Final thoughts on Context & Narrative

We received our marks for the recent assessments this week, and I passed, but without appearing to have engaged the assessors in any way. I’ve been taking a couple of days to consider their comments and my feelings about them. This is their overall view.

Assessors comments

It’s not exactly brimming with enthusiasm, is it?

There are two issues that I need to address, I think. The first is the practical one of physical workbooks/sketchbooks. At present, I don’t keep any, and put just about everything I do in my blog. The only physical object I use is a scruffy notebook, where I scribble (and I really mean scribble) some of my research notes. I could not possible present it as part of my submission, not least because it also contains shopping lists and notes relating to non-photography stuff as well. It would make absolutely no sense to anyone else. Here’s an example to show what I mean._1490300

I have two options here –  I can start a new, tidier notebook, which I only use for OCA work, and which becomes a separate entity from my blog. The downside of this is that it requires me to be neater  and to make better notes, which will be more work overall. I cannot sketch to save my life, so that won’t work, and I need to think about whether it would be worth printing and including examples of the work of photographers I am researching. Overall, I expect this would add another layer to the evidence of my learning, if not the learning itself, but it would be a lot of extra work.

Alternatively, I could try to keep these notes in a separate part of my blog, possibly hidden as a general rule, but which could be made available to my tutor and the assessors. I had thought that my journey from original idea to finished assignment product was fairly comprehensively documented in the blog, but clearly this is not the case. Perhaps I should ask other students what they do?

The second issue is a more fundamental one. I enjoy the course, taking photographs and editing them, but wonder if my work will ever be good enough to be taken seriously. Admittedly, I only took up the hobby three years ago, while many of my fellow students have been taking photographs for years, and I am also aware that technically, I have progressed a lot since I started. However, I feel that I still have a huge amount to learn on the editing and post-processing side of image production, and I am not sure that what I produce has any real merit as art, or even has the potential to have it. Perhaps I should be putting my BA studies aside for a while to do some more technical courses and come back after that? I also have a massive question mark about whether, even after that, I have sufficient artistic flair to make anything good. Some other students produce work which I instantly recognise as better than anything I could ever do, which is depressing. That being the case, is it worth carrying on, or might I be better just enjoying practising taking photographs for my own pleasure?

Anyway, having paid for the Identity & Place module, I plan to complete it, and will then make a decision about whether to move on to Level 2.

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Putting this blog to bed

As I have nearly completed the OCA Context & Narrative module, and be moving on to pastures new, please would anybody who would like to continue following my journey into photography sign up to my new blog, Identity & Place. I will be archiving this blog soon.

Many thanks for all your Likes and Comments. They have been much appreciated and very useful.

Holly

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The Fae Richards Photo Archive

Fae Richards photo archive

© Zoe Leonard & Cheryl Dunye

The purpose of this conceptual work by Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye, is to create an archive from nothing to make a specific point. This point is that there are many people whose lives have effectively been forgotten because they were not from mainstream social groups. In this Archive, they create a fictional life, which they photograph, for an African-American female actor in the early 20th century. Unlike Question for Seller, where Bird created a “factional” context for the people in real photographs, Leonard and Dunye make the whole thing up, from start to finish. More recently one of my coursemates, Catherine, created a fictional character for a C&N assignment, which can be seen here.

The concept of the relationship of the archive to photography is going to require some time to get my head around. For a start, I am not sure that it really falls under the photography umbrella at all. One could easily make a case for it to belong to a number of the creative arts – writing being the one that immediately springs to mind. The connection between archives and photography is not exclusive; these concepts around the used of materials to make a story can be used in all sorts of creativity.

Coming as I do from a traditional librarianship background, I am used to the idea of the archive being a static, unchanging thing. I had not considered that it could be a fluid idea, to be potentially be interpreted in a variety of different ways, selectively mined to  illustrate specific ideas, or even made up altogether. The role of the archivist can be crucial to how a photographer’s work is shown, and what meaning is ascribed to their motivations and contextualisation. As is indicated in the exercise about two sides of a conversation (and in almost any real-life conversation), each of the protagonists understands a different version of the story, based on their history and assumptions. In art, this propensity can be manipulated to suit the motivations of the archivist. Plenty of food for thought during my next module.

