to establish where I am in practice. What I want to say? What will they interpret it as? Or take an alternative viewpoint,
I’ve been looking at the word art a lot this week, and what is the real truth. Helped along the way by Barthes, Sontag and Tagg this week. I create my images, in fact I create pretty much all of the image at times including the non digital backdrop and hand made costumes so I am in control a lot more than a journalistic approach or commercial photographer. I found this week very interesting in the way that it has become very apparent how different people view different things within the same image. I had several images on my portfolio, and although it has been suggested a couple of weeks ago to go outside and experiment I added an outside image and it really was out of place and more like a snapshot, it took me seconds and is a straight out of camera shot, no editing. It certainly didn’t bring me the pleasure the others do and I guess, ultimately I am doing this for me, so if I don’t enjoy it what is the point? But I noticed no one commented on it.
Geoffrey Batchen (2008) has identified a gap in the art historical approach to understanding photography, in that there doesn’t seem to be a place in art history for an understanding of snapshots and when I look at snapshots I myself find myself to be very unforgiving of their purpose apart from from a nostalgic personal desire. For Batchen most snapshot photography used to be a simple process, photography is much more complicated now. Now its all about experts and not happy snapping, we need experts to build a camera in numerous styles, then another place for all the different lenses that you may need, and not forgetting the software and computers we need to see theses digital images. And then on top of that if you want to print you have a whole new ball game of paper, printers and framers etc.
When Roland Barthes was looking at a picture taken of his mother, as a child in a winter garden, he was looking at something that was done to the child.The child was photographed by someone. She was asked to stand still whilst this thing took place. The people who caused the picture to be made were less involved in what was happening than the girl. They may have suggested a location or an outfit that the girl might wear, but as far as anything technical they paid a photographer to make the picture they wanted. Barthes looks at the picture and because of its indexical relationship to his mother comes to the conclusion that the picture means, more than anything else, “this has been”, and of course in many ways he is right.
Barthes looks at himself as he engages with photography. This immediately sets a boundary to his discussion. Since he doesn’t take photographs himself he is unable to comment on that aspect of photographic engagement. He does identify two more photographic activities, being photographed and looking at photographs. But as I come more and more interested in this subject, I struggle to see what what he has to say is relevant, lets face it would you listen to a dentist about heart surgery?
In the Burden of representation Tagg notes the material character of "photographic” vision and writes: "The photograph is not a magical 'emanation' but a material product of a material apparatus set to work in specific contexts, by specific forces, for more or less defined purposes." (3) However, Tagg looks well beyond photographic and aesthetic traditions in seeking the origin of this difference between "what is there" and what we see through photographic representation. As he argues: "we have to see that every photograph is the result of specific and, in every sense, significant distortions which render its relation to any prior reality deeply problematic." (2)
It was interesting how whilst looking at my images that are beginning to shape my work in progress, the image of Cleo with Antony caused much discussion on the way that the image was received. When I took it and edited it, I asked Cleopatra to love that snake that would be killing her as it would be ending her misery, she has no fear of this. Whilst Antony was directed to look like he can just watch and do nothing as he wasn't actually there but away being a hero at war, so act as if he isn’t really there, but looking on. The same as the face in the wall of their son watching his mother take her life. It’s a hidden face and each image I create has something that should or shouldn’t be there, its very much becoming part of my fun. The initial reaction was that maybe Cleopatra was not in control and that because of the poise of Antony, posture and hand on sword, it was seen as a dominant position but then Gordon observed the facial expression and saw what I had, that Cleopatra was most certainly in control.
Good examples of signifier being dominate and signified.
Role reversal was suggested but not sure if I can get everyone and the snake back again. Will try though.
Sexual connotation? Well this is Cleopatra. Stereotypes? Yes I agree, but when looking at historical characters it is those stereotypes that bring the recognition to fore.
Pierre thought pornographic, and phallic, who’d have known? Provoked a very interesting conversation.
Questioning the obvious, the obvious can be there too but not necessarily what you go for first.
BARTHES, R. (2012). Camera lucida: reflections on photography. New York, The Noonday Press.
Batchen (2008) SNAPSHOTS, photographies, 1:2, 121-142, DOI: 10.1080/17540760802284398
TAGG, J. (2007). The burden of representation: essays on photographies and histories. Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan.