Durden, Mark & Tormey, Jane (2020) The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory

Mark Durden & Jane Tormey (2020) The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory

Book Description

With newly commissioned essays by some of the leading writers on photography today, this companion tackles some of the most pressing questions about photography theory’s direction, relevance, and purpose.

This book shows how digital technologies and global dissemination have radically advanced the pluralism of photographic meaning and fundamentally transformed photography theory. Having assimilated the histories of semiotic analysis and post-structural theory, critiques of representation continue to move away from the notion of original and copy and towards materiality, process, and the interdisciplinary. The implications of what it means to ‘see’ an image is now understood to encompass, not only the optical, but the conceptual, ethical, and haptic experience of encountering an image. The ‘fractal’ is now used to theorize the new condition of photography as an algorithmic medium and leads us to reposition our relationship to photographs and lend nuances to what essentially underlies any photography theory — that is, the relationship of the image to the real world and how we conceive what that means.

Diverse in its scope and themes, The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory is an indispensable collection of essays and interviews for students, researchers, and teachers. The volume also features extensive images, including beautiful colour plates of key photographs.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Mark Durden and Jane Tormey

PART I – AESTHETICS
  1. Feeling in photography, the affective turn, and the history of emotions: Thy Phu, Elspeth H. Brown, and Andrea Noble
  2. Jacques Rancière: aesthetics and photography: David Bate
  3. Ambiguity, accident, audience: Minor White’s photographic theory: Todd Cronan
  4. Testing Humanism: the transactions of contemporary documentary photography: Mark Durden
  5. Jeff Wall speaks with David Campany: Jeff Wall and David Campany
  6. Deleuze and the simulacrum: simulation and semblance in Public Order: Sandra Plummer
  7. Five versions of the photographic act: archival logic in the work of Andrea Robbins and Max Becher: Shep Steiner
  8. Jean Baudrillard’s photography—a vision of his own strange world: Gerry Coulter
  9. Visual episodic memory and the neurophenomenology of digital photography: Jill Bennett
PART II – POLITICS
  1. Seeing the public image anew: photography exhibitions and civic spectatorship: Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites
  2. Still images on the move: theoretical challenges and future possibilities: Marta Zarzycka
  3. Interview with Ariella Azoulay: Ariella Azoulay and Justin Carville
  4. Human rights practice and visual violations: Ruthie Ginsburg
  5. Love the bomb: picturing nuclear explosion: Paula Rabinowitz
  6. Twice captured: the work of atrocity photography: Molly Rogers
  7. Presenting the unrepresentable: confrontation and circumvention: Jane Tormey
  8. The eco-anarchist potential of environmental photography: Richard Misrach and Kate Orff’s Petrochemical America: Conohar Scott
  9. Counter-forensics and photography: Thomas Keenan
PART III – THEORIES
  1. Derrida and photography theory: Malcolm Barnard
  2. Image, affect, and autobiography: Roland Barthes’ photographic theory in light of his posthumous publications: Kathrin Yacavone
  3. Ideation and photography: a critique of François Laruelle’s concept of abstraction: John Roberts
  4. Fractal photography and the politics of invisibility: Daniel Rubinstein
  5. Photographic apparatus in the era of tagshot culture: Mika Elo
  6. Artistic representation and politics: an exchange between Victor Burgin and Hilde Van Gelder: Victor Burgin and Hilde Van Gelder
  7. Decentering the photographer: authorship and digital photography: Daniel Palmer
  8. Out of language: photographing as translating: Nancy Ann Roth
  9. Habitual photography: time, rhythm, and temporalization in contemporary personal photography: Martin Hand and Ashley Scarlett

About the Authors

Mark Durden is an artist, writer and academic. He has written extensively on contemporary art and photography. Recent books include Fifty Key Writers on Photography (2012) and Photography Today (2014). With Ian Brown and David Campbell, Durden regularly exhibits as part of the artist group Common Culture. With Campbell he also recently co-curated a number of substantial exhibitions on art and comedy: Double Act (Bluecoat, Liverpool and the MAC, Belfast in 2016) and The Laughable Enigma of Ordinary Life (Arquipélago, centro de artes contemporâneas, São Miguel in 2017). Durden is currently Professor of Photography and Director of the European Centre for Documentary Research at the University of South Wales, UK

Jane Tormey is an Honorary Fellow of Loughborough University. Her writing focuses on the exchange of ideas between art practice and other disciplines, the conflict between aesthetics and political content, and the ways in which aesthetic traditions can be disturbed by and through photographic/filmic practices. Published work includes: “The Ghost in the Image” in Boelderl, Leisch-Kiesl (eds.) Die Zukunft gehört den Phantomen ([transcript], 2018); Photographic Realism: Late Twentieth-Century Aesthetics (2013) and Cities and Photography (2012). She is co-editor of Art, Politics and the Pamphleteer (forthcoming 2020) and the book series Radical Aesthetics-Radical Art.

Struck By Light | Valid World Hall | 2021

Struck By Light at Valid World Hall (2021)

What is a 21st Century photograph? what does a 21st century photograph look like?

By Megan Ringrose (19th July 2021)
Ellen Carey, U.S based experimental artist posed this question to women photographers worldwide, in an open call hosted by Hundred Heroines in 2020. ‘Light’s immateriality challenges its makers today, analogue versus digital, doubles our challenges. It is here, in the early stages of modern and contemporary art with its roots in photography, that our work has context.’  this exhibition symbolises strength and resilience, a 21st century version of The Linked Ring.

Valid Word Hall, Barcelona, Spain: 21st – 31st July 2021

Participating Artists:

Ellen Carey:

Ellen Carey (2021) from Crush and Pull

Ellen Carey is an educator, independent scholar, guest curator, photographer and lens-based artist, whose unique experimental work spans several decades. Photography Degree Zero names her large format Polaroid 20 X 24 lens-based art, which she began using in 1983 under the Polaroid Artist Support Program. Struck by Light (1992-2018) finds her parallel practice in the darkroom with the camera-less photogram, a process from the dawn of the medium, discovered in the 19th century by William Henry Fox Talbot, both photogram and the phrase drawing with light continue today. Her experimental investigations into abstraction and minimalism, partnered with her innovative concepts and iconoclastic art making, often use bold colours to create new forms. Colour and light are the link between her two practices; light, photography’s indexical, is used a lot or a little or none at all; its absence or zero.

Jessy Boon Cowler:

Jessy Boon Cowler (2019) from Postcards from Pachamama

Jessy Boon Cowler lives and works in South London, United Kingdom. She is interested in the relationship between the physical versus the intellectual, specifically the common exclusion of one from the other within British culture, which leads to frustration and a need to escape. The desire those of us from cold countries hold for the South, the fantasy of an island retreat; the exoticisation of a foreign land where we can let go of our inhibitions, the shame felt due to an inherited history of colonisation.

