Re-visualising Mental Health

‘Seeing’ the Stigma?

By Tove Hellesvik (4th january 2020)
Defining mental health will continue to be dynamic and fluid and will grow and change as context and cultural influences change (Goldie, 2010 p.36)
Daniel Regan (2015) from Fragmentary
‘Seeing these observations of myself from an outsider’s viewpoint prompted me to revisit those times in my life through my own visual archive. I have always turned to photography to express the feelings of a fragmented identity, of my mind splitting apart and into something destructive, something unknown. Working with self-portraits taken on or close to the date of the medical record I have disrupted the image by digitally inserting those texts that are too personal for the public into the photographic image. The result is a corrupted portrait of the broken self, a metaphor for the shattered identity’ (Daniel Regan, 2015)

Defining mental health will continue to be dynamic and fluid and will grow and change as context and cultural influences change. These statements interact directly with the line of thought and questioning here. They provide an opening and understanding to the ideas of what mental health is, to explore the means by which photographers might capture the essence of that in photographs.

Daniel Regan (2015) from Fragmentary
Dmitri Gerasimov (2011) Head in the Package
Edward Honaker (2015) from Book II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing is immediately apparent in much of this practice. A sense of invisibility, or of retreating from the world; both visually and physically.

Rather than acting as portraits, they are transformed into metaphors. One can easily feel the sense of suffocation, of panic, anxiety and claustrophobia providing our first look at photographs bringing attention to the daily struggles of people with mental illness. Similarly, Michal Macků developed his own artistic technique to best tell stories through his photography. Calling it ‘gellage’ he moves the gelatinous emulsion around on film negatives and alters their appearance in dramatic ways. In these images, the subject seemingly rips himself apart, not unlike the feelings that depression and anxiety can bring.

Michal Macků (1990) from Gellage
However, with panic, anxiety and claustrophobia also comes despair, depression and the feeling of being alone.

The darkness which surrounds Alex Bland’s man in a box in Fragile (2015) shows an abyss that one can be pushed into and feared, or, find a sense of comfort for escape. As Goldie (2010, p.36) points out, we are essentially social beings and mental health can be socially created and socially destroyed. In which case, the push into an abyss can be confirmed as a social behaviour or result thereof. It is important to note, that mental illnesses can easily stem from forced social hardships, behaviours, abuse which we should all be mindful of when interacting with other people. A similarly metaphorical approach is to be found Liz Osban‘s practice, a photographer who went through depression and used her images to show this. She secluded herself into unfamiliarity and deserted spaces that were blue and gloomy. She beautifully shows mental illness in her works which evoke a sense of empathy from an audience, immediately relating back to creating an understanding space for the normalization of mental illness in public.

Gabriel Isak (2015) The Farewell Prelude
‘The dormant bodies create a sense of melancholy serenity, matched by scenery that is fixed, purgatorial. Wind-swept hair, paper planes, birds in flight and floating balloons act as an unsettling precedent for figurative journeys: the animation, it would seem, is projected outwards by the thoughts, fears and hopes of the individual, left unresolved and trapped within their sedentary vignettes’ (Aesthetica, 2015)

Goffman argues that the stigma of mental illness, is usually considered to be an undesirable attribute in terms of social normality. But what is social normality when it comes to mental illness? It is understanding that mental illness is an invisible threat that surrounds us all and to be more accepting when it comes to opening up about the struggles of life. Liz Osbert‘s project Dualities goes a long way in terms of normalising this by exploring people in their homes living their ordinary lives. She shows the different moods associated with daily routines. It provides insight on ways that mental illness can have different effects in different ways. It is not always a continuous moment or feeling, but rather a series of good and bad days. The everyday aspect of ordinary people helps normalize societies views of mental illness.

Liz Osbert (2014-2018) from Dualities
‘It opens the door for more artists to make work about their personal experiences and share it with a wider audience. Since photography is a relatively democratic and accessible medium, now it means that there are greater opportunities for people to explore photography as a medium to process, document, and conceptualise inner states in a therapeutic manner’ (Regan in Campbell, 2019)

Society can be a cruel place for mental illnesses and healthy lifestyles. Sean Mundy‘s Nescience illustrates a dead body amidst hurrying strangers. No one taking a glance or slightly curious with the scene before them. Everyone is so caught up in their own path that they forget to notice when someone is in dire need of help. The stigma and discrimination faced by people with a mental illness is widespread and offers a key public health challenge to stereotypical society views. (Goldie, 2010, p.215). Photography offers us an important gateway to challenge and change these stigmas.

Further Resources
Follow Tove Hellesvik on instagram

‘Real’ Beauty or Picture Perfect?

Human Bodies not Human Beings

By Abigail Emm (22nd December 2019)
‘A society where feminine beauty is defined not by the human self on genuine intellectual and sentimental grounds, but by a computer software on the grounds of economic interest, is more dead than alive. It is a society of human bodies, not human beings’ (Naskar, 2017)
Harper’s Bazaar (November, 2013)
Vogue (August, 2019)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we really consider the all too ubiquitous digital retouching / altering of models’ appearances, such as the removal of blemishes and changing of body shapes, we must also think about whether this is merely to aid the sale of an item, or promote a beauty ‘standard’. Or both? In our image world, these types of images are more easy to come across than ever, with a combination of social media, magazines, billboards and advertisements, the exposure to these types of representations of ‘woman’ are nearly inescapable.

Does this create unattainable expectations for bodies / create a market for products and services that could aid an individual to get closer to a so called feminine ‘ideal’. What is the morality of retouching models? How does it effect those who view these images? Is this ‘ideal’ a myth in itself?

A study by Kleemans et al (2016) on the impact of manipulated / perfected Instagram images on young women, concluded that indeed, manipulated images were more favourably viewed than their un-manipulated counterparts. Interestingly, the participants in the study also struggled to detect when the model’s body had been slimmed down. This causes concern, as this lack of awareness might suggest that there is a culture of doctored images as ‘reality’, and that young women may start comparing their body to these fictitious myths.

from Kleemans et al (2016)
‘Exposure to manipulated Instagram photos directly led to lower body image’ (Kleemans et al, 2016)

Bingham (2015) writing in The Telegraph reported that 90% of teenage girls ‘digitally enhance’ photographs of themselves before posting them online (Bingham, 2015). I believe this statistic wouldn’t be as high if this ubiquitous (but all to often hidden) use of retouching was lessened. In allowing young women to see other women with thier true blemishes and larger stomachs and thighs, a healthier body image will be developed, as the pull to change their bodies to resemble the (published) ‘myth’ of the model is made more realistic.

‘Retouching or otherwise altering pictures, to make them appear thinner, for example, has become the “new normal” for young people’
(Bingham, 2015)

This is clearly a dangerous game, particularly if young woman perceive these doctored images as ‘reality’, and as a result start comparing their body to fictitious ones, which can lead to the development of poor self-esteem and eating disorders. As Sarah Marsh (2019) proposes, ‘There has been a dramatic rise in hospital admissions for potentially life-threatening eating disorders in the last year, prompting concern from experts about a growing crisis of young people experiencing anorexia and bulimia’ (Marsh, 2019).

Is this directly related to a ‘myth’ of an ‘ideal’ woman / an ‘ideal’ body?
Dove (2006) Evolution

In 2006, Dove created an advert that depicted a woman preparing for a photoshoot, and subsequently being heavily photoshopped; with her neck lengthened and her eyes enlarged. Whilst this advertisement was praised for highlighting how drastically retouching can change appearances, it was also condemned, due to the company using it as a marketing tool. Dove were also selling ‘Intensive Firming Cream’ at the time (Traister, 2005) which aimed to improve the appearance of cellulite. This created a contradiction in what the company were saying vs thier simultaneous financiaal gain, which, when it came down to it, was still profiting from telling women that they needed to change their bodies.

Companies are slowly starting to alter their models less, which is shown through multiple fashion retailers such as H&M and Missguided halting their use of this practice. This encourages people who are concerned about the ethics of retouching to shop at these stores also. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, more companies need to join these retailers on their body-positive advertisements to make a larger impact

Missguided (2017) Make Your Mark
Follow Abigail Emm on instagram

 

 

Showcase Portfolio: Shona Waldron

Shona waldron

Strangers (2019) The term ‘stranger’ conveys a sense of distance, anonymity and perhaps even a slight uneasiness. These images explore the way we construct internal barriers to shield ourselves from others, a physical separation which is epitomised by the blurred areas of the work. The notion that ‘photography only depicts the surface of things’ (Ruff cited in Rehberg 2017) encapsulates the way we might perceive a conversation from an outsider’s perspective, blind to the personalities of the subjects as well as the original context of the exchange. Although concealment is the primary intention, some images paradoxically reveal pieces of faces as each stranger was asked to hold and position the rips and scratches in any way they felt inspired to do so. This idea of enabling the subject to be an active participant in their own depiction reflects the way we constantly adjust which facets of ourselves we reveal to others.

  • Shona Waldron (2019) Untitled Cityscape with Goldfish

 

Light of the Mind (2018) turns to nature to externalise inner psychologies, creating a world where warped patterns and textures begin to emerge. This intends to replicate the landscape of an unsettled mind, capturing strange resonances which exist somewhere on the margin of our everyday reality. Through burning the negatives, the construction of each image is a two-fold process as, even though the original print is destroyed, it is reconfigured into something entirely new. This transformative effect relates to the power of the human subconscious to build a place home to both material and immaterial forms.

Organic Body (2019) Through the use of bold combinations of colour and shape,Organic Body conveys anthropomorphic presence within the natural world in an abstract, less defined way, blurring the definition of what we are able to identify as human. The physical manipulation and transformative quality of the work encapsulates the notion of life in an ‘alien everyday reality’ (Debord 1994: 153) as the subject matter becomes estranged from its original context. By creating something unfamiliar and alien-like, the images intend to evoke a futuristic vision – a contemporary renaissance in a sense – which questions what it means to live in a world on the constant brink of evolution.

Follow Shona Waldron on instagram

Who am I?

and, who’s In Control?

‘In front of the lens I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art’ (Barthes, 1980, p.13)
Viviane Sassen (2016)

This introductory session aims for participants to explore the nature of (shared) control inherent in all portraiture and the tension between photographer, sitter, the viewer who ‘interprets’ it and the context within which it is seen. In this context, it also encourages participants to reflect on a series of portraits, and also make comparisons between painted and photographic representations of ‘self’.

It poses the question ‘In what sense can a literal image express the inner world and being of an individual before the camera?’ (Clarke, 1997, p.101)

‘A face is a mask, is a lie. The face acts as a permeable membrane, a negotiated zone between the subject and the object, outside and in’ (kennedy 2006)

this session could be run in conjunction with:

‘Portraits are representations, not documents’ (West, 1997, p.53)
Albert Sands Southworth & Josiah Johnson Hawes (1850) Young Girl with Portrait of George Washington

Compare: The painting and the photograph. Which do we consider the more ‘truthful’? Which subject is given the most prominence? Why?

‘The subject framing eye of the photographer is difficult to reconcile with the objectivity of the camera’s technology, it’s seemingly transparent realism of recording’ (Hutcheon, 2003, p.117)

 

 

 

 

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to consider the different ways in which a self might be represented.
  • To consider the percieved ‘truth’ of the portrait, as an interaction between photographer, sitter and audience Who’s view is it? Is it the photographers view? Is it an ideal self? Is it a collaboration? How is it ‘read’ by its audience? What happens when we don’t know we are bring watched?
  • Participant Outcome: Produce 3 10 x 8 portraits. (where the photographer is in control / the sitter is in control / a collaboration between photographer and sitter)
Walker Evans (1931) Torn Movie Poster

Think About: A percieved innocence / transparency of photographic portraits. Why might we find this image ‘grotesque’?

The grotesque effect of the photograph of the movie poster depends on the equivalence of object and its representation, of woman and picture-woman, that photography allows (Savedoff, 2000, p.51)

 

 

 

You will need:

  • Digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards)
  • Card readers
  • Access to computers (or laptops)
  • Flashguns (or a Studio) to practice lighting techniques
  • Any props / costumes you might need
  • Ideas about locations to photograph in (and how this will influence the image)
  • An Introductory brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
‘Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own’ (Avedon in Kozloff, 2011)
Felix Nadar (c.1855) Charles Baudelaire
Etienne Carjat (c.1860) Charles Baudelaire

Compare: These different visions of Charles Baudelaire. Can photographers ‘create’ different selves and transform the sitter into someone else? How do we ‘read’ each image?

‘Once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes; I constitute myself in the process of ‘posing’, I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image’ (Barthes, 1980, p.10)
Andre Adolphe-Eugene Disderi (c.1862) Carte de Visite

Think About: Performing for the camera. How and why do sitters perform? Do we always want an ‘idealised’ image?

‘Many people are anxious when they’re about to be photographed; not because they fear as primitives do, being violated, but because they fear the cameras disapproval – people want the idealised image’ (Sontag, 1977, p.85)

 

preparation work:

  • Ask participants to read Richard Dorment (2003) ‘Photography in Focus: Thomas Ruff’ in The Telegraph 29th May 2003 available here
  • Ask participants to explore the National Portrait Gallery resources and select one feature / practitioner of thier choice to further research available here
  • Ask participants to watch Sandy Nairne (2019) Judging the BP Portrait Award and select / consider images they respond to (or not) available here
  • Ask participants to identify and bring a selection of props they might need, as well as identify locations for photographing
  • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
  • Make sure you have access to computers
  • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
  • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
  • Decide whether you will introduce location / studio lighting
  • If you are printing it make sure the Photo Lab are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work.
  • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors
‘When I have had such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavored to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man’ (Cameron in Raymond, 2017, p.34)
Thomas Ruff (c.2000) from Portraits

Think about: The control / vision of the photographer / the interpretation of the viewer. What does Ruff’s work really tell us about the sitter?

’Photography can only reproduce the surface of things. The same applies to a portrait. I take photos of people the same way I would take photos of a plaster bust. What people see, eventually, is only what’s already inside them’ (Ruff in Dorment, 2003)

 

 

 

suggested Session Outline:

Arnold Newman (1963) Alfred Krupp

With this image in mind, ask participants to watch Arnold Newman talks about taking Alfred Krupp Portrait (2011) available here

Think about: How and why Arnold Newman has constructed this portrait the way he has / How Alfred Krupp might have wished to be represented / How we respond to it as viewers / How are public figures / celebrities represented?

