Category Archives: 2: The B & W document

Research point : Vivian Maier

Explore the Vivian Maier website and identify five street photographs that show clear surrealist elements.

Vivian Maier , 1926-2009 , New York

American born Maier spent her early years in France before returning to the States . Employed as a nanny in New York 1951 her photography was a private endeavour undertaken simply for herself . She additionally made amateur  audio and Super 8 movie documentary recordings. Initially using a Kodak Brownie she graduated to a square format Rolleiflex , eventually moving to colour film and 35mm SLR’s.

Moving to Chicago in 1956 she had her own darkroom within the family home , where she worked and lived , and was therefore able to process her own B&W contact sheets . Whilst being aware that she was a keen photographer the children she looked after , and frequently photographed , and their parents were never shown her work so had no knowledge of her remarkable talent. Inevitably the children she cared for grew up , her occupation meant she moved around hence she had no real permanent base and needed somewhere to store her rapidly growing collection .

Maier used a rented storage locker to store her photography work along with clippings , books, and other bits and pieces she collected and kept. The collection included around 100, 000 negatives , 700 rolls of undeveloped film , audio and home movie recordings. Unable to keep up the rental due to financial difficulties the contents of her locker were sold at auction in 2007 . John Maloof , an estate agent , was one of the buyers who , enthralled by what he discovered , started to print some of her B&W images and began his quest to get Vivian Maier the recognition he rightly felt her work deserved.

She was an intensely private and eccentric person and I find it intiguing to consider what drove her to keep taking photographs whilst not wanting , or believing , they would ever be publicly shared . The collection is fascinating and eclectic , Chicago and New York’s streets and their inhabitants , frequently the marginalised , were captured at close range by this remarkable and enigmatic woman.

An interesting article was published in the Guardian earlier this year. Sixty-six year old Robert Glaser , interviewed by Erica Buist , discusses his reaction on discovering a photograph of his eight year old self taken by Vivian Maier whilst looking through an on-line gallery.
Article below.

Amongst the vast collection of images on the website of street life , children , and self-portraits there are many that show surrealist elements.

1. Her self-portraits are fascinating and there were many that I consider to have a surreal quality. The reclusive photographer turns the camera on herself but still retains her mystery.

Vivian Maier .

 

2. Nude mannequins and reflections are favoured surrealist subjects.

3. Bizarre and intriguing, an upside-down man , a child with one shoe and a ‘glamour’ girl all in the same frame.

4. Lines , shadows and light , an everyday scene transformed into something intangible.

5. The body-less feet and small doll in the top right hand corner of the shop window make this a rather strange image.

References / Bibliography

Buist, E. (2015) That’s me in the picture . The Guardian Weekend

http://www.vivianmaier.com
Accessed 8/4/2015

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/19/our-nanny-vivian-maier-photographer
Accessed 25/4/2015

Exercise

Choose one of the weekly instructions given to contributors to the Street Photography Now Project in 2011 and build a small portfolio of B&W images on your chosen brief.

Publish a selection of five images from your portfolio on your blog.

Instruction # 39 “Don’t ask. Shoot fast”—Gus Powell

My selection were taken in New York. I must admit I am not a keen street photographer any more but I felt more comfortable shooting in New York than I do locally. I used a compact camera rather than my DSLR. IMG_0311 IMG_0737 IMG_0492 Central Park IMG_0919

Research point:B&W and surrealism

Read the article ‘Cannon Fodder:Authoring Eugene Atget’ by Abigail Solomon -Godeau ( in Photography at the Dock , 2009 ,pp.28-51). Research the work of the surrealist photographers.

The very fact that photography adheres slavishly to reality is in fact a guarantee of its independence and its strangeness , and the mechanical manner in which it operates makes it an ideal Surrealist tool ” ( Bouqueret , intro p.g 2)

Eugene Atget , 1857-1927 , France

Atget’s work was inspirational and influential , a pioneer of what has evolved to become street photography. His visual exploration of the city of Paris during the 1890’s until the onset of World War 1 gained him the admiration of surrealist artists who found his work haunting and atmospheric . Although “intended for museums and libraries and as nothing more than records , Atget’s pictures began to catch the eye of artists in the 1920’s and in particular of Man Ray and Berenice Abbott” ( Jeffrey, 1997) . Interestingly Walker Evans “unlike the Surrealist photographers , who found Atget’s work full of mystery and and the uncanny” (Warner Marien, pg. 281) admired “the reserved and courtly melancholy about the transitions of modern life”  (Warner Marien, pg. 281). Similarly Berenice Abbott appreciated Atget’s structured working method,  emulating his approach in her own exploration of New York’s transformation , started in the late 1920’s. Atget wanted to record a rapidly vanishing world and did so using a large format view camera with bellows and glass plate on a tripod . The long exposures give the street scenes a dreamy atmospheric quality, the shop windows and mannequins have surreal characteristics. Atget developed and printed his own work but never enlarged them. The prints with their various sepia tones are evocative reminders of a time long past. After his death Berenice Abbott became an advocate for his work , and continued to be so during her lifetime.