References

http://www.archivesandcreativepractice.com/zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye/

https://materiallifenola.com/products/the-fae-richards-photo-archive-by-zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye

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Conclusion

As a final piece of work on this module, we are asked to consider a series of questions to see what has resonated most with us from the topics we have covered. I will address each of them below, but the first point to note is how much progress I have made since starting this module, both technical and in understanding. My Lightroom and Photoshop skills continue to improve, and I find myself revisiting old photos to re-edit them in the light of my better understanding. This can be a terrible time waster though, and needs to be limited.

Visually, I think my images are getting better, although there is still a long way to go before I will be satisfied with them. And just lately, now that I have started to show a few of my pictures, I am beginning to wrestle with the problem of beauty versus meaning, i.e. people who do not understand the language of art like pretty pictures. They are not interested in images they have to work at to understand. Of course, this is a perennial problem, and I would like to research it further in my next module. On to the questions:

Out of all the topics covered in this course, which felt most comfortable to you? Why?

I think the Narrative section feels most comfortable to me. However, it also seems a bit tame and didn’t really fire me up. The two last topics, self-portraits and the archive are the ones that make the ideas flow in my mind. I think the reason is because of their interpretive nature and their scope for using multi-layered ideas and images.

Did you discover anything completely new to you? What was it?

The idea of the archive as being something fluid and open to interpretation was very interesting. Looking back at my notes, I see that I was similarly inspired by the archive section of the Fast Forward conference. There is so much scope to explore ideas through it, and it gives some framework to an idea I have had for a while for a project about differing memories of the same or similar childhoods.

Which area enabled you to come closest to finding your personal voice?

I think the last two topics and their accompanying assignments were the direction I would like to pursue. The use of different materials and cross fertilization with other arts media is full of potential.

Which area seemed furthest away from who you want to be as a photographer? Why?

I was not particularly inspired by the Photograph as document unit.  I think its basis is too literal for me, and I prefer working with more overtly creative ideas. Although I have been asked on occasion to photograph events in a documentary style, I don’t really enjoy it and never feel satisfied with the results. Having said that, I have found a new passion for travel photography, although this appeared alongside, rather than through the coursework.

What were the main things you learned? Were there any epiphany moments?

The whole concept of contextualisation and how it can be manipulated was a bit of a revelation. Previously I had not understood why people might sit in front of a piece of artwork (from any genre) to consider its meaning. Now that makes sense. I am still struggling to understand how to bridge the gap between the sort of images that  sell well/camera clubs like and the type of work we look at in this course. Some of the latter may appear very mundane without taking the time to understand the context, for example. I suppose one can equate it to the music industry. Sunsets, dogs and flowers are the equivalent of the pop song. Fine art images are the equivalent to classic orchestral based music. And the more complex contextual photography we study as part of this degree are the equivalent of modern, experimental music. Breaking the analogy down a little further, one can perhaps compare a project series of images to a music album, which usually has a couple of standout tracks and a greater number of one that only work because they are parts of a larger concept.

I am interested in how photography galleries select the saleable images from a photographer’s work, and which are the “filler” images that provide the background. Also, if a single image is sold from a series, how does the contextualisation work? Or does that image then become a “hit pop song” and the context aspect is lost? I need to research this in more detail for the next module.

Will you return to any of the assignments from this course at a later date? Did you feel as if you were on the cusp of anything?

Almost certainly, I will be returning to the ideas I explored in assignments 3 and 5, and how manipulating the physical materials of a photograph can add extra layers of meaning.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed this module, and feel that my photography has improved greatly through the year. I have also attended a number of conferences and visited many exhibition, both alone and in the company of fellow students. I am part of two groups that arrange meetups regularly, both to discuss our work and to visit exhibitions and this has added greatly to my enjoyment of the course as well as my understanding. The generosity of my fellow students in giving feedback has been an integral part of my creative process, particularly in the later ones, and it is something I will continue to rely upon.Now, there is a new module to look forward to, on Identity and Place. It will be fascinating to see where this takes me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thinking about Aesthetics – response to tutor comments

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post asking where we are going after Postmodernism, but was unable to satisfactorily answer the question. As it happens, I think I have now found the answer, by way of some comments my tutor made about my Assignment 2 submission. In his report, my tutor said:

In terms of an aesthetic they seem to lack a strong sense of visual sensibility.

I wasn’t sure what he meant by this, so asked him to explain further. I have included his full response below.

Visual Sensibility: I’m not sure if  you’ll find a definition. I used the word to indicate a kind of aesthetic, perhaps based upon various elements. These might include personal taste as well as expressive elements, technical and formal compositional elements etc.

Imagine a Bob Dylan song or some other musical score etc. give to two musicians – they might play the score in their own way. I might like version a – someone else might prefer version b – there begins a discussion. The two might have entirely differing ‘musical sensibilities’ –

If I were to ask, ‘What kind of photographic visual /aesthetic sensibility/style is current in the UK and USA right now ?’, one might have to ask –  in what discipline – i.e. fine art, commerce, fashion, editorial etc ? If I was to then talk about ‘fashion editorial’ then the answer would be something like –

The compositional trend seems to be directly influenced by apps such as Instagram, there is a visceral tendency to include flares of light, square formatting, the use of text and typography which has an authentic – post 1950’s vintage feel – use of saturated colour palettes might also be important – conversely the de-saturated effect might also suffice…. all these may be described as a ‘set of visual styles informed by a particular – visual sensibility – i.e. the one which exudes authenticity and a return to homespun – family values etc.

Stephen Bayley is often one of those who is asked about design, aesthetics etc. and he is often outspoken, take a look at his writings and broadcasts.

I think I understand the idea of how interpretation of a subject differs from one person to the next, and that we develop a personal style over time, but am also sure that I don’t have one as yet. I’ve been trying out different styles throughout the course, but have yet to settle on anything that I feel is my own personal style.

Anyway, I thought I’d look at some of Stephen Bayley’s ideas, and to research Aesthetics at the same time. Coincidentally, there have been a number of discussions of late on the OCA Facebook pages about where photography is heading in the future,  and the buzz words seem to be the New Aesthetic, where computer technology and photography are blended in new and interesting ways. There is a good article about it here.

http://time.com/4003527/future-of-photography/?

http://www.wired.com/2012/04/an-essay-on-the-new-aesthetic

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-new-aesthetic-needs-to-get-weirder/255838/`

http://www.spectator.co.uk/author/stephen-bayley/

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=what+is+beauty&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-GB:IE-Address&ie=&oe=&gfe_rd=cr&ei=R6ndVcPdGePH8gfpuojQCQ&gws_rd=ssl

http://www.worldphoto.org/community/blogs/developing-an-aesthetic-nicolle-clemetson-photoshelter/?utm_source=World+Photography+Organisation+Members&utm_campaign=dd56922066-Content_mailer_NEW_20th_March3_20_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e9a456af3-dd56922066-83152425

http://time.com/4003527/future-of-photography/

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Question for Seller

Nicky Bird quesation for seller

© Nicky Bird, 2007

We are asked to reflect on Nicky Bird’s series Question for Seller, and to answer the following questions

  • Does their (the photographs) presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?
  • Where does their meaning derive from?
  • When they are sold again, is their value increased by the fact that they are now ‘art’? Seesaw maga says sold for £205

Bird is interested in the notion of the archive and how photographs gain meaning. For this series, she bought unwanted family photos off eBay and tried to ascertain why they were being sold as a way of understanding the above. It is not very clear to me whether she ascribed new meanings to the images she learned about or whether she expanded on what the sellers told her. I think this difference is important, as the continuity of the image’s story or not significantly affects that meaning.

Does their (the photographs) presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?

Yes, it does, but not because of any specific quality of the images themselves. They still remain the mundane family snaps they always were. The elevated status is brought about by Bird’s interpretation of their untold stories, and her querying of the place and value of old photographs in our culture. The photographs themselves are objects whose meaning is being questioned, as part of Bird’s study of the idea of the archive.

Where does their meaning derive from?

It derives from Bird’s exploration of their history and her subjective interpretation of it. This meaning is imposed on the images by Bird; without her intervention, there would be none. Through her work, the discarded photos are given a new lease of life, and an object value which has nothing (or very little) to do with their original meaning.

When they are sold again, is their value increased by the fact that they are now ‘art’? They only have an increased value if the work of the author is seen as being of value. I don’t believe any art has an intrinsic value; it is only ascribed because other people like it and are prepared to pay for it. In fact, this project is interesting because the one-off album that Bird sold at the end of the project only made £205 at auction, and therefore potential buyers were unsure about its value. (Seesaw, 2007)

Nicky Bird’s work is not really about photographs as such. It is more about the meaning of images in different circumstances, and how that meaning depends on who is looking at them. Three people might see the same series of photographs and subscribe three totally different fictional meanings to them, in the style of the Fae Richards Photo Archive. The role of the archivist seems to be to provide a contextual framework of meaning, which may have little to do with the original images. This reverses the idea that art photographers make their images to illustrate a meaning they have decided upon beforehand. In this archival work, instead, the photograph comes first and the meaning is added later, as an artistic exercise in its own right.

References

https://photoparley.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/nicky-bird/

http://nickybird.com/projects/question-for-seller/

http://www.seesawmagazine.com/sellerpages/sellerintro.html

 

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Rework of Assignment 4

In the light of my tutor’s suggestions, I have revised this assignment as an academic paper, with added images. The text of the new version can be viewed below:

 Critical review

The image I have chosen to review for this assignment is by Sebastião Salgado and comes from his series Other Americas/Otras Americas (1982). I happened to see it recently in a small exhibition of his work at the Photographers’ Gallery in London, and was immediately struck by its resemblance to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

Praying to Mixe God, Oaxaca,

© Sebastião Salgado – México, 1980

Fig. 1. México (1980)

Biography

Sebastião Salgado (1944-) needs little introduction. He is a Brazilian polymath whose work spans the period from the mid 1970s to the current day. He describes himself as a radical political photo-journalist (Salgado, 2013) and his mission is to document disappearing societies, migrations and extreme poverty, and to bring them to public attention. Other Americas was his first book on South America, and he has subsequently produced another, Terra (1997), which addressed some of the criticisms of his first book. He describes his research for Other Americas as his way of reconnecting with his native land after a period of living in Europe. Over seven years, he travelled the continent, documenting the common experience of the poor of religion, changing ways of life, family and death in a wholly Latin American way – ‘mysterious, suffering, heroic and noble.’ (Salgado, 2015, p11).

The Image – México, 1980

The image is only titled as México, 1980 in Salgado’s book, but elsewhere I have gleaned that the subjects are apparently Praying to the Mixe God, Kioga in thanks for a good harvest. (Salgado, 1980, 2013) The Mixe religion is a syncretic mix of Roman Catholicism and ancient Meso-American beliefs, (Lippe, 1991; Mooney, 1911), and therefore my first impressions were correct. I have been unable to find any specific explanation for the story from Salgado himself.