 

  • Ask participants to consider the nature of the portrait. How do they make them? Is there a difference when they are photographed as sitters? How do we ‘read’ portraits as viewers?
  • What is the difference between a painted portrait and a photographed one?
  • Give the Presentation below. Invite participants to compare the approaches? Who is in control? Are self portraits different? Do we all ‘perform’ in similar ways? Are photographs of celebrities merely collaborative stereotypes? Can a ‘space’ be a portrait?
  • In pairs make 3 portraits:
    • Take Control: The photographer has complete control over the representation of the sitter. ‘Who’ are they (percieved as)?
    • Ideal Selves: The sitter has complete control over thier own representation of the sitter. ‘Who’ are they (trying to be)?
    • Working Together: Photographer and sitter collaborate on the representation. What’s the difference?
  • Print / Project and critique the images with these intents / aesthetics / the tensions between photographer / sitter / viewer in mind. Are they viewed in the way that photographer / sitter intended?
‘There’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you cant help people knowing about you. And that has to do with what I’ve always called the gap between intention and effect’ (Arbus in Goldman, 1974, p.32)
Gillian Wearing (1992) from Signs

Think About: Collaborative portraits. How does Wearing’s work Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say (1992-1993) encourage us to consider the nature of the portrait?

‘[This collaboration] interrupts the logic of photo-documentary and snapshot photography by the subjects’ clear collusion and engineering of their own representation.’ (Wearing, 1997, p.3)

 

 

 

Presentation ideas: whO Am i? who’s In Control?

National Geographic: Fact or Fiction?

‘And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin’

(T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 1915)
‘A magazine can open peoples eyes at the same time it closes them’ (Mason in Goldberg, 2018, p.8)
National Geographic (April 2018)

 

In April 2018, National Geographic reflected on thier representations of race and indigenous / non-Western people. This session aims for participants to interrogate racial / objectifying / mythological stereotypes that the magazine / visual culture might project, and to take a more critically reflective approach to such representations. It is appropriate to be used as a more theoretical / case study presentation based session or could have an associated visual response regarding the nature of visual stereotyping as it ‘becomes’ fact.

 

‘The photographer is super tourist, an extension of the anthropologist, visiting natives and bringing back news of their exotic doings and strange gear’ (Sontag, 1977, p.42)

this session could be run in conjunction with:

Aims & Outcomes:

  • To investigate the ethics of the representation of racial difference in visual culture
  • To reflect on positive / negative / stereotypical representations and consider the impact of these
  • To consider the percieved ‘truth’ of such representations
  • Participant Outcome: Research and identify 2 positive / truthful representations and 2 negative / sterotypical representations of people of colour

1: Presentation Ideas: 19th century / 21st century?

‘Every empire tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate. These ideas are by no means shared by the people who inhabit that empire’ (Said, 2003)
Pierre Petit (1882) A Kalina woman and her child photographed in Paris
National Geographic (February 1986)

‘The content of images may seem natural. But representational and interpretive processes are cultural in that they are anchored in aesthetic conventions. Photographs substitute for direct encounter; they act as surrogates, mediating that which was seen through the camera viewfinder’ (Wells, 2011, p.6)

 

 

Photographs are ubiquitous. We devour them daily and perhaps we do ignore the way they act as surrogates for our understanding and knowledge of the world. Since the first issue of National Geographic was published in 1888, it has provided a powerful yellow bordered window on a world beyond our reach. Yet, perhaps, it is more of a mirror, and at that, one which only reflects ourselves. The West. On the the 100th anniversary of the publication its editor positioned the magazine in an inherently (and uniquely) truthful context –  ‘These covers mark a century of holding up to the world our uniquely objective publishing mirror’ (Garrett, 1988, p.270). is it really unique? is it really objective? indeed, can any photograph claim such veracity? Despite the popularity of National Geographic, and the respect it still seems to attract, Grundberg (1988) and Mason (2018) take less optimistic views, that it doesn’t show us anything new. Does it merely recycle and reproduce a colonial gaze – merely reflecting already known stereotypes of The Other. Does our Western gaze still remain rooted in 19th Century tradiion?

 

‘Besides presenting our culture’s attitudes and preconceptions as if they were universal, or even nonexistent, the photography of the National Geographic produces a pictorial iconography that tends to reduce experience to a simple, common denominator (Grundberg, 1988)

Preparation Work:

  • Ask partticipants to read Andy Grundberg (1988) ‘A Quintessentially American View of the World’ in The New York Times (18th September 1988) available here
  • Ask participants to read Susan Goldberg (2018) ‘For Decades Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It ’ in National Geographic (April 2018) available here
  • Ask partticipants to read Kianaz Amaria (2018) ‘National Georgaphic’s November Cover Falls Back On Racist Cliches’ in Vox (18th November 2018) available here

2: Presentation Ideas: The survival of the stereotype?