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Eugene Atget

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Eugene Atget

Man Ray , 1890-1976, Philadelphia US.

Of course , there will always be those who look only at technique , who ask ‘how’ , while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’ Personally I have always preferrer inspiration to information” —Man Ray

Initially a painter Ray migrated to Paris in 1921 becoming a Vogue fashion photographer . Using techniques such as  photograms (or rayograms as he renamed them ) and solarization that reversed tonal values (with highly unpredictable results) he created images that made “ visible the invisible” (Badger p.g 65). Ray’s female acquaintances were frequently the subject of his often erotic and surreal portraiture . A cropped photograph of Lee Miller’s body combined with “lines of light playing across the naked torso” ( Badger p.g 65) was used to promote the triumph of electricity by a Paris based company , the image communicates the unseen. The severely cropped image of a young model’s face shows “an apparently grief stricken” (Sobieszek , p.g 210) woman who cries not real but glass beaded tears. A double exposed image of the Marquise Cassati “is one of the greatest Surrealist portraits” (Sobieszek , p.g 214) , Ray’s “technical manipulation” (Sobieszek , p.g 214) has  transformed her into a strange four eyed female enigma. 

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Man Ray– Tears

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Man Ray

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Man Ray

Berenice Abbott , 1898-1979 , Ohio US.

Abbott assisted Man Ray during the 1920’s in Paris “during which time she also co-invented the expressive use of solarization in photography” (Warner Marien, pg. 290) .  On her return to New York in 1929 , and influenced by Atget , she began to photograph the rapidly changing city. With their curved lines and straight lines , unusual viewpoints , clever use of light and shadow the influence of surrealism can be seen in many of Abbott’s images of the newly emerging metropolis.    

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Berenice Abbott

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Berenice Abbott

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Berenice Abbott

Henri Cartier-Bresson , 1908-2004 , France

Cartier-Bresson has said that Surrealism was a formative influence on him. The Surrealists understood and went to great lengths to convince others of the density and magic of everyday life: in this sense , his debt to them is clear. They showed us that nothing , absolutely nothing in our lives is perceived with neutrality.” (Brenson , intro p.g 4)  

Cartier-Bresson , like Man Ray, studied painting and coined the phrase the decisive moment. Demonstrating his astute observational skills “his work reveals the inner truth of human existence” (Dickie, p.g 44) . His images frequently demonstrate Cartier-Bressons’s unique talent for visualising then capturing a split second of absurdity.

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Graciela Iturbide , b1942 , Mexico
 
Juchitan

Beautiful , intriguing , and sometimes mystical probably best sums up the images of Iturbide’s nine year documentary study of Zapotec culture in the Juchitan community, Oaxaca, Mexico. Iturbide’s frequently surreal photographs capture the women’s economic freedom and sexuality which , despite age , is celebrated in their matriarchal society. Our Lady of the Iguanas is a bizarre iconic celebration of feminine power.

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Bullet point list of key visual & conceptional characteristics of surrealism in photography.
Visual qualities
  • Dreamlike
  • Mystical
  • Depict the unseen
  • Alternative versions of the everyday
  • Reality transformed to fantasy
  • Intangible
  • Erotic
  • Strange /bizarre /unsettling
  • Juxtaposition of unrelated objects
  • Everyday objects , people, and places shot in an unusual way
  • Use of lines /curves /shadow/light
Conceptional choices
  •  Choice of camera angle /lens/  light / framing etc to distort and alter perspective
  •  Post shoot darkroom techniques / digital manipulation  / cropping / etc
  • Double exposure / collage /photomontage/ etc
  • Use of juxtaposition
  • Subject matter

I found the article difficult to read and understand . However looking at fellow students comments on their blogs about the article I am rather relieved to see they had as much difficulty as me–I am not quite as stupid as I was beginning to believe !