Nettie Edwards:

Nettie Edwards (2020) from from the Personal Possessions of Eileen Jones (nee Cooke) 1940 – 2017

Nettie Edwards lives and works in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom. Edwards is fascinated by humanity’s biological, philosophical, and spiritual relationship with light and colour, particularly, as her family genealogist and photo archivist: in the role played by light as an agent of memory. Her work is practice led, experimental and site specific, fuelled by her insatiable curiosity. Wide-ranging themes emerge from immersion in residency locations; long-term historical research projects and working with photographic archives.

Cristina Fontsare:

Cristina Fontsare (2019) In The Monster Cave

Cristina Fontsare is based in Catalonia, Spain. Her practice employs Polaroid film shot on location and post-production manipulation. The project, Journey to the Centre of the Earth started on a family trip around caves and ancient forest in the Basque Country in the north of Spain. This inspired an imaginary journey in the search for MARI, the main deity of Basque mythology. She is the manifestation of the divinized forces of nature. Queen of the three kingdoms, Mineral, Vegetable and Animal and the four elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire.

Liz Harrington:

Liz Harrington (2019) Shingle Street #52

Liz Harrington is based in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, she is photographic artist specialising in analogue photography, alternative processes and camera-less techniques. Her work explores the theme of transience – the changing nature and fragility of environments, and traces of the past. The work is experimental and archival in nature, often finding beauty in the unseen or overlooked. The exhibited works consist of a series of camera-less cyanotype images made by physically immersing the light sensitive photographic paper in the sea during periods of low and high tide. The images capture fleeting traces of the waves and wind – and of the past – at the shoreline.

Poppy Lekner:

Poppy Lekner (2019) Huygen’s Cluster

Poppy Lekner is based in New Zealand, her work is sometimes purposefully biographical and sometimes simply the results of play generated from a desire to explore an object with light, or explore the light itself. Cameraless photography and experimental photography provide a space to play that is neither purely photographic nor painting but somewhere in between. There is a directness of contact with the object and the photosensitive medium/surface that has kept her fascinated with this mode of working.

Ky Lewis:

Ky Lewis (2017) Searching For Light: A Solargraphic Germination #5

Ky Lewis is based in London, United Kingdom, her approach to working experimentally is based in the slow lane, she works in a variety of ways using both camera-less and pinhole traditional and alternative processes. Lewis prefers a more serendipitous workflow, allowing accidents to steer work into new directions. The work in the exhibition is part of Lewis’s Solargraphic works which were set up to determine via the process of a double durational study of what influence the environmental conditions would have on the contents. Seeds were planted inside the pinhole cameras with 10ml of water. The cameras contained silver gelatine paper. The photo paper would record the passage of the sun and during the sixty day period the seeds would grow, toward the light.

Anna Luk:

Anna Luk (2020) from In Darkness

Anna Luk lives and works in London and Kent, United Kingdom. Luk’s practice explores the ontology of photography by pursuing qualities typically tethered to painting and sculpture. She works with the materiality and the ability of the medium to not only depict an external subject but also record the physical actions exerted on it.

Sonia Mangiapane:

Sonia Mangiapane (2019/2020) Nature’s Playground

Originally from Australia, Sonia Mangiapane now lives and works in Holland. She approaches (the expanded field of) photography as a medium of light writing—over and above a medium of representation. Guided by her fascination with the physical properties and ethereal qualities of light she explores concepts of journey, place and notions of time. Mangiapane’s practice employs a range of camera-based and camera-less methods, producing a combination of representational and non-representational still and moving image works.

Emilie Poiret-Brown:

Emilie Poiret-Brown (2019) 04/04/19

Emilie Poiret-Brown is based in South West of England. Her work lies on the boundary between photography and painting, it seeks to challenge the notions of what a photograph is and how it is created. With conventional photography, the artist’s intervention takes place off the surface. In contrast, painting is valued on the art- ist’s personal expression which takes place simultaneously with a physical interaction between artist and surface. The camera less process allows Poiret-Brown to interact directly with the surface and attempt to bring painting’s values to photography.

Megan Ringrose:

Megan Ringrose (2019) from LightPaperProcess

Megan Ringrose is photographic artist based in Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom. Her non-apparatus practice is grounded in research of the fundamental properties of photography: light, time, process, and materiality. Her practice is concerned with shifting photography away from its signifying function to explore and question traditional notions of the photographic medium. Ringrose defines her work as additive photographic abstractions linking the act of painting closely to my practice. She adds light and time to create photographic objects. She plays with long exposures and ways of slowing photographic processes in order to assemble the photographic works.

Erika G. Santos:

Erika G. Santos (2019) from Dismantle

Erika G. Santos is based in Connecticut, United States of America. Santos works with photographic media to ‘dismantle’ or to take things apart, to use the pieces from destruction to rebuild and create something new and magical ,which in her own words, is the perfect way to define the human experience. Life is a series of birth and growth and rebirths. An endless cycle of positive and negatives. Santos takes this same approach with her photographic practice. She distresses her 35 mm negatives after they have been developed to create pieces of destructed and rebuilt beauty. This is a simulation of life and death, chemical paintings made to remind us that from fragments we can re-create and reassemble ourselves.

Kateryna Snizhko:

Kateryna Snizhko (2019) from Debris

Kateryna Snizhko is based in Holland. Her practice posits photographic objecthood via the explicit merging of mediums, photographs and their derivatives. Snizhko explore photography’s potential to be metamorphosed with or into another form. Her goal is to provoke a deeper discussion by questioning: what is the photograph? when does the photograph stop being a photograph? When does an artwork arise in the process of creation? In her current series Debris Snizhko explores photographic waste and its transformation into other forms. She contemplates on the print recycling as an endless process of creation.  Photography maintains the niche of the creative process far from the concept of solely image-making medium.

Lauren Spencer:

Lauren Spencer (2019) from I Dream of Screens

Lauren Spencer is based Rotterdam and the United Kingdom. The concept of I Dream of Screens is bound to its material and its process, with the work reflecting on the compulsive pull of the smartphone. In using analogue methods to re-make this portal into the digital world, the internet becomes something physical that can be controlled, paused to examine closely. The fleeting gestures of scrolling and swiping are distilled into a physical artefact, an analogue record of digital processes. In an experimental version of the photogram method, light-sensitive photographic paper used in traditional printing processes absorbs synthetic light from a smartphone screen, which is used to ‘paint’ or ‘stamp’ light onto the paper in the darkroom. This collage of ‘analogue screenshot’s is used to build the image of a device, a 1.5m tall slowed-down, smartphone- selfie.