México, 1980 shows two figures balanced atop a small mound, both with arms outstretched and supporting each other on their precarious perch. They are looking down into the clouds below, and are evidently standing on a steep hill. Elsewhere in the picture are several scruffy pine trees and a number of apparently dead branches, all pointing up, angularly. The image is monochrome, contrasted, dark in tone, and quite grainy. Salgado felt that colour would adversely affect the uniformity of his subjects’ experiences, and that it added a sense of drama to their lives. (Giordano, 2013; Cumming, 2013)

The composition is slightly off-centre to emphasise the void below, with the two men occupying the left line of thirds. The middle and right line are occupied by two equally vertical pine trees. Alongside the cross shape made by the men there is a strong diagonal from the top right to bottom left, again emphasising the void. Both men are dressed in rectangular ponchos, and they appear at angular odds with the chaotic vegetation around them.

Interpretation

Taking a semiotic view (Chandler, 2007), one can equate the precarious stance of the men with their current cultural position in society. The scrubby pine trees are resonant of a slowly dying eco-system. The void connotes emptiness and distance, while the branches sticking up look like spikes upon which the men might fall. The men themselves are facing away, connoting mystery, and their positions (clearly religious in nature) are alien to our own Western experience, giving a sense of Otherness. Overall, the image overtly portrays a culture on the edge of an abyss.

However, one can also look at it another way. Two grown men are teetering together on a tiny mound, each holding onto the other for balance; their arms outstretched, as if they are about to dive off the cliff. They look as if they might be long-term friends, who are fooling about and pretending to fly. The image could have been taken any time in the last 500 years, as so little has changed for them.

Analysis

Mraz’s critique of Salgado’s work suggests that the series Other Americas is dour, gloomy and obsessed by religion and death (Mraz, 2002). I disagree. While obviously dealing with some of the more difficult matters around poverty and the fundamental inclusion of religion into everyday life, the images to me speak of family, love, the mystery and magical realism that is prevalent throughout Latin America. There is also an underlying strength born of an innate understanding of their environment, and something which no-one seems to mention – a sense of surrealist fun. Many of the images, such as these shown here, have quirks which repay a second look; the child’s hand on the leg (p57), the woman holding the chick (p106), the face at the window, and the cheeky smile (p74-75).

 

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© Sebastião Salgado – México, 1980

Fig. 2 My own photograph of image from Salgado’s “Other Americas, p. 57 (2016)

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© Sebastião Salgado – México, 1980

Fig. 3. My own photograph of image from Salgado’s “Other Americas, p. 106 (2016)

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© Sebastião Salgado – México, 1980

Fig. 4 My own photograph of image from Salgado’s “Other Americas, p. 74-75 (2016)

Salgado’s work has frequently been criticised, and he has been accused variously of sentimentalism, superficiality, an obsession with composition over content, beautifying suffering and posing his subjects. (Sischy, 1991; Levi-Strauss, 1992; Sontag, 2002; Markogiannis, 2015) However, Terry Barratt argues that “the objects of interpretations are images, not image-makers” (Barrett, 2010; p 164) and I feel that much of the criticism of Salgado focuses on the man, his motives and his supposed lack of inside knowledge of his subjects.  His aim of forcing images of extreme poverty and suffering into the public gaze is patently genuine, but his work are undeniably beautiful, which is problematic. His images are central to the argument about the aesthetics of tragedy, and stand in stark contrast to the grittier approach favoured, for example, by his direct contemporary, Don McCullin

 (Levi-Strauss, 1992; Foster, 2002; Sontag, 2002; Linfield, 2010).

© Sebastião Salgado – México, 1980

Fig.5. Starving 24 year old woman with child, Biafra (1968)

Levi-Strauss (1992) argued that aesthetic art is not authentic art, while anti-aestheticists believe that making suffering appear beautiful is disrespectful and minimises both its impact and its experience. (Foster, Sontag, 2002)

 Conclusion

When it comes to truthfulness, I believe that Salgado is incorrectly being judged as a photo-journalist rather than as a documentarian. He is accused of staging (Markogiannis, 2015) and therefore subverting the indexical nature of the images. But is there Truth in any photography? The photographer will always influence the end result, because of his/her assumptions, and what he/she wants to say, while the viewer imbues the image with his/her own context and experience. (Barthes, 1967) Nowadays, documentary photographers are no longer bound to record indexically. As Anna Fox said in her lecture at the UCA last year, as long as it is clear that an element of staging occurred in order to get the point across, what is the problem?  The indexical nature of photographs is breaking down, and along with a re-evaluation of the belief in the anti-aesthetic, (Steigerwald, 2011; Blunk, 2015) perhaps Salgado’s work may be reappraised more positively in the future.