References / Bibliography
Badger , Gerry , ( 2007) . The Genius of Photography  How photography has changed our lives , London , UK :Quadrille Publishing
Delpire ,R (ed) . Bouqueret ,C (introduction) , ( 2008 ) . Surrealist Photography , London , UK : Thames and Hudson Photofile
Delpire ,R (ed) . Brenson , M (introduction) , (1989) . Henri Cartier-Bresson , London , UK : Thames and Hudson Photofile
Dickie Chris , (2009) . Photography The 50 most influential photographers in the world,  London , UK:A & C Black
Jeffrey Ian , (1997 ) .The Photo Book , London , UK : Phaidon Press ,
Sobieszek , R, ( 1999) . Ghost in the shell Photography and the Human Soul 1850-2000,  California , USA :Los Angeles County Museum of Art & MIT Press
Warner Marien Mary . (2010 ) Photography:A Cultual History Third edition, London UK :Laurence King
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Research point :The FSA Project

+ Read the article ‘Making Sense of Documentary Photography’ by James Curtis.
Core resources:MakingSense.pdf

Curtis contextualises the work of the FSA photographers , within a tradition of early twentieth-century social documentary and touches on the issue of the FSA photographers’ methods and intentions. What is your view on this ? Is there any sense in which the FSA photographers exploited their subjects ?

Visit the FSA online gallery on the Library of Congress website and refer to their FSA catalogue if necessary : http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collections/fsa/

Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal aimed to deal with the effects of the Great Depression. Tenant farmers had been adversely affected by the recession and were facing great hardships .The Resettlement Administration , later renamed the Farm Security Administration , was set up in 1935 as part of the bureaucracy aimed at resettling stricken rural workers. Walker Evans , Dorothea Lange , Margaret Bourke-White and Gordon Parks were amongst about 20 photographers hired by Roy Stryker to obtain evidence of how the Depression was effecting the rural population. Around 170,000 images were taken.

The photographic evidence was essential to help gain public support for the New Deal legislation and “Stryker once bragged about his ability to shape views of the depression” (Warner Marien, 2010, pg. 281) thus revealing an obvious political agenda . Furthermore the photographers “were government employees , subject to a wide range of political pressures” (Jeffrey , 1981 , pg. 169). As head of the Historical Department Stryker additionally “set about formulating the work of the FSA . He set an official documentary style , held briefings and developed shooting scripts for assignments” (Dickie , 2009 , pg. 48).” Additionally “the work of the FSA photographers was freely available to any publisher who wanted to use it” (Badger, 2007, p.g 72) the images were seen in illustrated magazines , the press and Department of Agriculture brochures and portrayed “ a grim picture of conditions” (Jeffrey , 1981 , pg. 167).

Walker Evans had little time for “Stryker’s assignment guidelines” (Warner Marien, 2010, pg. 282) causing frequent clashes between the two. Influenced by Atget his intricate and symbolic images of streets, signs , barber shops and cluttered rooms are full of the detail of everyday life but “ unlike the Surrealist photographers ,who found Atget’s work full of mystery and the uncanny , Evans located there a reserved and courtly melancholy about the transitions of modern life” (Warner Marien, 2010, pg. 282). In 1936 Evans , on leave from the FSA and accompanied by writer James Agee , travelled to the Deep South on an investigative assignment for Fortune Magazine. The magazine never used the project images but they were published in 1941 as a book Let us Now Praise Famous Men .

An iconic image of Allie Mai Burroughs , the wife of a debt ridden share cropper , prematurely aged at just 27 years epitomised the plight of the dispossessed. One of four frames taken by Evans this particular one shows a non-smiling “ irritated Allie Mae , a troubled victim of both the Depression and the camera’s burrowing eye” (htpp://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2001.415). Interestingly American Photographs , published in 1938 , included one of the other images taken by Evans showing a more agreeable Allie Mae , which “thinly disguised as ‘Annie Mae Gudger’ in the text , exemplified his approach to picture making” (Warner Marien , 2010 ,p.g 282). Manipulation comes in many guises and Evan’s choice was simply one all photographers make in order to create meaning and context. I am sure Evans was fully aware of the connotations of each image and used them accordingly to what was needed to be conveyed but was this exploitation and did Evan’s really take advantage of the Burroughs family misfortune? I find that a difficult question to answer.