Ellen Carey: Writes A Letter to the Artists

Light’s immateriality challenges its makers today, analogue versus digital, doubles our challenges. ‘What is a 21st century photograph?’ … and… ‘What does a 21st century
photograph look like?’ It is here, in the early stages of modern and contemporary art with its roots in photography, that this work has context.

At the dawn of photography, one finds the photogram. The word ‘photography’ means ‘drawing with light’ from its Greek roots; phōs for light, graphis for drawing. Originally
called ‘photogenic drawing’ later the ‘photogram’ a term that continues today, it was discovered by the British inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) as a paper
negative print, contact printed for its positive. The photogram legacy continues under my darkroom practice Struck by Light (1992-2021). In colour, this history begins with
Victorian, Anna Atkins (1799-1871), Talbot’s contemporary, the first woman practitioner, also camera-less and the first woman in colour through the cyanotype, ‘sun pictures’
creating a Prussian blue, taught to her by Sir John Herschel, its inventor, a friend to both. Her photo-book pre-dates Talbot’s and her written words under her botanical
specimens, point to the future in ‘word art’. Anna Atkins has many firsts as a pioneer adding to the transformative power of colour embedded in her ‘light drawings’ one
sees – line-as-form in abstraction and minimalism, size and scale, edge tension, chaos and order, symmetry, asymmetry and much more.

Nettie Edwards work recounts ‘her’ story, in a distinct approach, in her series Grave Goods both a record and document, a family snapshot, if you will. She highlights
the story of the ‘shadow’ as a memento mori, in a photographic tableaux and homage to a loved one, who recently passed away. Her visual diary, underscores the ‘shadow’
in art and photography, adding context, while content is seen through her experimental tableau vivant — here, in her work, I am reminded of the Greek fable as told by Pliny
the Elder: Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (ca. 77 – 79 CE), relates the myth of art’s origin in a fable about the daughter of Butades, a Greek potter from Corinth. She
drew the outlined profile of her lover’s shadow as it was projected on the wall by a lamp, just before he left for battle, and which her father made into a sculptural relief. Thus,
before the real shadow departs with its owner it offers the young woman an image with which to represent her beloved — that which she fixes on the wall for all time. Sun
Pictures Catalogue (1)

According to art historian, Victor I. Stoichita, in his remarkable book, A Short History of the Shadow (1997) (2) the hidden meaning of this myth involves the transcendence
of death. The image of the lover’s face on the wall is a vertical, erect, life-like projection, a figure. What is the daughter’s intent? To memorialise him? Give him life? Induce a
phantasm of foreplay when besieged so by the throes of Eros and Thanatos? We simply do not know. She seems to vanquish the threat of his death in war by making an
image that literally stands in for his absence — she makes him upright, that is, forever alive. Although the image she traced is only a spectre, it is, nonetheless, the immaterial
counterpart or double of the absent lover. It is not lost on us here in the 21st century that Butades’ daughter is nameless — a namelessness standing in for the fact of women’s
absence throughout art history, and a marker of women’s invisibility in language that ignores this one fact: the need to name the world is a human need. Nevertheless, the
daughter’s image remains. It is timeless.

1: Sun Pictures ‘Thirteen’. An exhibition catalogue. Text by Larry J. Schaaf, in association with Hans P. Kraus, Jr., (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr. Fine Photographs, 2004).
2: Victor I. Stoichita, A Short History of the Shadow, (London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 1997).
(Excerpts: Donna Fleischer essay: “The Black Swans of Ellen Carey: Of Necessary Poetic Realities” from the exhibition catalogue: ‘Let There Be Light: The Black Swans of Ellen Carey’ from her one person exhibit at Akus Gallery, Eastern Connecticut state University (ECSU). January – February 2014 ( www.ellencareyphotography.com)

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Henning, Michelle (2022) Photography: The Unfettered Image

Michelle Henning (2022) Photography The Unfettered Image
Michelle Henning (2022) Photography: The Unfettered Image

Book Description

We live in a time in which photographs have become extraordinarily mobile. They can be exchanged and circulated at the swipe of a finger across a screen. The digital photographic image appears and disappears with a mere gesture of the hand.

Yet, this book argues that this mobility of the image was merely accelerated by digital media and telecommunications. Photographs, from the moment of their invention, set images loose by making them portable, reproducible, projectable, reduced in size and multiplied. The fact that we do not associate analogue photography with such mobility has much to do with the limitations of existing histories and theories of photography, which have tended to view photographic mobility as either an incidental characteristic or a fault.

Photography: The Unfettered Image traces the emergence of these ways of understanding photography, but also presents a differently nuanced and materialist history in which photography is understood as part of a larger development of media technologies. It is situated in much broader cultural contexts: caught up in the European colonial ambition to “grasp the world” and in the development of a new, artificial “second nature” dependent on the large-scale processing of animal and mineral materials. Focussing primarily on Victorian and 1920s–30s practices and theories, it demonstrates how photography was never simply a technology for fixing a fleeting reality.

Table of Contents

  • List of illustrations
  • Preface and acknowledgements
  • 1 The Itinerant Image
  • 2 Unfixing the Image
  • 3 Reproduction and Transparency
  • 4 The Book of the World
  • 5 Second Nature
  • 6 The Universal Equivalent
  • 7 Streams and Flows
  • 8 We are Here, but Where are You?
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

About the Author

Michelle Henning is Professor of Photography and Cultural History in the London School of Film, Media and Design at the University of West London, UK. Her previous publications include Museums, Media and Cultural Theory (2006) and Museum Media (2015). She is also a visual artist, working with PJ Harvey on Let England Shake (2010) and The Hope Six Demolition Project (2016).

 

Literature Review: Advertising & Social Media

How Has the Rise of Social Media & Social Influencing Impacted on Advertising?

By Amy Miles (2nd june 2021)
In 2015, Facebook launched its first UK advertising campaign, titled Friends and spanning a range of media from TV to posters, magazines and newspapers. Among these images of bodily closeness and handwritten expression there is not one picture of anyone sitting alone at a computer or on their tablet or mobile, tapping the keypad. Yet that, in essence, is what Facebook activity is. There is an inverse relation between the time anyone has to engage in real-world activities and the time they have to spend online looking at pictures, sending messages or ‘liking’ or ‘unliking’ things (and people). Facebook’s campaign draws on the world of robust physical relationships as a means to advertise its online world, which is represented in the ads simply by the box with the tick and ‘Friends’ on it. (Williamson, 2015)
Facebook (2015)
Introduction

The topic of this Literature Review explores how visual material is used within advertising, and how advertising techniques have changed due to the rise in social media. In a society where social media is expanding, it’s important to understand what effects imagery on social media has on purchase decisions from the public.

