Monday, 24 January 2011

Robert Mapplethorpe

Summary on my People and Place blog, here.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Course Completion Certificate arrived today

So that’s more or less it – just need to get everything in order for the assessment now. I’m going to continue adding to this blog from time to time, but if you want to continue following my progress you might want to catch me here, or by following the People and Place button above.

Friday, 7 January 2011

On Photography: Susan Sonntag

Rather frustratingly I have lost my copy of this – complete with all my marginal notes – so am going to have to buy a new copy before I can put down my reactions.
23 January 2011
Have now bought another copy and reminded myself of the sections I have read so far – which is a relatively small portion of the book – although in fairness its construction means I have felt able to dip in and out of the various other sections as the fancy takes me. It is essentially a collection of essays on photography, its development and its interaction with and impact on society. The sheer density of ideas in some parts is staggering – almost throw-away lines could form the subject of whole essays themselves e.g. “Not to take pictures of one’s children,…, is a sign of parental indifference,..” and “The possession of a camera can inspire something akin to lust”. So, this is not a book which can be consumed at one sitting, and I have not attempted that.
The first chapter looks at the relationship between photographs and reality, touching on the reasons we take photographs, the morality of photography and its need for a reference frame if a photo is to have moral value. Her effective conclusion is that we can no longer have an ‘event’ if it has not been photographed, but that the photos will have no meaning – they will just disappear into history – if we do not name their subject as an event. One rather disturbing corollary of tis s that we are always needing more dramatic photos. The last ‘event’ is part of our culture because of the photos, so for the next one to make an impact we have to have more appalling or dramatic photos than before. To me this seems to have reached its nadir in the filming of executions and their broadcast on the internet – fortunately there is not yet a clamour for this material inn the wider public, but is difficult to imagine that this would have occurred even a few decades ago. True – some of this must result from the easy publication route provided by the internet – but there would be little point in doing it without evidence that there were significant numbers of viewers.
The second chapter is a rather more specific investigation of the development of American photography from Stieglitz and Whitmanesque philosophy through to the work of Diane Arbus. To me it felt like a journey from ‘everything is connected and of equal value’ to ‘everything is the same and of little value’.
I found the third chapter rather more difficult to follow – with its regular references to Surrealism and its underlying philosophy. This is an unknown area for me. However the comparison of the work of Sander with that of Arbus or the photographers working for the FSA was quite interesting in the context of photography as science or moralism.
The final suggestion in the chapter, that photographers are suggesting that we should not try to understand the world simply to collect it, seems to me at odds with modern practice. True, there are plenty of photographers who seem content to collect, e.g landscape, but equally there are others whose work appears to me a genuine attempt to aid our understanding of the world in which we live.
The remaining chapters I have simply dipped into at present so I can’t really make any useful comment on them. the benefit of a learning blog, of course, is that I can return and add bits at a later date.