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Allie Mai Burroughs . Walker Evans

Dorothea Lange was already a committed documentarian of social inequalities when she joined the FSA photography team. Her famous image Migrant Motheris so powerful that it has had a a life of its own , transcending the documentary to mean whatever anyone looking at it wants it to mean” (Badger, 2007, p.g 77) . Lange herself felt the image was too impassioned and would be regarded as piece of propaganda , ironically it was just the sort of image the FSA needed to convince the public to fully support its measures. Furthermore both she and Stryker ” believed that photographs could bring about change” ( Dickie , 2009 , p.g 43) . Lange took six frames of her subject , Florence Owens Thompson , “ moving in closer all the time , until she focused only upon the mother’s face and arms , with the two children moving their heads away” (Badger ,2007 , p.g 77) but “only this particular picture caught the exact moment that kindles the emotional impact ” (Stepan, 2015 p.g 70) . The image , which was also re-touched to remove a flaw, became an iconic symbol of poverty and powerlessness but “though powerful , Migrant Mother is not typical of Lange’s work” (Warner Marien , 2010 ,p.g 283) and I do not believe Lange deliberately set out to exploit her subject . However “the photo Migrant Mother , with its obvious symbolic dimension , stands over and apart from her , is not her , has an independent life history” (Bolton, 1992,p.g 315) , the image as an icon gaining greater significance than Thompson as an individual.

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Migrant Mother. Dorothea Lange

Russell Lee travelled to Iowa to document stricken sharecroppers. It is unusual for documentary photographers to just take one frame and the FSA required their photographers to hand over all their assignment pictures. Lee’s definitive image Christmas Dinner in Iowa was carefully planned with small children gathered around a table and an empty place. An emotive and powerful scene. Lee , recalling this time there years later claimed the farmer , Earl Pauley , was widowed. However the FSA records also contain images taken by Lee of Pauley’s wife ,very much alive , “ this visual evidence offers a much more reliable guide to the photographer’s original intent than the artist’s recollections recorded decades after the fact ” ( Curtis . p.g 13 ). Lee , as an FSA photographer , needed touching and influential images , which he obtained by directing scenes “that were conceived almost as a tableaux” (Jeffrey ,1997,p.g 264) Interestingly not all of the FSA photographs were recorded in B&W , Lee “used Kodachrome to photograph in Pie Town , New Mexico , a rural small town selected by Roy Stryker and Lee because they saw it as exemplifying frontier virtues , like self-reliance” (Warner Marien , 2010 ,p.g 285).

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Arthur Rothstein. The Dust Bowl devastated great areas of the Plains causing drought and crop failure . Rothstein took a single shot of Art Coble and his sons at their homestead as they stood enveloped in swirling sand . The image was published and seen across America causing the emotive impact the FSA desired. However Rothstein “was accused of fakery” (Warner Marien , 2010 ,p.g 285) when it was discovered an image of a steer’s skull taken against the backdrop of parched earth had been moved. The dust , parched land , and bone dry skull with its connotation of death were powerful metaphors of the awful predicament of the beleaguered inhabitants who lived in areas affected by the Dust Bowl.

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Arthur Rothstein

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The FSA photographers had nothing to gain personally by exploiting their subjects but they certainly manipulated the truth in order to obtain the evidence required for their employer. As there was no malice intended , only the need to gain support for legislation aimed at bringing relief to the stricken individuals they encountered , therefore can the work of the FSA photographers be really considered unethical?

Bibliography/References

Badger , Gerry , ( 2007) . The Genius of Photography How photography has changed our lives , London , UK :Quadrille Publishing

Bolton , R. (ed) , 1992 . The Context of Meaning:Critical Histories of Photography. Cambridge , MA :MIT Press

James Curtis. Making Sense of Documentary Photography’
Core resources:MakingSense.pdf

Dickie Chris , (2009) . Photography The 50 most influential photographers in the world , London , UK : A & C Black

Jeffrey Ian , (1981) . Photography A Concise History , London , UK :Thames & Hudson

Jeffrey Ian , (1997 ) .The Photo Book , London , UK : Phaidon Press

Stepan Peter (ed) , (2005). Icons of Photography The 20th Century , London , UK : Prestel

Warner Marien Mary. (2010 ) Photography:A Cultual History Third edition, London, UK : Laurence King

http://www.bu.edu/writingprogram/journal/past-issues/issue-1/the-fsa-photographs-information-or-propaganda/
Accessed11/3/2015

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/evan/hd_evan.htm
Accessed 12/3/2015


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http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2001.415
Accessed 12/3/2015

http://www.openculture.com/2014/09/yale-launches-an-archive-of-170000-photographs-of-the-great-depression.html
Accessed 12/3/2015