The Visual Advert

When thinking about the role of visual material / photography within the advertising industry, we may think of large creative teams executing refined advertising imagery. As Swift (2015) proposes, ‘creative teams became the industry norm in advertising agencies’, with advertising shoots being led by art directors and photographers being seen as ‘cultural heroes’ for making imagery to sell items. (Swift, 2015) As a result of these teams, advertising is an expensive outgoing for companies. In 2004, Baz Luhrmann directed a 3-minute film for Chanel, which cost $42 million (Jhully, 2017).

However, in considering how such visuals are used, staging is one technique used to grab attention of the viewers (Messaris, 1996). Messaris outlines how staging of photographs is a technique used within imagery, involving manipulation of photos, as well as misleading text. In his (1996) text Visual Persuasion: The Role of Imagery In Advertising, he discusses a 1990 Volvo commercial (Figure 1) of a monster truck running over a line of cars, until getting to a Volvo which remained untouched. However, the Volvo in the advert had actually been reinforced by steel beams and that the supports of the other cars had been weakened, therefore misleading the viewer.

Figure 1: Volvo (1990)

Despite being written in 1996, thinking about this technique, the analysis still does apply to advertising today. This is also discussed by James Fox (2020) in his documentary Age of the Image. Fox explains how advertising creates a ‘fantasy world, in which we are happier, healthier and more successful.’ (Fox, 2020) Advertisers then suggest that to make this ‘fantasy’ come true, we should go out and buy the products that they’re promoting. This applies to what Messaris (1996) was discussing in the Volvo advertisement, because Volvo created a fake reality, one which still occurs in advertising nowadays, what makes advertising successful is the fact that it relates to the everyday within consumers lives. Berger (2001) discusses how Fenske, an American copywriter, considers that ‘advertising deals with the minutiae of everyday life’ and an advert may be ‘about something that happened to you that very day’. (Berger, 2001:10). This mirrors Fox’s idea of ‘fantasy’ worlds, potentially enhancing your everyday life to become an ideal ‘fantasy’ within the everyday.

Advertising as ‘Art’?

Is advertising considered as a piece of art in its own right, or is it just purely an advertisement? One argument is that advertising cannot be art because ‘it is conceived for commercial purposes, and controlled and financed by corporations’ (Berger, 2001:13). Berger goes on to discuss how advertising professionals think that it is risky to consider creators as ‘artists’ lest the aim of the advert is forgotten. (Berger, 2001) Nonetheless, there is the idea that this depends on the extent creative freedom the creator of the advert is allowed (Bonello, 2005). (Figure 2 & Figure 3)

Figure 2: Cindy Sherman (2011) Mac
Figure 3: Nan Goldin (2016) Alexander McQueen

Bonello (2005) discusses how Peter Saville (Figure 4) has created record covers, but also advertising campaigns, maintaining creative freedom when creating the work. However, he also argues that the line between art and advertising, depends on the intentions behind the work, and whether something is simply being shown, or whether the work is trying to seduce the viewer (Bonello, 2005). Yet, Jordan Seiler proposes that ‘Ultimately the interest of advertising is not to create something that promotes thought or contemplation. It’s to promote a single message. Advertising is about monologue, and art is about dialogue. The two are completely different’ (Seiler in Krashinsky, 2010). This somewhat compliments Berger’s (2001) argument, that the creation of advertising is to send out one clear message, with ‘art’ sending out a message to the audience that requires more thought and time.

Figure 4: Peter Saville (2002) New Order | Retro

Social Media Marketing

According to Tuten (2018), ‘social media are the online means of communication, conveyance, collaboration and cultivation amongst interconnected and interdependent networks of people, communities and organizations enhanced by technological capabilities and mobility.’ (Tuten, 2018:4) Expanding on this, Zarrella (2009) discusses how social media is different from traditional media, because traditional media are ‘one way, static broadcast technologies.’ (Zarrella, 2009:1) He discusses how social media allows users to connect with one another in real time, as opposed to watching a TV commercial for example, and not being able to connect with the broadcaster instantly. With 4.38 billion global internet users, along with the fact that the ‘average user has accounts with 8 different social media services’, it’s no wonder than social media is now used to advertise products. (Tuten, 2018:5)

In terms of companies deciding which social media platform would be best for them to advertise with, Kietzmann et al (2012) conducted research focusing on the 7 building blocks that form the ‘honeycomb model’, (Figure 5) which would help companies to understand consumer engagement on social media platforms. An example of one of the blocks is ‘sharing’, relating to the ‘extent to which consumers engage, distribute and receive contents.’ (Kietzmann et al, 2012:115).

Figure 5: Kietzmann et al (2012) Social Media Functionality

In synergy to this notion, Newberry & McLachlan (2020) discusses the importance of choosing the right type of social media campaign for the content produced, depending on who the target audience is. (Newberry & McLachlan, 2020) This idea somewhat mirrors the Kietzmann et al’s ‘honeycomb’ model, as if companies want their consumers to reproduce their content as a way of marketing, they’ll need to pick a social media platform that is easily accessible for sharing. Despite Kietzmann’s research being conducted in 2012, the ‘honeycomb model’ does still apply when thinking about what social media platform to advertise on, as numerous social media platforms now exist, even more so than in 2012. Despite more social media platforms existing, the model is still relevant and up to date with the characteristics of social media. (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Twitter response to Gillette (2019) campaign
The Rise of Social Media ‘Influencers’

According to Freberg (2010) ‘social media influencers represent a new type of independent third party endorser who shape audience attitudes through blogs, tweets, and the use of other social media.’ (Freberg 2010:90) Freberg also discusses how social media influencers are identified, explaining that this can be through the content statistics; how many times a post has been shared or how many hits on a blog there are. However, Freberg does also point out that brands cannot solely use this method to identify influencers, and that they need to use other methods to ‘evaluate the quality and relevance’ of social media influencers, as well as the influencers audience impressions. (Freberg, 2010: 91). However, Tuten (2018) describes influencers as ‘develop[ing] a network of people through their involvement in activities’, and explains that others trust and rely on influencers to give a truthful opinion. (Tuten, 2018: 94) (Figure 7)

Figure 7: Sydney May Crouch (2020)

Khamis et al (2017), go on to discuss the role of celebrity endorsements (Figure 8 & Figure 9) within advertising and social media influence, explaining advertising that involves celebrities can be used within mainstream media, as well as using their own social media or websites ‘to cultivate their own audience.’ (Khamis et al, 2017: 5) However, Kl and Kim (2019) argue that the technique of using social media influencers (compared with celebrities) is more relatable to consumers, as the advertising content is being produced in the ‘context of SMI’s personal lives’ and is more ‘accessible and credible’. (Kl & Kim, 2019: 905).This links back to Fenske’s argument that advertising is at its best when it’s relatable to the everyday consumer.