‘If photography is perceived as reality, then modes of representations will themselves enhance that reality, in other words the photograph is perceived as ‘real’ and ‘true’ because that is what the viewer expects to see: this is how it should be, becomes this is how it is / was’ (Edwards, 1992, p.8)
National Geographic (July 1959)
National Geographic Traveller (September 2016)

‘From the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient, the one thing the Orient could not do was to represent itself. Evidence of the Orient was credible only after it had passed through and been made firm by the refining fire of the Orientalist’s work’ (Said, 1978, p.283)

 

 

In 1915, National Geographic’s official policy statement was threefold; (in Lutz & Collins, 1993, p.26) 

  • ‘Absolute accuracy’
  • ‘Beautiful, informative and artistic illustrations’
  • ‘Nothing of a partisan or controversial character is printed’

There was no acknowledgement of a potential inconsistency between these aims – such as a tension between accuracy and aesthetics – an approach which is so easily recognised in contemporary photographic practice today – and often used very successfully to create contemplation / action in the viewer. Clearly not, in the case of National Geographic. In 2012, thier position had not changed: ‘Only what is of a kindly nature is printed about any country or people, everything unpleasant or unduly critical being avoided’ (Foster, 2012, p.2). In November 2018, only 6 months after thier public ‘apology’ in The Race Issue (April 2018) their cover / Instagram coverage maintained these colonial myths – in thier representation of The Cowboy / Native Americans – and this was even within thier own shores. Is National Geographic still replicating a Western (or even white American) worldview? Think about Western ideas of Africa, North Korea, Columbia, Saudi Arabia. Does National Geographic merely reproduce what we already think we know?

‘The myth transforms history into nature’ (Barthes, 1972, p.154)

Preparation Work:

  • Ask partticipants to brainstorm some stereotypes of different countries and people
  • Find 2 visual examples which perpetuate these stereotypes (photographs, films, adverts, painting etc)
  • Find 2 examples which present a more truthful / positive view or less stereotypical viewpoint

3: Presentation Ideas: A (visually) superior simulation?

‘We are moving towards a culture of simulation in which people are increasingly comfortable with substituting representations of reality for the real’ (Turkle, 1996, p.23)
National Geographic (October 1978)
National Geographic (November 2018)

‘Animals are anthropomorphized shamelessly…National Geographic seems less involved in conveying information about its subject, than in being perceived pictorially’ (Grundberg, 1988)

‘The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth, it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true’ (Baudrillard, 1994, p.1)

 

National Geographic (May 1985)
National Geographic (August 1999)

‘The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards. He becomes whiter as he renounces his blackness, his jungle. (Fanon, 1986, p.18)

 

 

It is clear that 19th Century images might reflect the stereotype that readers in the industrial world expected to see. It was separate from the personal experience of its viewers and could only be read within the context of other images of its time – in relation to images taken by soldiers, anthropologists, missionaries and diplomats – who all had an imperialist agenda of thier own. However, when non-Western lands and people are represented as developed by National Geographic, it is all to often, an iconic ‘semi-developed’ stereotype that is created, a clash between traditional and new, Western and non-Western that can be almost comic. Again, the visual clash is of exotic tradition, timelessness, lack of development and change, which reminds us of an idea of a lack of development without Western intervention.  In essence, in the National Geograpic view of the world, non -Western lands are more frequently pictured as unchanging and timeless, whereas images of the West seem to celebrate scientific and industrial achievement. Today, does this position non-Western lands (and thier people) as backward / in need of Western / American intervention? Are non Western people simple aggregated into a similar category of Other – without any visual acknowledgement of individual customs and practices? Does a timeless mythical identity of Other, create an equally fabricated identity of a (so called) perfect and developed West?

‘A way of viewing the world as something fundamentally separated from the observer. Knowability in advance and sustainability were proofs of the power of one’s system of viewing, but they also include a destructive power over what is observed’ (Pinney, 2011, p.28)

suggested Session Outline:

  • Ask participants to critically evaluate any racial stereotypes they percieve in the IKEA (2018) Wonderful Everyday advert below.
  • To follow – with essay and showcase portfolio (Hannah Stevens)

 

National Geographic (April 2002)

 

‘Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still reveling, it’s age old habit, in mere images of the truth’ (Sontag, 1977, p.3)

 

Re-Defining (dis) Ability?

Objectified objects / positive portraits

‘All photographs, be they of people with disabilities or of other subjects, contain visual rhetoric, patterns of conventions with a distinct style that cast the subject in a particular way’(Bogden, 2012, p.1)
Wirestone Advert (2010)

 

This session encourages a comparative and ethical approach to advertising campaigns / visual approaches which aim to promote disability awareness. Participants are encouraged to consider the potential for the objectification (or not) of disability, as well as the importance / function of text to potentially anchor our interpretation.