References

Barrett, Terry (2010) ‘Principles for Interpreting Photographs.’  In: Swinnen, J & Deneuilen, L.(eds.) The Weight of Photography: Photography History Theory and Criticism. Brussels: ASP, pp.: 147-172 [online] At: http://www.terrybarrettosu.com/pdfs/B_PriIntPho_10.pdf  (Accessed on 27 January 2016)

Barthes, Roland (1967) The death of the author. [online] At: https://wiki.brown.edu/confluence/download/attachments/74858352/BarthesDeathOfTheAuthor.pdf (Accessed on 26 January 2016)

Blunk, Tim (2010) Sebastião Salgado: The Modernist Deconstruction of Cynicism. William Paterson University [online] At: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280937142_Sebastiao_Salgado_The_Modernist_Deconstruction_of_Cynicism (Accessed on 26 January 2016)

Chandler, D. (2007) Semiotics: The basics. Routledge.

Cumming, Laura (2013) Sebastião Salgado; Genesis – Review [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/apr/14/sebastiao-salgado-genesis-review (Accessed on 9 January 2016)

Foster, H. (2002) The anti-aesthetic: Essays on postmodern culture. New York: New Press.

Giordano, A. (2013) ‘Salgado, Broomberg and Chanarin: Lessons learned’, Writing About Photography, June. Available at: http://writingaboutphotography.net/salgado-broomberg/ (Accessed: 26 January 2016)

Levi-Strauss, David (1992) ‘The Documentary Debate : Aesthetic or Anaesthetic’. In: Strauss, D. L. and Berger, J. (2012) Between the eyes: Essays on photography and politics. 2nd edn. United States: Aperture Foundation. [online] At: http://www.michaelbuhlerrose.com/india/DocumentaryDebate.pdf (Accessed on 26 January 2016)

Linfield, Susie (2010) The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence. University of Chicago Press.

Lippe, Frank J. (1991), The Mixe of Oaxaca: Religion, ritual and healing. University of Texas Press

Markogiannis, N. (2015) ‘Aesthetics and ideology of Sebastião Salgado’, New York Photography Diary, 8 June. Available at: http://ny-photography-diary.com/sebastiao-salgado-by-nerris-markogiannis/ (Accessed: 26 January 2016).

Mooney, J. (1911). ‘Mixe Indians’. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. [online]  At: New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10408a.htm (Accessed on 9 January 2016);

Mraz, John (2002) ‘Sebastião Salgado: Ways of Seeing Latin America.’ [online] In: Third Text 16 (1) pp. 15-30 At: http://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/oca-content/key-resources/res-files/mraz_salgado.pdf (Accessed on 9 January 2016)

Orr, Gillian (2015) ‘Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado captures the essence of a continent in his series Other Americas.’ In: The Independent [online] At: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/photography/brazilian-photographer-sebasti-o-salgado-captures-the-essence-of-a-continent-in-his-series-other-10487443.html (Accessed on 9 January 2016)

A Photo Teacher (2008) Sebastião Salgado and Good Intentions. [online blog]At: http://aphototeacher.com/2008/03/26/sebastiao-salgado-and-good-intentions/ (Accessed on 9 January 2016)

Photographers’ Gallery (2015) ‘Sebastião Salgado Other Americas.’ [online] At: http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/sebastia-o-salgado-other-americas-2 (Accessed on 9 January 2016)

Riding, Alan (1986) ‘Faces of the Other Americas’. In: The New York Times [online] At: http://www.nytimes.com/1986/09/07/magazine/faces-of-the-other-americas.html (Accessed on 9 January 2016)

Salgado, Sebastião . (1980) Thanksgiving prayer to the Mixe god Kioga in gratitude for a good harvest. Mexico. New York: Sandaram Tagore Gallery. Available online at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/sebastiao-salgado-thanksgiving-prayer-to-the-mixe-god-kioga-in-gratitude-for-a-good-harvest-mexico (Accessed on 26 January 2016)

Salgado, Sebastião (1997) Terra, Struggle of the Landless. London: Phaidon Press.