Figure 8: Omega (2019)
Figure 9: Heineken (2020)

Many social influencers use the platform ‘Instagram’ to showcase their personal lives, as well as advertisements for brands. According to Manovich (2015) Instagram ‘allows you to capture, edit and publish photos, view photos of your friends, discover other photos through search, interact with them…all through a single device.’ (Manovich, 2015: 11) Manovich also discusses how Instagram was used to document ordinary moments in people’s lives, that they like to show friends and family, meaning snapshot style images are the basis of Instagram posts. This leads onto Schroder’s (2013) observations regarding the snapshot aesthetic. He explores how snapshot type imagery is also used strategically for advertising. (Figure 10)

Figure 10: Larry Sultan (2002) Kate Spade

‘A key aspect of the snapshot style is an appearance of authenticity; snapshot like images often appear beyond the artificially constructed world of typical corporate communication.’ (Schroder, 2013) An emphasis on the fact that snapshot style images promote authenticity is clear within the text, and how snapshot images can show how a product can fit in with the consumers everyday life. This mirrors Kl and Kim’s (2019) arguments; namely that consumers can therefore relate to social media influencers, due to the snapshot aesthetic that their content is (often) styled around. (Figure 11)

Figure 11: Ryan McGinley (2017) Levi’s

Despite this, in Kl and Kim’s (2019) research, proposes that the ‘attractiveness’ of the Instagram photo means whether the consumer believes that the ‘social media influencers content to be visually or aesthetically appealing.’ (Kl & Kim, 2019: 909). Therefore, suggesting that if a consumer finds an influencers’ content appealing, they’re more likely to think that they have good taste, therefore are more inclined to buy the promoted product. The whole idea of social influencing through images on Instagram, links back to what Fenske stated about how adverts are successful if they relate to the everyday, which is what the snapshot type images demonstrate, as they relate to consumers even more so than high budget advertising shots. Yet, creating an appealing image, requires thought and potential editing to make it attractive, which defeats the idea of images being ‘snapshot’ like, so whether influencer ads are really in the style of the ‘snapshot’ aesthetic is debatable, due to the thought and processing that is required to make an image visually appealing. (Figure 12)

Figure 12: Calvin Klein (1995)

Moving on from this, Instagram has the ability to deceive consumers, as false realities are being exposed. In Driel and Dumitrica’s (2020) study on Instagram influencers, the topic of highly edited and overly curated images is explored: one example being that influencers may over-prepare images; they may include props that aren’t realistic in an everyday setting. In addition, the study looked into how influencers now ‘invest in improving the quality of their photos by migrating toward professional equipment.’ (Driel and Dumitrica, 2020: 12) With this being said, the study also went onto say how Instagram content is moving towards looking like an advertisement, rather than a regular upload to Instagram – thus removing the sense of authenticity, and that influencers are starting to make their own higher budget advertisements to make the images attractive. This may have an effect on consumer engagement, because consumers like to see relatable content, but on the other hand, relatable content might not necessarily be as attractive as higher quality content that is produced with higher quality equipment/budgets. As we’ve seen above in Kl and Kim’s (2019) text, attractiveness of an image is important when wanting consumer engagement and purchasing.

Figure 13: Flat Tummy (2018)

With regard to to posts being unrealistic, this may come down to how brands work with the influencers themselves. Haenlein’s (2020), study investigated how to be successful on Instagram, and discussed how brands can become too involved when working with influencers in terms of how they promote the product. It concludes that brands shouldn’t get too involved with the creative content side of the arrangement, because it may result in multiple influencers producing the same content, which consumers would not percieve as authentic. Additionally, approval of content was discussed, because brands don’t want influencers to promote false information, for example Kim Kardashian’s advert with brand ‘Flat Tummy’; (Figure 13) she promoted a product which claimed to cleanse your body and lessen bloating. This is important when producing content for an audience, as false advertisement can discourage consumers from trusting and purchasing from the brand.

Conclusion

The material explored here seems to suggest that when social influencing is carried out in a truthful and reliable manner, it can be successful for brands, however it did identify that Instagram influencing is becoming more and more commercial, due to taking steps that aren’t as relatable to consumers – moving away from the authenticity and snapshot aesthetic that influencing initially started out with. This then suggests that influencers are more advertising creators (who also create other relatable content), rather than people who create relatable content as well as a few adverts sporadically. This relates to what Berger (2001) was discussing, especially regarding being an ‘artist’; are social influencers creators, or are they simply just another form of advert for brands to use? When exploring the literature, it was significant that there was a lack of research regarding the extent to which influencer created images affect consumers / what consumers think of influencer content – in terms of thinking visually rather than statistically, with Driel and Dumitrica’s (2020) work being one of the key studies in this area.

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References
  • BERGER, Warren (2001) Advertising Today London: Phaidon.
  • BONELLO, Deborah (2005) Inside Design & Media: Art in Advertising: The dark art shows its colours: some say inside every copywriter is a frustrated novelist struggling to get out. But perhaps the difference between advertising and fine art is illusory, say Deborah Bonello in The Guardian, 14 March 2005
  • Fox, James. 2020. Age of the Image. Series 1: Episode 3: Seductive Dreams. [TV Broadcast] BBC Four, 16 March 2020.
  • FREBERG, Karen. GRAHAM, Kristin. McGAUGHEY, Karen. FREBERG, Laura, A. (2010) ‘Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality’ in Public Relations Review. 37(1), 90-92.
  • HAENLEIN, Anadol (2020) ‘Navigating the New Era of Influencer Marketing: How to Be Successful on Instagram, TikTok, & Co’. California management review 63(1), 5–25.
  • JHALLY, Sut (2017) Advertising At the Age of an Apocalypse.  [Film]
  • KHAMIS, S. ANG, L. AND WELLING, R. (2017) ‘Self-branding, ‘micro-celebrity’ and the rise of Social Media Influencers’ in Celebrity Studies, 8(2), 5.
  • KIETZMANN, Jan. H. SILVESTRE, Bruno, S. McCARTHY, Ian, P and PITT, Leyland, F. (2012) ‘Unpacking the social media phenomenon: towards a research agenda’ in Journal of Public Affairs 12(2), 115.
  • KL, Chung-Wha &, KIM, Youn-Kyung (20190 ‘The Mechanism by Which Social Media Influencers Persuade Consumers: The Role of Consumers’ Desire to Mimic’ in Psychology & Marketing 36(10), 905–22.
  • KRASHINSKY, S. (2010) ‘Happy Together: art and outdoor advertising’ in The Globe and Mail. [Online] Available at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/marketing/happy-together-art-and-outdoor-advertising/article4327362/ Accessed 17.11.20
  • MANOVICH, Lev. (2016) Instagram and The Contemporary Image in Academia.edu. [Online] Available at https://www.academia.edu/34706553/Instagram_and_Contemporary_Image [Accessed 25.11.20]
  • MESSARIS, Paul (1996) Visual Persuasion: The Role of images in Advertising. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
  • NEWBERRY, Christina and McLachlan, Stacey (2020) ‘Social Media Advertising 101: How to get the most out of your ad budget’ in HootSuite [Online] Available at https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-advertising/ Accessed 23.11.20
  • SCHROEDER, Jonathan (2013) ‘Snapshot aesthetics and the strategic imagination’ in Invisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture. 18. Available at http://ivc.lib.rochester.edu/snapshot-aesthetics-and-the-strategic-imagination/ [Accessed 25.11.20]
  • SWIFT, Rebecca (2015) ‘Advertising Photography’ in Oxford Art Online. Available at https://www-oxfordartonline-com.ezproxy.falmouth.ac.uk/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7002274532 [accessed 12.11.20]
  • TUTEN, Tracy L. (2021) Social Media Marketing. 4th edition. London: Sage Publications.
  • VAN, DRIEL, L. and DUMITRICA, D. (2020) ‘Selling brands while staying “Authentic”: The professionalization of Instagram Influencers.’ in Convergence. P1
  • ZARRELLA, Dan (2010) The Social Media Marketing Book. California: O’Reilly Media.