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/fsa/
Accessed 13/3/2015

http://arthurrothsteinarchive.com/photographs.html
13/3/2015

http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/128_migm.html
Accessed 13/3/2015

http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/depression/dustbowl.htm
Accessed 26/3/2015

http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/dustbowl/bios/arthur-rothstein/
Accessed 26/3/2015

Research point : Humphrey Spender

Explore the website Humphrey Spender’s Worktown http://spender.boltonmuseums.org.uk/index.htlm

Public school educated Spender was the Mass- Observation’s main photographer. Mass-Observation was established in 1937 by Tom Harrison , an anthropologist , the poet Charles Madge , and Humphrey Jennings a film maker. Their ambitious project was to record the everyday life and customs of the British public accurately and unobtrusively . However “the project , although left wing and meaning well , inevitably had the stamp of the Cambridge anthropologist about it ” (Badger, 2007, pg. 78) . As well as photography the survey was to include written material , eavesdroppers were to listen into conversations and make notes.

Between 1937 and 1940 Spender recorded life in industrial Bolton using a small Leica camera , a body of work which became known as Worktown . Spender admitted “he was both shy and nervous about approaching his subjects , yet somewhat guilty about taking candid pictures” (Badger, 2008, pg. 78) . Previously employed by The Mirror he held strong views about exploitation “when he was asked to exploit Edith Sitwells’ eccentricity he refused as he objected to personal caricature” (BJP ,19.4.00) . The majority of the images I looked at on the website seem to indicate Spender kept an objective distance from his subjects and for the most part the subjects seem unaware of being observed. However Spender “recalled that he experienced unambiguously negative reactions from people who objected to being photographed…………He was uncomfortable with these strong reactions , confirmation of his own sense that he was intruding upon people’s privacy and eventually decided to give up social-documentary photography” (Badger, 2007, pg. 78) .

The themes explored in Worktown are eclectic , Leisure , Graffiti , Industry , Politics , Shopping , Religion , Ceremonies , Pub , Blackpool , Sport , Street , and Work. Within each themed group there are a diverse range of images that record all aspects of everyday lives . The Leisure theme includes cafe’s , reading rooms , dance halls , parks and playgrounds. The image of an almost empty theatre for a production of Madame Butterfly seems to indicate opera is not something usually associated with the leisure time of the working class !

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Included within the Shopping section an image with the title of Workingman’s Hair Specialist (1937) made me smile .The irony of the ‘specialist’s’ head of wild hair juxtaposed with a banner advertising treatment for alopecia is something Spender must surely have observed too. His observational skills are evident in another image from the Street section entitled 3 Smart Girl’s (1937) . Three small girls , one pushing the other two who are sat in a pram along the pavement , behind them one billboard boldly displays the words — Sabotage— 3 Smart Girls . The images within the Blackpool section frequently have (I feel) an almost surreal quality .

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Spender’s imagery of Bolton captures mores and a time and place practically vanished now. “M-O was an early instance of what is now called citizen journalism” (Warner Marien, 2010, pg. 293) and the photographs have become an important record of working class heritage.

References / Bibliography

Badger , Gerry , ( 2007) . The Genius of Photography How photography has changed our lives , London , UK :Quadrille Publishing

Core resources : BJP-Spender. PDF
Barron, Jim , ( 19/4/2000) 90 and Counting , BJP magazine.

Warner Marien Mary . (2010 ) Photography:A Cultual History Third edition, London UK :Laurence King

http://boltonworktown.co.uk/photo-collection
Accessed 10/3/2015

Exercise : In the American East

Read ‘In the American East’ by Richard Bolton ( in Bolton , 1992 , pp.262-83 and write a 200 word reflective commentary on its relevance to documentary practice .

Then look at the work of Charlotte Oestervang in Appalachia (Foto8 , V6N1 , June 2006, pp.58-9) Core resources:Foto8#6.1-Appalachian.pdf

Avedon spent around 6 years taking portraits of drifters , cowboys , and the disadvantaged he encountered on his journey in the American West. Using a white background his subjects are isolated from their surroundings , the intensity of his subjects’ gaze makes it impossible to look away. “ Avedon’s was a West of those whom the boom years of ‘Reganomics’ had bypassed. There is much wrinkled flesh in the series , most of it prematurely wrinkled by a harsh climate and harsh circumstances” (Badger, 2007, pg. 180) . Taken out of context the austere portraits symbolise the solitude and hardship of the dispossessed . However Bolton dismisses this concept and suggests that Avedon’s style “renders the subject mute” ( Bolton , 1992 ,p.g 264 ) . Furthermore whilst Bolton agrees that Avedon has built up a collection of ‘types’ he argues that the images “ have only to do with how people look” ( Bolton, 1992, p.g 265 ), and tell us little else.

Bolton discusses the decline of heavy industry along with the growth of information technology identifying a post-industrial society where corporates own and control the means of communication . He considers the possibility that Art no longer functions “ as a critical space” ( Bolton,1992 , p.g 262 ) having lost its autonomy to the corporate culture he identifies. Whilst the growth of corporate funding might be considered invaluable it also enables corporations to influence how and what is seen , which has obvious implications for unbiased documentary practice.

Avedon was an established fashion photographer when he was commissioned by the Amon Carter Museum to document In the American West . Due to the financial backing it was important to prevent bad reviews hence great effort was made to control the media coverage . The Boston Institute of Contemporary Arts was sponsored by Filene’s , a department stall , to exhibit the work. The “media attention was extraordinary” ( Bolton , 1992 , p.g 273) gaining publicity the gallery itself was unable to afford but was able to use to its advantage , membership and visitors grew vastly. Furthermore Filene’s “used the show as the basis of a sales campaign for Western wear” ( Bolton , 1992 , p.g 274) fashion wear advertisements were juxtaposed with Avedon’s portraits whose subjects were obviously “ not rehearsed in professional portraiture and their somewhat ‘fish out of water ‘ vulnerability is revealing” ( Dickie , 2009 , p.g 79) which makes one question the morality of accepting such patronage and whether in fact Avedon’s subjects were exploited in some way.

However I greatly admire Avedon’s portraiture and saw some of his work last year at the MoMA , New York , a stark and highly detailed large scale print from the series In the American West was mesmerising. Unlike the ambiguity of Avedon’s images Oestervang’s photographs taken in Eastern Kentucky USA are contextual studies which place the subject within a recognisable environment , but does this make them any more truthful than Avedon’s studies ? The answer I think lies in understanding why the images were initially made and carefully considering who is funding the project , and why. The sponsorship so often needed to fund documentary projects unfortunately may also control , censor and restrict what is being communicated.

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References/Bibliography

Badger , Gerry , ( 2007) . The Genius of Photography How photography has changed our lives , London UK:Quadrille Publishing

Bolton , R. (ed) , 1992 . The Context of Meaning:Critical Histories of Photography. Cambridge , MA :MIT Press

Dickie Chris , (2009) . Photography The 50 most influential photographers in the world, London , UK:A & C Black

http://www.avedonfoundation.org

http://www.oestervang.dk/photos/The%20Appalachian%20Trail%20–slash–%20Eastern%20Kentucky/1/15/

Exercise:B&W portraits as a documentary strategy

Read the information that accompanied August Sander’s exhibition People of the 20th Century at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Core resources : ASander-SFMOMA.pdf

Write a 200-word reflective commentary on Sander’s seven -category system. Briefly discuss the implication within the socio-cultural context of the time. Make connections with contemporary practice such as that of Zed Nelson , if appropriate.

Between 1910 and 1934 Sander travelled across Germany with the aim of chronicling modern German society through posed portraits of a broad spectrum of its citizens.

Sander’s seven categories:
The Farmer
The Skilled Tradesman
The Woman
Classes and Professions
The Artists
The City
The Last People.

Each of the seven categories included subjects with representative similarities. Within each category Sander’s egalitarian viewpoint becomes apparent , both the bricklayer and industrialists share the status of Skilled Tradesmen. The final group , The Last People included within its category the elderly, those with disabilities (physical and mental ) , the homeless , beggars etc , the most vulnerable section of society , this last group is especially poignant. Due to the rise of Hitler , the Third Reich and the political agenda of the Nazi Party the socially disadvantaged immortalised by Sander’s images were unlikely to survive. Sander himself was viewed with suspicion , his democratic view of what constituted German citizenship did not match that of the Nazis. Consequently his glass plates were destroyed , but luckily the negatives survived.

Zed Nelson’s project Disappearing Britain bears similarities to Sander’s People of the 20th Century and I like the straightforward portraits very much . Basic information accompanies the images , name , occupation , year , shot in B&W with the subject looking directly at the camera. Unlike People of the 20th Century Nelson’s subjects are not categorised into such wide-ranging social groups but simply by their occupation , Cornish Fisherman , Shipbuilders , Boxers , World War 2 Veterans, Yorkshire Miners , and Fox Hunters , trades fast becoming extinct.

References / Bibliography

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