Sebastiao Salgado The silent drama of photography. (2013). [YouTube video] TED. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qH4GAXXH29s (Accessed on 26 January 2016)

Salgado, Sebastião . (2013) Photographs. Lot 98. New York: Bonhams. Available at: https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21017/lot/98/ (Accessed on 26 January 2016)

Salgado, Sebastião (2015 edition) Other Americas. New York: Aperture

Sischy, Ingrid (1991) ‘Photography: Good Intentions.’ In The New Yorker, 9 September. [online] At: https://paulturounetblog.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/good-intentions-by-ingrid-sischy.pdf/ (Accessed on 17 January 2016)

Sontag, Susan (2003) Regarding The Pain of Others. Penguin.

Stallabrass, Julian (1997) ‘Sebastião Salgado and Fine Art Photojournalism.’ New Left Review, 223

Jessica Steigerwald (2011) Substance, Not Style; The Nexus of Concerned Photography. Imaging International Conflict. [online] At:  http://www.torophoto.org/documents/imagingconflict.pdf (Accessed on 26 January 2016)

Images

McCullin, D. (1968) Starving 24 year old woman with child, Biafra. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/mccullin-starving-twenty-four-year-old-mother-with-child-biafra-ar01204 (Accessed on 12 May 2016).

Salgado, S. (1980), Mexico [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.fotografodigital.com/libros-de-fotografia_/otras-americas-el-primer-libro-de-sebastiao-salgado-reeditado-por-la-fabrica-150420/ (Accessed 24 January 16)].

Other images are my own, taken of pages in Salgado’s Other Americas.

Reflection

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

I am not sure that materials, technical skills and design really enter into this assignment, as it is about someone else’s work. Regarding observational skills, I have found it useful to really look at a single image, and to unpick what the photographer is trying to say. One could just glance at the image and see the main points, but there is another layer of meaning underneath if one takes the time to let it sink in. I have also learned that some images should really be seen as part of a series, and that the whole series may have meaning that is not apparent in the single image. It is the building up of the story that brings insight.

Quality of outcome

Before starting this assignment, I carefully read the requirements on the OCA site. When I began researching Salgado, I discovered that a great deal has been written about his work, often in an uncomplimentary way. However, it was very useful for my research and I was led into looking at concepts such as the truth in photography, aesthetics and the ethics of photographing suffering, and semiotics. This was the first time in my academic career where I felt that I was properly prepared to write an essay, and I am satisfied that I did the best I could (also a first).

I hope that I have been successful in taking the image, examining it, interpreting it, and then widening my thoughts to encompass the work of Salgado as a whole, and how critical theory can be applied to it.

Demonstration of creativity

Again, I do not think that creativity is a significant part of this assignment, as the remit is quite tight, and very clear. I have tried to give my own opinion of Salgado’s work, and not to simply regurgitate the ideas of other people.

Context

I did a fair bit of background research for this assignment, both on Salgado, and on the critical thinking framework within which his early work is judged. He seems to be a Marmite photographer – you either love his work or hate it. Given more space, I would have gone into the state of critical thinking during the 1980s and how Salgado’s work ran counter to the prevailing ideas on anti-aestheticism, photojournalism and the ethics of photographing war and suffering. Two of my other blog posts, here and here go into this in more detail.

Overall, I found this assignment much more interesting than I had thought it would be, and I am beginning to think that I should do Understanding Visual Culture for my next module.

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