 

‘Strange & Familiar’ | The Barbican | 2016

‘Strange & Familiar’ at The Barbican (2016)

here’s looking at us: and what do we see?

‘You take a photo and the image is there on the back of the camera or phone and you immediately want to see how it looks. You know the moment; you were there, experiencing it. But the real thrill is seeing how the camera has turned the moment into an image that can last forever’ (Parr, in Pardo & Parr (ed.s), 2016, p.12)
Sergio Larrain (1958) London. Baker Street

The Barbican (2016) show Strange and Familiar was a vision of ‘Britishness’ envisaged by 23 international photographers from the 1930’s to present day, each seeking to explore social, political and cultural aspects of British ‘identity’. Its curator, Martin Parr, is known for his affectionate yet satirical images of British life. He asks the question, ‘What is it about all these photographers that we find fascinating?’ I think it’s really interesting to understand and see that we are really a strange nation.’ (Parr in Klingelfuss, 2016). This session aims for participants to critically consider such representations of ‘Britishness’ as viewed through foreign eyes.

‘We cannot claim to have really seen anything before having photographed it’ (Zola in Sontag, 1977, p.87)
Raymond Depardon (1980) Glasgow

this session could be run in conjunction with:

Aims & Outcomes:

  • To investigate the representation of ‘culture’ and national identity? Are we merely a visual stereotype? Is Strange and Familiar really different? How might it show us something ‘new’? (or not?) Do we remain in a heterogeneous view of the (Western) world?
  • To reflect on positive / negative / stereotypical representations of ‘Britishness’ and consider the impact of these. How do we feel when the lens is trained on ‘Us’ not ‘Other’?
  • To consider the percieved ‘truth’ of such representations of icultural dentity
  • Participant Outcome: Research and identify / produce 2 truthful representations and 2 sterotypical representations of ‘Britishness’
‘The exhibition will reveal a very different take on British life than that produced by British photographers. It is both familiar and strange at the same time’ (Parr in bBC, 2016)
Gian Butturini (1969) A Calm Day

Martin Parr’s curatorial intent for Strange & Familiar is a simple one; and one that is inherent to the photographic enterprise (from a Western perspective anyway). Can these 23 foreign eyes provide us with new ways of looking at, understanding even, our own ‘British’ culture? In the age of Brexit – do we even have a unifom British identity anyway? Or, does the work shown fall back (at best) on visual tropes we have all seen before – despite thier combined focus on different areas and aspects of a so called ‘United’ Kingdom. Or (at worst) does it succumb to the voyeurism that is implicit in all imagery of ‘foreign’ lands. As John Taylor (1994) reminds us ‘By chance, the words ‘site’ and ‘sight’ in English sound the same, and thier meanings can overlap (a land is both a ‘site’ (as in a place) and a ‘sight’ (as in a view) (Taylor, 1994, p.15).

‘Be it on holiday or assignment, many of us relish the opportunity to take photos abroad – to document the architecture, the people and the rituals of the foreign lands we visit. That alien feeling of being somewhere unfamiliar breeds an excitement to get behind the camera and shoot. (Life Framer, 2016)
Robert Frank (1951) London

Consider the work from London / Wales included by Robert Frank for example, if we merely change the ‘site/sight’ from the USA to the UK – are we presented with a similaly (if not stylistically) darkened view of cultural identity? Might we say that Frank’s work in the UK is slightly more tame? Or, the work of Tina Barney, with her focus on the social elite, was notably introduced to her British subjects from contacts at Sotheby’s. Yet, in The Europeans her painterly tableau of these British upper classes continue to remain on the cusp of fact and myth, the staged and unstaged, and yes, certainly the familiar but strange with it. Is it really ‘British’? Or is it a subjective ressponse which is more irrespective of nationhood?

Tina Barney (2001) The Two Students

What is clear, is that the work contained in the exhibition is fluid in appropach but it is also cumulative in it intent. Like any ‘self’, it changes and evolves, and these 23 different subjective visions provide a plethora of ‘portraits’ of a British selfhood. Are they too politically motivated? Is there too much concentration on a percieved British class system? An external view, yes, but we must wonder what Google Earth /  and ‘photographers’ like Doug Rickard, Micheal Wolf and Jon Rafman might have to say?

Akihiko Okamura (1969) Day after the Battle of Bogside, Northern Ireland

presentation: Strange & Familiar (Barbican, 2016)

But not only is this exhibition a multifaceted history of Britain charted by very different sensibilities through the decades, it also charts the developing medium of photography itself, as various strands of social documentary give way to fine-art photography and colour floods in. In the show’s later rooms, places and people are increasingly given separate portrayals’ (Buck, 2016)
Bruce Gilden (2014) from Strange & Familiar exhibition

Suggested Session Outline:

‘So what do we learn about ourselves by studying the many different ways of looking at the United Kingdom? clichés have not become clichés without good reason…it makes us as a country more aware of our own diverse identity’ (Parr, in Pardo & Parr (ed.s), 2016, p.15)
  • Ask participants to conduct independent and in-depth research into the work of at least 2 of the practitoners included in the Strange and Familiar exhibition at The Barbican (2016).
  • Compare the works included in the Strange and Familiar exhibition with thier other projects / practices. Are they similar or is there anything ‘peculiarly’ British about thier approach?
  • Ask participants to read Lucy Buck (2016) ‘Martin Parr’s strange and familiar face of Britain at The Barbican (2016) in The Telegraph (1st April 2016) available here
  • Like any ‘portrait’, there is an interaction between photographer, sitter and audience Who’s view is it? Is it the photographers view? Is it an stereotypical identity? Is it a collaboration? How is it ‘read’ by its audience? What happens when we have a lens trained on us?
  • Brainstrom stereotypical representations of ‘Britishness’
  • Create 2 images of the same scene – one sterotypical, and one more subjective.
  • Critique and Review.
‘A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into a souvenir (Sontag, 1977, p.9)
Candida Höfer (1968) Liverpool XVI

‘New Topographics’ | George Eastman House | 1975

New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape at The George Eastman House (1975)

Visual Detachment & Political views?