‘The body becomes the signifier of difference for disabled people’ (Hevey, 1992, p.30)

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) for Walt Disney Pictures

 

‘Movies have tended to show disabled people as objects of pity or even comedy, a different breed whose condition subjects them to isolation’. (Cox, 2012)

 

 

Aims & Outcomes:

  • To investigate the ethics of the representation of disability in advertising / visual culture
  • To reflect on positive / negative / stereotypical representations
  • To visually consider the impact of these at provoking our ‘concern’ and action
  • To explore the role of text within the adverts to convey / support the message
  • Participant Outcome: 1 x A3 print advert
‘The impairment is what limits and thus defines the person. The focus here is on the failure of the individual to adapt to society as it is, and thus the impairment is regarded as the cause of disability’ (Evans, 1999, p.274)
The Spastic Society Advert (1982)

The text constitutes a parasitic message designed to connote the image, to ‘quicken it’ with second order signifieds’ (Barthes, 1977, p.25)

You will need:

  • A selection of visual adverts and representations of disability
  • Digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards) *This session can also be run using Camera phones or Lumix cameras
  • Card readers
  • Access to computers (or laptops) and imaging software
  • An Introductory Brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
‘By defining that person wholly by their impairment, the charities speak for disabled people implying they cannot speak for themselves’ (Hevey, 1992, p.26)
Muscular Dystrophy Association Advert (1995)

 

‘Only disabled persons, constructed as a particular kind of people, are subject to a process of image specialisation advertising, as such their image can be constitutied as a transaction in the public sphere. Charities are advertising a product who happen to be people’ (Evans, 1999, p.279

 

 

preparation work:

  • Ask participants to read Jessica Evans (1999) ‘Feeble Monsters: Making Up Disabled People? in The Visual Culture Reader (Hall & Evans eds. 1999) available here
  • Ask participants to read BBC (2016) Disabled models and athletes outraged by Brazilian Vogue Paralympic campaign photo (26th August 2016) available here
  • Ask participants to read Tara Campbell (2019) ‘Exploring Mental Health Through Photography’ in Creative Review available here
  • Ask participants to investigate the artists interviews available though fragmentary.org available here
  • Ask participants to watch and discuss Pro Infirmis (2013) ‘Becasue Who is Perfect?’  available here
  • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
  • Make sure you have access to computers / image editing software
  • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
  • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
  • If you are printing it make sure Reprographics are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work – or use A3 colour photocopiers.
  • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors
‘The focus [on] the ability not the disability’ (Barnes & Mercer 2003, p.98)
Mencap (1990) Kevin’s Going Nowhere Advert

 

 

‘The implications of this is that for charity advertising to be successful in its aim of raising funds, it may be undermining another objective: to ensure people are afforded civil rights and seen as of equal value to others’. (Bender, 2003, p. 124)

‘Imagining disability as ordinary, as the typical rather than the atypical human experience, can promote practices of equality and inclusion that begin to fulfil the promise of a democratic order’ (Thompson, 2001, p.360)

Presentation ideas: Objectified objects / positive portraits

 

Linda Dajana Krüger (2014) from Real Pretttiness

‘Why can’t Down Syndrome people be exaggerated or wear too much makeup if they like it? You see all kinds of people expressing themselves with fashion or makeup that is more or less a costume. It’s a common habit’ (Krüger in Griffin, 2014)

 

 

 

Diane Arbus (1970-1971) from Untitled

 

‘We can stare at these portraits in a way that we couldn’t stare at these women and girls if we met them on the street. We can be fearful and curious and safe all at once. They are Other’ (Dorfman, 2009)

suggested Session Outline:

  • Ask participants what knowledge.they have about disability (both physical and non physical) Remind participants that not all disabilities are visually discernable.
  • Give the Presentation above. Invite participants to compare the adverts? What are the similarities and differences? Pay attention to the time they were made / positive or negative messages and use of text as message. Is is successful? Which adverts / images are more positive? Why?
  • Brainstorm ideas and (stress) ethical concerns about the images. *Participants might make a more ‘positive’ versison of a pre-existing advert / image / character etc.
  • individually / in groups make an advert (include text) which aims to inspire change and makes a positive representation of the individuals / issue.
  • Print / Project and critique the images with these intents / ethics / aesthetics / use of text in mind and considering how we might overcome compassion fatigue and the visual objectification of the differently abled.
Muscular Dystrophy Association Advert (1985)

 

‘They had me stand in leg braces and they told me the caption was going to be: ‘If I grow up, I want to be a fireman.’ I was 6 years old. I was told I had a normal life expectancy at that point and I did not want to be a fireman. So I was quite upset… I knew I couldn’t be a fireman. That was absurd… It felt untrue. It felt exploited’ (Mattlin, 2012)

Acting the Part

Out of Character / Into Character: Photographic Chameleons

‘the mask offers a powerful disguise that gives photographers the chance ot redefine themselves, and to challenge the ways in which identities have commonly been represented and understood’ (bright, 2010, p.101)
Claude Cahun (1928) Self-Portrait

This session encourages participants to consider the nature of the performed portrait, and the construction of the self into a ‘disguised’ personae. This use of masquerade transforms the photograph into a stage. Lighting, props, costume, styling and location are also important considerations,

 

It is a theatrical reminder that identity is a construct, a mask we wear. ‘Under this mask, another mask’ Cahun wrote. We could even think of her work as a comment on race, as she frequently inverts colours and plays with contrast in one photograph. With her head shaved, holding her collar as if to hide from our gaze, seemingly tanned or edited to seem so, with her image duplicated by the mirror next to her – reinforcing the duality or multiplicity of identity, and the roles we play. (Emelife, 2016)

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

Hippolyte Bayard (1840_ Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man
‘A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows they’re being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks’ (Avedon in Fuqua & Bivar, 2010, p.149)

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to explore the nature of a performed’ and disguised self. Is is all a mask?
  • For participants to respond photographically to identified personal / political issues though the act of masqerade
  • For participants to consider the different ways in which the self might be represented. Do we have multiple selves? Are we stereotyped?
  • Participant Outcome: 1 10 x 8 digital print
Man Ray (1920) Rrose Selavy (Marcel Duchamp)
‘i pose, i know i am posing, i want you to know i am posing, but…this additional message must in no way alter the precious essence of my individuality’ (Barthes, 1981, p.12)

You will need:

  • Participants may identify and define thier own ‘characters’ / disguises /scenarios or you could use a list of Vladimir Propps characters as a prompt:The Hero / The Helper / The Villain / The False Hero / The Donor / The Dispatcher / The Princess / The Princess’s Father
  • Any props you might need
  • Digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards) *This session can also be run using Camera phones or Lumix cameras
  • Card readers
  • Access to computers (or laptops)
  • Flashguns (or a Studio) to practice lighting techniques
  • An introductory brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
Shigeyuki Kihara (2013) from Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
‘Portraits are representations, not documents’ (West, 1997, p. 53)

Preparation Work:

  • Ask Participants to read Sean O’ Hagan (2010) ‘Self Portraits as an Art Form’ in The Observer 8th August 2010 available here
  • Ask participants to explore the Tate resources and select one feature of thier choice to read available here
  • Ask participants to independently research the work of Cindy Sherman and watch Hal Foster (2016) Under the Gaze: The Art of Cindy Sherman available here
  • Ask participants to identify bring a selection of props they might need
  • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
  • Make sure you have access to computers
  • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
  • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
  • Decide whether you will introduce location / studio lighting
  • If you are printing it make sure the Photo Lab are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work.
  • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors
Aneta Grzeszykowska (2006) from Untitled Film Stills

Research: The work of Cindy Sherman

‘The desire to ‘become someone else in front of the camera, if only for a moment, is often irresistable. masqerade in self-portraiture may allow an artist to vicariously act out fantasies or address a political issue through someone else’s voice, which is both liberating and transgressive. Such tactics can also be used for fun or to indulge personal vanity’ (bright, 2010, p.101

Presentation ideas: Acting the Part

suggested Session Outline:

Splitting Image

The dual worlds of John Stezaker

John Stezaker (2012) Muse XII

This is an adaptable session which aims to introduce participants to the construction (or confusion) of meaning using simple / dual collage techniques. It encourages in-depth independent research into John Stezaker’s practice and its positioning within wider ideas regarding collage/montage and the nature of photographic representation.

‘Since the 1970s, the celebrated artist John Stezaker (b. 1949) has created distinctive collages using found photographs and illustrated ephemera, particularly mid twentieth-century film stills, press and publicity portraits. His minimal, but impactful interventions in these works – cutting out, slicing and splicing images – create uncanny and psychologically charged results, which challenge our ways of seeing and interpreting images’ (National Portrait Gallery, 2019)

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

John Stezaker (2007) Pair IV

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to explore the construction / confusion of meaning in photographic representation.
  • For participants to consider scale, composition and juxtapositions in the construction of dual collage portraits.
  • For participants to conduct in depth research on the work of John Stezaker and apply these ideas to thier practice.
  • Participant Outcome: 3 (edited) final 6×4 digital prints

Research: the work of John Stezaker:

‘Montage is about producing something seamless and legible, whereas collage is about interrupting the seam and making something illegible’ (Stezaker in O’Hagan 2014)

You will Need:

  • An introductory brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
  • *If you are running this as a physical / craft session you will need: A selection of magazines, Glue, Scissors, A photocopier
  • *If you are running this as a digital session you will need: digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards) This session can also be run using Camera phones or Lumix cameras, Card readers, Access to the Internet, Photoshop and computers (or laptops)
  • If you are running this in conjunction with a Portait / Studio session you will need: Portraits of all participants, A booked studio, Access to the Internet, Photoshop and computers (or laptops).