By Amy Miles (16th Decemeber 2019)
‘Their stark, beautifully printed images of this mundane but oddly fascinating topography was both a reflection of the increasingly suburbanised world around them, and a reaction to the tyranny of idealised landscape photography that elevated the natural and the elemental’ (O’Hagan, 2010)
Robert Adams (1973) Mobile homes, Jefferson County, Colorado

The International Museum of Photography New Topographics (1975)  was pivotal in the development of American landscape photography. Gone were the romantic,  sublime visions of an unspoilt American frontier. Rather, the artists included in the show (Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel) projected a version of America full of tract houses and industrial estates, a more anthropological, objective view of human imprint on the American land.

‘Looking at the work, what comes to the fore is the predominant spirit of the solitary road trip as a working model. The photographs evoke Evans’ American Photographs (1938) and Frank’s The Americans (1958) as much as Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) and the Dennis Hopper-directed Easy Rider (1969)’ Many of the series were products of cross-country journeys, and all showed the conflict between the frontier spirit of traversing the majestic countryside and the stark reality of the pale, dank sprawl of motels, shops and houses that they encountered (Lange, 2010)

this session could be run in conjunction with:

Traditionally, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of landscape photography, might be something similar to the work of Ansel Adams – a romantized and idealic view of the American land. However these photographers didn’t follow in these footsteps at all, and started to capture what our landscapes really looked like. The curator of New Topographics, William Jenkins, aimed to show an America from a more neutral and non-biased stance, removing the photographers specific emotions or styles. Whether or not this accurately described the artists’ intentions, in retrospect we certainly have a more politically aware view of this ‘man-altered landscape’ (Rosa, 2010). Heavily influenced by the work of Ed Ruscha (strangely not included in the show) Jenkins muses;

‘the pictures were stripped of any artistic frills and reduced to an essentially topographic state, conveying substantial amounts of visual information but eschewing entirely aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion … [this was[ rigorous purity, deadpan humor and a casual disregard for the importance of the images’ (Jenkins in Hershberger, 2013, p.236)
Ed Ruscha (1963) from 26 Gasoline Stations

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to consider a history of American landscape photography and a shift to a more political approach. How are photographers influenced? Is thiss political approach inherent today? Has there been a polarisation in the way we visualise the land between vernacular and gallery contexts?
  • For participants to take a critically informed personal stance to evaluate exhibitions / works and the curatorial rationale and intent.
  • To reflect on the nature of the gallery context and questions of taste, value and judgement. Is it ‘good’?
  • Participant Outcome: To critically evaluate an exhibition of thier choice, considering curatorial intent, selection of works, and reviews. Would thier own practice fit into this and why? *Participants could also be encouraged to ‘curate’ thier own exhibition / include thier own work in this and consider the curatorial rationale.
Walker Evans was also a clear influence for this new generation of photographers. His work refused to romanticise poverty, to create perhaps a more realistic (but certainly more objective) view of the American Depression.
Walker Evans (1941) from Let Us Now Priase Famous Men

However, Evans images have been debated (e.g. Whitman, 1975, Tagg, 2003, Tedford, 2017) upon whether they were taken from a detached point of view, or whether he was sgiving his subjects dignity (if not sympathy). Frank Gohike emphasises Evans influence on his practice, most importantly, the detached viewpoint, that ‘The attempt to make a photograph from which the photographer seems to be absent is a strategy whose value and power all of us I think primarily learned from [Evans]’ (Gohlke in Salvesen, 1975, p.17).

Frank Gohlke (1975) from Grain Elevators

presentation: New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape (George Eastman House, 1975)

Robert Adams work is evidently based on this subjective relationship between man and the landscape. His work could be interpreted in a way that shows his emotional opinions towards how the landscape has changed and affected the environment.

Robert Adams (1983) On Signal Hill overlooking Long Beach, California

For example, Dennis (2005) critiqued this image as: ‘The tree in the foreground is not only dwarfed by the enormous sprawl of the city behind it, but also acts as a lone and pathetic reminder of what has been displaced by urban development.’ That said, there is still evidence of an emotional / visual detachment in the outcome. It is not implausible to suggest that the image posits an subjective position towards the ongoing march of man.

 

One might argue that the work of Lewis Baltz were taken from a similarly detached and clinical viewpoint, but yet that that the ongoing march of human development around him made he, himself, feel detached – expressed also visually (and subjectively).

Lewis Baltz (1974) from New Industrial Parks

Gosney (2013) posits this view, that ‘Lewis Baltz’s stark images juxtaposed the contrary ugliness inherant in industrial tracts and national parks…symbolising what many saw as problems of the modern age’ (Gosney, 2013). However, it must also be noted that Baltz’s images are paradoxically akin to social research.

New Topograhics exhibition in 1975 was not just the moment when the apparently banal became accepted as a legitimate photographic subject, but when a certain strand of theoretically driven photography began to permeate the wider contemporary art world. Looking back, one can see how these images of the “man-altered landscape” carried a political message and reflected, unconsciously or otherwise, the growing unease about how the natural landscape was being eroded by industrial development and the spread of cities’ (O’Hagan, 2010)

Suggested Session Outline:

  • Ask participants to conduct in depth research into the work of at least 2 of the practitoners included in the New Topographics exhibition
  • Do they have any similar reference points / visual or conceptual infuences? What are the commonalities? What are the differences? Why do you think William Jenkins curated them in the same show?
  • If you were the curator: Of the practitoners included in the show, which work would remain? And which would be rejected?
  • If you were the curator: How you adapt the show today? Are there any new works you would include? By whom and why?
  • Would you include your own photographic practice? Could you make work in this detatched yet politically present way? Of what, and why?
‘We are, perhaps, never more frustrated than when the photograph fails to tell us what it means or is about something other than what it is as a picture.’ (Dennis, 2005).
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‘What is a Photograph?’ | International Center of Photography | 2014

What is a Photograph? at the ICP (2014)

blurring the boundaries: when does a photograph stop being a photograph? (and does it really matter anymore?)

‘By foregrounding a photographs means of production and malleability of meaning, by making the photograph both a material thing and a philosophical question, it asks us to really look at what and how we are seeing’ (Batchen, 2014, p.60)
What is A Photograph? (ICP, 2014) exhibition view

The ICP (2014) show What is a Photograph? was described by its curator as ‘Bring[ing] together artists who reconsidered and reinvented the role of light, color, composition, materiality, and the subject in the art of photography’ (Squires, 2014, p.9). This session aims for participants to take both a critically informed and a personally evaluative stance to such exhibitions and thier intent.

‘The aim of all commentary on art now should be to make works of art […] more, rather than less, real to us’ (Sontag, 1964, p.14)

this session could be run in conjunction with:

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to consider the nature of contemporary photography and its relationship with other media
  • For participants to take a critically informed personal stance to evaluate exhibitions / works and the curatorial rationale and intent.
  • To reflect on the nature of the gallery context and questions of taste, value and judgement. Is it ‘good’?
  • Participant Outcome: To critically evaluate an exhibition of thier choice, considering curatorial intent, selection of works, and reviews. Would thier own practice fit into this and why? *Participants could also be encouraged to ‘curate’ thier own exhibition / include thier own work in this and consider the curatorial rationale.
‘Having an opinion is part of your social contract with readers’ (Schjeldahl, 2004)

Showing from January – May 2014, Carol Squires curated What is a Photograph? an exhibition of 21 artists who have pushed the boundaries of a so called / traditional photographic practice. Like John Szarkowski and Stephen Shore before her, this was questioning and attempting to explore the nature of the shapeshifter we call ‘photography’. Whilst the title of the show poses an excellent, (though never quite answered), question, the critics were mixed in their responses. Is this due to a failure in the curatorial rationale, or simply that the slippery nature of the photograph itself (and all its contexts of consumption) eludes such a single and simple definition?

Carol Squires (ed.) (2014) What is a Photograph? New York, International Center of Photography

 

‘Photographs are both images and physical objects that exist in time and space, and thus on social and cultural experience and are thus enmeshed with subjective, embodied and sensuous interactions’ (Edwards & Hart, 2004, p.1)

‘You must be putting to the test, not just the artwork, but yourself in your response to it’ (Schwabsky , 2012)

presentation: What is a Photograph? (ICP, 2014)

‘Artists around the globe have been experimenting with and redrawing the boundaries of traditional photography for decades. Although digital photography seems to have made analogue obsolete, artists continue to make works that are photographic objects, using both old technologies and new, crisscrossing boundaries and blending techniques (Squires, 2014). Yes, this is certainly the case, but the emphasis of this critique is on Squires term ‘objects’, and it is clear that there is an overbearing concentration on the physicality of the photograph-as-object throughout the show / in the practice of the artists included. This seems to be rather surprising given the ubiquity of the photograph today, and all of its digital forms of reproduction, in a show curated in 2014, Is it just the wrong question / title? Is it too broad? What would Walter Benjamin have to say?

This point was not lost on the critics:

‘Unfortunately, the works chosen to investigate this question, are, simply put, not very strong. What’s worse, while many of them are cartoonishly bad, a few are magical and get it just right. The resulting exhibition is maddeningly close to being good, but it is hobbled by some serious and almost headache-inducing failures that can only be blamed on a lack of curatorial judgment’ (Pollack, 2014)
‘It’s a strangely blinkered and backward-looking show. Nearly all the work on view have more to do with photography’s past than with its possible future’ (Johnson, 2014)
‘It is not that this show looks backwards (which it does), but rather, that it looks backwards to produce a certain history which at once marginalizes photography’s digital transformation and yet at the same time is a product of that shift’ (King, 2014)
‘In a day and age where the majority of photographs exist in ephemeral form, tying an inquiry into what a photograph actually is, to experimentation by very art-world centered humans around materials simply misses most of the excitement’ (Colberg, 2014)

However, Squires responds to the chameleon-like nature of the photograph as she is also quick to point out that ‘We are in a moment – which may stretch on for years – in which the photograph shifts effortlessly between platforms and media’ (Squires, 2014, p.42), Indeed we are, so why, in this show, might we be presented with a question and selection of images which one could argue has more in common with painting and sculpture, and the associations of value, judgement and aura that these media might connote. Is this a return to 19th Century photographic values? Is the photograph so confused / de-valued as ‘art’ that it must resort to mimicing painting and sculpture to make the gallery its ‘home’/ Or is this a direct response to the digital age and the plethora of images that come with it?

That said, perhaps Squires question is a useful one. To return to Olin’s (2013) definition as the photograph as evoking both ‘vision and touch’ as well as Batchen’s (2014) reminder of the photograph as a ‘means of production with a malleable meaning’, and Edwards & Hart’s (2004) notion of it as ‘images and physical objects’. Perhaps this exhibition serves us with an important reminder of the shifting nature of the photograph and the relationship we are invited to have with it, to instigate debate and exploration of it’s usually transparent and often more functional nature, as it continues to shapeshift between contexts and media.

’Emotion without cognition is blind, cognition without emotion is vacuous’ (Scheffler, 1991, p.9)

suggested Session Outline:

‘The best photographs always inspire curiosity, rather than satisfy it’ (Soth in Schuman, 2004)
  • Ask participants to conduct in depth research into the work of at least 2 of the practitoners included in What is a Photograph? at the ICP (2014).
  • Ask participants to read and compare at least 2 of the reviews below. Do they agree with the argument being made? What are the similarities and differences
    • Colberg, Jörg (2014) ‘What is a Photograph?’ in Conscientious Magazine (31st March 2014) available here
    • Johnson, Ken (2014) ‘Digital, Analog and Waterlogged’ in The New York Times (30th January 2014) available here
    • King, Jacob (2014) ‘What is a Photograph?’ in Aperture Blog available here
    • Parsons, R. Wayne (2014) ‘A Puzzlement: What is a Photograph?’ in The New York Photo Review available here
    • Pollack, Maika (2014) ‘What Is a Photograph?’ at the International Center of Photography and ‘A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio’ at the Museum of Modern Art’ in Observer Culture (2nd December 2014) available here
    • Rexer, Lyle (2014) ‘A New Exhibition Asks, What Is a Photograph, Anyway?’ in Time Magazine (30th January 2014) available here
  • If you were the curator: Of the practitoners included in the show, which work would remain? And which would be rejected?
  • If you were the curator: How you adapt the show given the critical response? Are there any new works you would include? By whom and why?
’If I like a photograph, if it disturbs me, I linger over it. What am I doing during the whole time I remain with it? I look at it, I scrutinise it’ (Barthes, 1993, p.99)