Preparation work:

    • Ask participants to read John Stezaker in conversation with Sophie Cristello (2015) in The Seen available here
    • Ask participants to independently research John Stezaker’s practice and watch the video John Stezaker In Conversation (2011) for the Picture This Exhibition at Laurent Delaye Gallery available here
    • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
    • Make sure you have collected magazines / have access to computers
    • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
    • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
    • If you are printing it (6×4) make sure the Photo Lab are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work.
    • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors

suggested session outline:

Part 1: splitting image / dual portraits

Presentation ideas: the Neutral Portrait

part 2: splitting image / the photographed and the found

Presentation ideas: The constructed collage

Neutral Vision (s)

Typologies & Types: Faces, Spaces, Places

‘Throughout the modern era, photography has been enlisted to classify the world and its people. Driven by a belief in the scientific objectivity of photographic evidence, the logics utilized to classify photographs-in groups and categories or sequences of identically organized images-also shape our visual consciousness’ (Baker, 2015)
Sophie Calle (1981) from The Hotel

This is an adaptable session which encourages participants to consider a potential neutrality and objectivity of photographic vision. Through the construction of a typology, it encourages participants to also think about the nature of comparative and investigative viewing (whether the subject matter is face, places or spaces).

 

‘I am an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. My way leads towards a fresh perception of the world. Thus, I explain in a new way the world unknown to you’ (Vertov in Berger, 1972, p.17)

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

Andy Warhol (1962) Campbell’s Soup Cans

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to explore the aesthetic implications of a ‘neutral’ view. Can photographs ever be objective?
  • For participants to visually consider how typologies work. Do they encourage investigative viewing? Can they transform the banal?
  • Participant Outcome: 4 (edited) 6×4 digital prints per approach (Faces / Spaces / Places)
‘For the first time an image of the world is formed automatically without the creative intervention of man. The personality of the photographer enters into proceedings only in his selection of the object to be photographed and by way of the purpose he has in mind’
(Bazin (1967) in Trachtenberg, 1980, p.241)
Jochen Lempert (1993-2016) The Skins of Alca impennis

You will need:

  • Digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards) *This session can also be run using Camera phones or Lumix cameras
  • Card readers
  • Access to computers (or laptops)
  • An introductory brief & presentation for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
Bernd & Hilla Becher (1966-1997) from Winding Towers

 

‘This is a requiem for a lost world and shows that, through the passing of time, even that which was once considered purely functional and even ugly, can attain beauty when seen through the eyes of the most attentive photographers’ (O’Hagan, 2014)

 

 

Presentation ideas: constructing typologies:

Faces:
Spaces:
places:

Preparation Work:

    • Ask participants to read Sean O’Hagan (2014) ‘Lost world: Bernd and Hilla Becher’s legendary industrial photographs’ in The Guardian 3rd September 2014 available here
    • Ask participants to watch Francis Hodgson (2011) Thomas Struth – An Objective Photographer? In The Financial Times available here
    • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
    • Make sure you have access to computers
    • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
    • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
    • If you are printing it (6×4) make sure the Photo Lab are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work.
    • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors
Tim Flach (2014) for The Sunday Times

suggested Session Outline:

 

Me, Myself and Eye

Looking at the ‘Selfie’

‘Once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes; I constitute myself in the process of ‘posing’, I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image’ (Barthes, 1980, p.10)
Chompoo Baritone (2015) from Instagram

 

This is an adaptable session which encourages participants to consider the ways in which we represent and project ourselves as well as constructed nature of the performed portrait. It encourages participants to also make relationships with a history of painting, and the nature of social media in our ‘image world’ today.

 

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

Adapted from: PhotoPedagogy / ‘The Selfie’ which can be accessed here
Nikki S. Lee (2001) from Projects

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to explore the nature of a ‘performed’ self. Is is all a mask?
  • For participants to consider the different ways in which the self might be represented. Do we have multiple selves?
  • For participants to consider the ‘intent’ of thier work. What aspect of the self are they trying to portray?
  • Participant Outcome: 3 (edited) 6×4 digital prints
Jen Davis (2014) from 11 Years

‘In my photographs I aim to raise questions regarding beauty, desire, body image, and identity through a focused observation of my personal story. I have built a relationship between the camera and myself where I transform the act of taking a photograph into a performance for the camera.  My work is partially based on personal experiences that I have re- constructed into a photograph, and the other part consists of made up fantasies of what I imagine a physical relationship to be regarding intimacy, love and desire’ (Davis in Smithson, 2014)

  • Digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards) *This session can also be run using Pinhole cameras, Camera phones or Lumix cameras
  • Card readers
  • Access to computers (or laptops)
  • An introductory brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A printed ‘Selfie‘ list
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments

Presentation ideas: Different selves

Create ‘Selves’ Which Are: Neutral / Performed / Disguised / Distorted / Reflected / Multiple / Hidden / Shadow / Partial / Constructed / Environmental

‘we have front-stage and backstage personalities, that we perform all the time, when we walk down the street, when we go into a shop. And when we are behind closed doors we go into a bit of a slump’ (Goffman, 1959)

Preparation Work:

    • Ask participants to read Interview with Daniel Herrmann on Gillian Wearing (2012) from 200% Magazine available here
    • Ask participants to independently research the From Selfie to Self Expression Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery (2017) and watch the video available here
    • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
    • Make sure you have access to computers
    • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
    • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
    • If you are printing it (6×4) make sure the Photo Lab are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work.
    • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors

 

Suggested Session Outline: