Is it ethical to photograph suffering?

Within my essay I will be discussing Donna Ferrato’s Living with the Enemy (1991) and Lewis Hine’s Photographs of Child Labour in the New South (1986). Both books deal with different kinds of suffering, Ferrato’s book mainly focusses on abuse within families whereas Lewis Hine deals with the issue of child labour. Each uses their photography to highlight certain these problems which would otherwise go on unnoticed. I will be asking whether it is ethical for these photographers to photograph and publish the sufferings of the people seen in their images using different ethical theories from David Hume and Immanuel Kant to support it.

I’m going to begin by discussing Donna Ferrato’s book Living with the Enemy (1991) was dedicated to exposing the difficulties and the dangers of domestic abuse at a time when police and judges saw it as a family matter and wouldn’t get involved until someone was dead. However, through the book she also documents the change in how police deal with these cases as they began to get training on how to deal with them and notice signs of abuse. She used her camera to document women suffering abuse from their husbands or boyfriends, some more closely than others. At the beginning of the book Ferrato explained why she began to photograph domestic abuse. As it had never been a part of her childhood it wasn’t until she witnessed a man physically abuse his wife whilst on an assignment that she realised love could turn to violence. Ferrato was so shocked by what she had seen that she became determined to help people affected by it “Driven to try to do something about it, I found that a camera was my best weapon. “ (Ferrato, 1991) the only way Ferrato knew how to try and force people to deal with the issue of domestic abuse was to document what happens.

In the introduction to the book Ann Jones tells the reader how Ferrato captured these images and gives more information on what a woman suffering from domestic abuse goes through. She states that Ferrato’s style is very casual “She’ll hang out for days at a hospital or a shelter or a police department or somebody’s house – she loves talking to people – and once in n a while she’ll squeeze off a picture with her funny-looking camera, like any casual observer snapping a souvenir photo on an Instamatic. “ (Jones, 1991, pg. 12) From what the subject matter of the photographs are of this is a very offhand way of describing her style, it takes away the seriousness of the kind of work Ferrato is doing. Jones also discusses the ethical issues of the kind of images Ferrato takes, especially the photographs she takes whilst in someone’s home “I’ve heard a photo editor complain that some of Ferrato’s photographs depict things too private to be photographed. Some things should not be imaged, the argument goes, and “domestic violence” is one of those things.” (Jones, 1991, pg. 12) she also talks about how closely this argument connects to “…the traditional excuse of the law and the church and the state for doing nothing to stop violence against women and children.” (Jones, 1991, pg. 12) although some of Ferratos images do show extremely private moments between husband and wife if we did not see the proof and the violence through them would we still believe how terrible it can be? Subjects such as this are easy to ignore and turn away from if they do not affect you personally. Ferrato found a way to force her audience to face the reality of what is going on behind closed doors.

Ferrato had found obstacles when it came to finding women to interview for the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine when she and reporter Dick Polman were commissioned to do a story on domestic violence in Philadelphia “We found that getting firsthand stories of battered women presented a number of serious difficulties, as well as some ethical problems.” (Ferrato, 1991, pg. 134) Hospital staff felt it was unprofessional for them to ask battered women if a photographer could come talk to them. Ferrato herself felt the same way “That was the hardest part–asking permission to invade the privacy of a patient at what might be one of the worst moments of her life. “ (Ferrato, 1991, pg. 134) it takes a lot for a person to let someone photograph them at their weakest moment, this is not how most people want to be seen by others or to be remembered.

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Image A (Ferrato, D. (1991) Living with the Enemy)

One of the stories included in Living with the Enemy wasn’t meant to be about domestic abuse but as Ferrato had dealt with it for so long she began to see the signs. The assignment was for the Japanese Playboy. The assignment was to photograph couples who represented the glamorous life-style of the era (1981). The couple she photographed were Lisa and Garth, during the assignment Ferrato lived with the couple so that she could photograph their everyday lives.  One night Ferrato heard them arguing so took her camera to go and find out what was happening, she took photographs whilst they were arguing and even captured an image of Garth hitting Lisa (sequence show in image A) “When I first saw Garth hit Lisa, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Instinctively, I took a picture. But when he went to hit her again, I grabbed his arm and pleaded with him to stop. “ (Ferrato, 1991, pg. 144) because they were arguing in the bathroom and the walls are mainly mirrors you can see Ferrato in the images. It is this section of the book which raises the most ethical questions, this is one of the situations where she could help first hand rather than just taking pictures of the aftermath. To raise awareness of domestic abuse she stood by and let it happen, only intervening after it became physical.

Although in the images Ferrato appears distant and emotionally detached from the situation, it had a big impact on her. When she got home afterwards she put the roll of film in a draw and didn’t look at it until months after because she wanted to convince herself it never happened “I know now that my denial of the seriousness of what I had witnessed and my effort to overlook it are typical responses to domestic violence.” (Ferrato, 1991, pg. 144) the images which she desperately tried to forget about are in a book for all who buy it or look at in a library to see. Without seeing these images in the context of the book, and not knowing how Ferrato felt about them they would appear very disturbing as you see a woman crouching in the corner, being a voyeur of such a private and morally wrong event. Perhaps viewers of the images who did not know the context would try and convince themselves it wasn’t real, that they are stills from a movie to put a distance between them and the intimacy of photographs, just as Ferrato did after taking them.

The sequence shown in image A shows the lack of intervention Ferrato had during the event of Garth attacking Lisa, but this could be blamed on the medium itself rather than the person behind it “Photography is essentially an act of non-intervention.” (Sontag, 1979, pg. 11) In this situation, for Ferrato or any photographer no matter what situation, one must make the choice of whether they are going to intervene or photograph. It is not possible to do both “The person who intervenes cannot record; the person who is recording cannot intervene.” (Sontag, 1979, pg. 12) I find it fascinating that in image A you can see Ferrato in the act of not taking physical action against the suffering happening in front of her camera. Her duty was aimed more at documenting the situation than helping the woman, however using Kantian theory on ethics she still was doing the right thing. Her intention was to use the photographs of the abuse to raise awareness in order to get people the help they needed. She was not taking them for her own gain, but to help Garth realise what he had done was wrong. However, she did not do this straight away, and did not shown them the images at all as she didn’t feel it was her place, the outcome of Lisa finally getting away and starting again was her own doing, and not because of Ferrato’s images. Using a consequentialist doctrine this would mean the action of taking the images shown in image A was not ethically correct as it did not provide a positive outcome for Lisa or Garth.

The second book I am going to look at is Lewis Hine’s, Lewis Hine: Photographs of Child Labor in the New South (1986) this shows a selected number of photographs from Hines work photographing child labour. These images were used in campaigns for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), they were used to illustrate their books, articles, and pamphlets. In contrast to Ferrato’s images, Hine’s were used to aid a political charity who were actively trying to stop child labor. His images are an example of how photography can be politically effective. His photographs were used as evidence to expose child labor “Their realism provided powerful, irrefutable evidence of the horrors of child labor in all its forms-horrors that the mill owners, the New South boosters, and even the desperately poor parents of the child workers tried to deny. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986, pg. 7) by looking at the photographs Hine hoped that it would make them realise what they were doing was morally wrong, and by showing the public these images too that they would join the NCLC’s cause to put an end to it. This is very similar to what Ferrato wanted her images to do. However, the main difference between Hine and Ferrato’s photographs is that, Ferrato’s subjects were aware that she was taking pictures and gave their permission, whereas, Hine had to sneak around to the sites to take pictures of the children working. As the subject of his photographs were children, his images can seem predatory and exploitive as the children weren’t necessarily aware that they were being treated cruelly.

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Image B (Hine, L. (1911) Dunbar, Louisiana)

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Image C (Hine, L. (1908) Newberry, South Carolina)

In images B and C, you can see the kind of photographs Hine took of the children working and C is a group photograph of all the child workers. In image B Hine uses the child’s name, and tells a little bit about that one individual in the crowd and what will become of the baby sitting amongst it all. The ethical question to ask here is that, were the children or anyone in the photographs aware of why they were having their picture taken? Or were they just the subject of NCLC’s claim without even knowing it.

Hine was very emotionally involved in the work he did on child labor “He was genuinely concerned about the children he photographed. He met them as individuals; he spoke with them and listened to their stories. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986, pg. 10) he wasn’t just there to take the pictures and move on and forget, he re-visited areas again to see if there was any improvement of their treatment towards the children as the NCLC made progress in helping change the laws on child labor in different states. In Judith Butlers discussion on Susan Sontag regarding the subject Torture and the Ethics of Photography she spoke of how Sontag argued that “If a photograph becomes effective in informing or moving us politically, it is, in her view, only because the image is received within the context of a relevant political consciousness. “ (Butler, 2010, pg. 67) a photograph does not give the viewer any context on its own, it may arouse sympathetic emotion when first viewed but they may not know in what context they’re looking at it in. Especially when thinking of Lewis Hines images, with some of the photographs of the children you would not know that they were being subdued to child labor, in a lot of them the children are smiling and look happy. Butler also states how Sontag thinks we view images of a horrific nature “Photographs cannot produce ethical pathos in us, she remarks; or if they do, it is only momentarily- we see something atrocious and move on at a moments notice.” (Butler, 2010, pg. 69) Are there images that stick in our mind and forever make an impact on us? After finishing Donna Ferrato’s book of Living with the Enemy I felt a very powerful disgust against how the women in the book were treated, but after I am finished I will perhaps forget all about it and move onto the next traumatic subject matter. If this statement is true that we move on quickly, we need to be reminded often of the horrific events which go on around the world more often than ever. The photograph is needed as evidence, if photographers did not capture suffering then people would be oblivious to what is happening. In this sense, it would be ethical to photograph suffering as it would make the world aware, whether they choose to take action or not.

Hine himself believed that “Whether it be a painting or a photograph, the picture is a symbol that brings one immediately into close touch with reality. . . . In fact, it is often more effective than the reality would have been, because, in the picture, the non-essential and conflicting interests have been eliminated. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986, pg. 7) the only voice the photographs Hine took are the viewers, they make you ask yourself if what you are seeing is right or wrong, should these children be working from the age of eight or younger? Some at three years old are already ‘learning the trade’. When Hine spoke to the mill owners and the parents they say that it builds character but most of the children and even their parents can’t read or write their own names. In the photographs, you don’t hear the thoughts of the people who are trying to justify it, or the voice of the NCLC, unless they are being viewed in one of their articles or seen in one of their exhibitions. By showing the reality in his images Hine’s allows the viewer to make their own moral decision, however “The images of working children were meant to shock and anger their viewers, to rouse the public against a system Hine abhorred. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986, pg. 12) the images did have a purpose and were meant to arouse a certain emotion in the viewers. Both photographers were acting on a strong sense of duty to help their fellow human beings, but were also very passionate about the causes they were trying to help.

Firstly, I would argue that both photographers wanted their work to help those who they photographed, their intentions were in the correct place, but does this mean that it is ethical? Immanuel Kant’s thesis on ethics is that the motive of an action was far more important than the action itself and its consequences. He thought that in order to know whether or not someone was acting morally you had to know what their intention was. “ (Warburton, 2012, pg. 42) With Kant’s theory on ethics it wouldn’t be enough to just look at Ferrato’s and Hine’s photographs in their books to know whether what we are seeing is ethical or not, but we would need to know why they took them. Kant also thought that “it was clear that a moral action was one performed out of a sense of duty, rather than simply out of inclination or feeling or the possibility of some kind of gain for the person performing it. “ (Warburton, 2012, pg. 42) this is where the ethicalness on Ferrato and Hine’s books could be questioned, as both would have gained from publishing their work and selling the books. Through wanting to show an audience the sufferings of the people they photographed they have gained money as they would have to sell them to get anything out of it themselves.

In contrast to Kant’s views on ethics, David Hume argues that rather than reason being the main role when we make ethical decisions, it is feelings “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” (Hume, 1994, pg. 119) For Hume, reason only plays a small role in how we make an ethical decision, it is only through emotion that we can tell the difference between right and wrong. When thinking of both Hine and Ferrato’s work with this ethical thesis in mind, it appears that the subject of the images is morally wrong. But by the act of having the emotional capacity to photograph them and show others to raise awareness could be argued to mean that the books are ethically correct.

In a consequentialist point of view the outcome of the work Hine’s did was morally correct, as it helped to bring change to the social issue of child labor in many states. His action of taking photographs of the children who were suffering and being exploited, whether taken with permission or not, it helped the people and it brought awareness to what was happening. With Ferrato’s work the outcome of her book had less of an impact on raising awareness of domestic abuse, which is still a problem today. She may have made a difference in the lives she photographed, but she was mainly just recording the change. Her book wasn’t largely seen, as Hine’s images were, and as a photographer she isn’t widely known. Unlike Hine, her photographs of domestic abuse did not make her name immortal. I think that the issue is that people see domestic abuse as a private matter, and something that shouldn’t be photographed is still seen as controversial today. In fact, both social issues which I have discussed in the work are both probably still happening.

In conclusion, ethically, using Kantian and Hume’s theory the act of photographing suffering is morally correct when it is being done to support such courses as Hine’s and Ferrato’s, even if, especially with Ferrato’s work, the effectiveness of the outcome was seemingly short lived and made a difference on a smaller scale. They were acting on both duty and their passion to help the people in their photographs and spoke to them as individuals rather than being an outsider, taking what they need with no thought of giving anything in return. They were emotionally involved and willing to help put an end to their suffering in the best way they saw fit, to photograph it.

Bibliography

Butler, J. (2010) Frames of war: When is life grievable? New York: Verso Books.

Ferrato , D. (1991) Living with the enemy. New York: Aperture .

Kemp, J.R. and Hine, L.W. (1986) Lewis Hine: Photographs of child labor in the new south. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Singer, P. (ed.) (1994) Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sontag, S. (1979) On photography. London, United Kingdom: Penguin, [1979].

Warburton, N. (2012) Philosophy: The basics. 5th edn. London: Taylor & Francis.

 

Essay Research: Kant and Hume

For further research for my essay on the ethics of photographing suffering I looked at philosophers such as Kant and Hume’s theoretical thoughts on ethics, and related it to Ferrato and Hine’s books and images.

Immanuel Kant’s thesis on ethics is that the motive of an action was far more important than the action itself and its consequences. He thought that in order to know whether or not someone was acting morally you had to know what their intention was. “ (Warburton, 2012) with Kant’s theory on ethics it wouldn’t be enough to just look at Ferrato’s and Hine’s photographs in their books to know whether what we are seeing is ethical or not but would need to know why they took them. Kant also thought that “it was clear that a moral action was one performed out of a sense of duty, rather than simply out of inclination or feeling or the possibility of some kind of gain for the person performing it. “ (Warburton, 2012) this is where the ethicalness on Ferrato and Hine’s books could be questioned, as both would have gained from publishing their work and selling the books. Through wanting to show an audience the sufferings of the people they photographed they have gained money as they would have to sell them to get anything out of it themselves.

In contrast to Kant’s views on ethics, David Hume argues that rather than reason being the main role when we make ethical decisions, it is feelings “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” (Hume, 1994) For Hume, reason only plays a small role in how we make ethical decision, it is only through emotion that we can tell the difference between good and evil. When thinking of both Hine and Ferrato’s work with this ethical thesis in mind, it appears that the subject of the images is morally wrong, but by the act of having the emotional capacity to photograph them and show others to raise awareness could be argued to mean that the books are ethically correct.

Bibliography

Singer, P. (ed.) (1994) Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Warburton, N. (2012) Philosophy: The basics. 5th edn. London: Taylor & Francis.

Essay Research: Lewis Hine

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Kemp, J.R. and Hine, L.W. (1986) Lewis Hine: Photographs of child labor in the new south. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Lewis Hine’s book Lewis Hine: Photographs of Child Labor in the New South (1986) show a selected number of photographs from Hines work photographing child labor. These images were used in campaigns for the National Child Labor Committee, they were used to illustrate their books, articles, and pamphlets. Hine’s photographs were used as evidence to expose child labor “Their realism provided powerful, irrefutable evidence of the horrors of child labor in all its forms-horrors that the mill owners, the New South boosters, and even the desperately poor parents of the child workers tried to deny. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986) by looking at the photographs Hine hoped that it would make them realise what they were doing was wrong, and by showing the public these images too that they would join the National Child Labor Committee’s cause to put an end to it.

Hine himself believed that “Whether it be a painting or a photograph, the picture is a symbol that brings one immediately into close touch with reality. . . . In fact, it is often more effective than the reality would have been, because, in the picture, the non-essential and conflicting interests have been eliminated. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986) the only voice the photographs Hine took are the viewers, they make you ask yourself if what you are seeing is right or wrong, should these children be working from the age of eight or younger? Some at three years old are already ‘learning the trade’. When Hine spoke to the mill owners and the parents they say that it builds character but most of the children and even their parents can’t read or write their own names. In the photographs, you don’t hear the thoughts of the people who are trying to justify it, or the voice of the National Child Labor Committee, unless they are being viewed in one of their articles or seen in one of their exhibitions. By showing the reality in his images Hine’s allows the viewer to make their own moral decision, however “The images of working children were meant to shock and anger their viewers, to rouse the public against a system Hine abhorred. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986) the images did have a purpose and were meant to arouse a certain emotion in the viewers.

Hine’s was very emotionally involved in the work he did on child labor “He was genuinely concerned about the children he photographed. He met them as individuals; he spoke with them and listened to their stories. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986) he wasn’t just there to take the pictures and move on and forget, he re-visited areas again to see if there was any improvement of their treatment towards the children as the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) made progress in helping change the laws on child labor in different states.

I am not sure whether I am going to include Hine’s book in my essay or not, I think that comparing it to Ferrato’s book works well as they both deal with social issues. They both also raise interesting questions on whether it’s ethically correct that the images were taken for their purposes.

Bibliography

Kemp, J.R. and Hine, L.W. (1986) Lewis Hine: Photographs of child labor in the new south.

Essay Research: Donna Ferrato

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Ferrato , D. (1991) Living with the enemy. New York: Aperture.

Donna Ferrato’s book Living with the Enemy (1991) was dedicated to exposing the difficulties and the dangers of domestic abuse at a time when police and judges saw it as a family matter and wouldn’t get involved until someone was dead. However, through the book she also documents the change in how police deal with these cases as they began to get training on how to deal with them and notice signs of abuse.

She used her camera to document women suffering from the abuse and their husband or boyfriends, some more closely than others. At the beginning of the book Ferrato explained why she began to photograph domestic abuse. As it had never been a part of her childhood it wasn’t until she witnessed a man hit his wife whilst on an assignment that she realised how wrong love could go. Ferrato was so shocked by what she had seen that she became determined to help people affected by it “Driven to try to do something about it, I found that a camera was my best weapon. “ (Ferrato, 1991) the only way Ferrato knew how to try and force people to deal with the issue of domestic abuse was to show them what happens.

In the introduction to the book Ann Jones tells the reader how Ferrato got her images and gives more information on what a woman suffering from domestic abuse goes through. She states that Ferratos style is very casual “She’ll hang out for days at a hospital or a shelter or a police department or somebody’s house – she loves talking to people – and once in n a while she’ll squeeze off a picture with her funny-looking camera, like any casual observer snapping a souvenir photo on an Instamatic. “ (Jones, 1991) from what the subject matter of the photographs are of this is a very offhand way of describing her style, it takes away the seriousness of the kind of work Ferrato is doing. Jones also discusses the ethical issues of the kind of images Ferrato takes, especially the photographs she takes whilst in someone’s home “I’ve heard a photo editor complain that some of Ferrato’s photographs depict things too private to be photographed. Some things should not be imaged, the argument goes, and “domestic violence” is one of those things.” (Jones, 1991) she also talks about how closely this argument connects to “…the traditional excuse of the law and the church and the state for doing nothing to stop violence against women and children.” (Jones, 1991) although some of Ferratos images do show extremely private moments between husband and wife if we did not see the proof and the violence through them would we still believe how terrible it can be? Subjects such as this are easy to ignore and turn away from if they do not affect you personally. Ferrato found a way to force her audience to face the reality of what is going on behind closed doors.

I found Ferrato’s book very interesting when thinking of it in terms of ethics and wanted to explore other social issues rather than war in my essay as in terms of ethics this is dealt with a lot so I wanted to take it in a different direction.

Bibliography

Ferrato , D. (1991) Living with the enemy. New York: Aperture .

Gender Theory Seminar

I think that my groups presentation went fairly well, we got our point across and sectioned the powerpoint up well between each of us. We each spoke clearly about our subjects and included a lot of information on different areas of gender theory using methods gender, masculinity and transgender.

To improve on this and if we had more time to do the presentation there are different areas in which we could have looked at and in more depth in answering why gender is becoming important again. In relation to the actual presenting part of the seminar as we were quite nervous we could have spoken a bit more and made eye contact with the audience, I myself was mainly focussing on the screen or my notes. If we did it more we would obviously become more confident in speaking in front of people.

During the researching process and working as a team we each picked a subject we were interested in looking into and made sure that it would all fit together in the presentation. Luckily we all had interests in gender theory that linked together really well otherwise this stage would have been a lot more difficult. It was intriguing and also helpful however to hear what others were interested in researching as it showed me that if I were do be doing it on my own these are all methods in which I will need to look into for my essay.

In future work this will help me to think about all the different areas and ways in which I can study pieces of work. By looking at the work and analysing it through different methods it helps create a more interesting and thorough investigation.

Now I will be moving onto doing my own research for my essay, although I have found gender theory interesting I have previously found a body of work by Donna Ferrato Living with the Enemy which I would like use as one of my case studies for the essay question on the ethics of photographing suffering.

 

Seminar Presentation Workshop

Presentation Layout:

  • Intro (Gender Theory, our names, intro to Claude Cahun)
  • Images and quotes
  • Summary (round up of what has been said)
  • Bibliography

Begin the presentation by introducing Claude Cahun and giving info on her and why her work is important when thinking about gender theory. She revonlutionised gender theory and expression, her work is a performance of sexuality as she transforms herself from hyper feminine to hyper masculine. She was very radical compared to the rest of the photographers we talk about, the difference between the times in which they were created.

When thinking about Caitlyn Jenner and how the image by Annie Leibovitz was inspired by Marilyn Monroe, why was this used? Monroe was a very feminine role model in the 50s, the pose is very conventional, not so radical. It is only the subject matter that gives the image depth.

Look at Gender Performance in Photography, intro by Jennifer Blessing, mentions some of Judith Butlers thesis on gender and makes her writing a little easier to understand.

  • Whitney Chadwick Women and Self Representation 1998
  • Sarah Pusill – did a film on Claude Cahun, why is her work relevant again?
  • Don’t Look at Me 
  • David Bate

Resurgence of photographers interested in gender.

First Gender Theory meeting

We decided that for our gender theory presentation we were going to focus on the work of Claude Cahun and possibly Cindy Sherman. Relating Cahun’s work with more recent images.

Caitlyn Jenner Call Me Caitlyn Vanity Fair cover by Annie Leibovitz, being transgender in the modern era – her being on the cover of a major magazine, what does this mean? Relationship between the cover image and Marilyn Monroe beach photograph.

Begin presentation by talking about Claude Cahun and Judith Butlers book Gender Trouble as the basis of what we’re going to talk about, then moving onto more recent work, such as Nan Goldin as Vanity Fair cover of Jenner.
Second section is more about drag and transgender, first part is more about the issue of gender roles and how Cahun used photography to express herself, form characters.

Methods we will be looking at:
– Gender (femininity and masculinity, stereotypes)
– Masculinity (female and male body being able to be both masculine and feminine)
– Transgender (media coverage, people more aware)

Victoria Miro – Protest Exhibition

Protest is a exhibition which shows the work of 17 artist. It is an exhibition which shows concerns over the socio-political issues of the artists day where they question the status quo and the power of structures found within societies. The work looks at the language of protests, and is not necessarily based on protests themselves but is used as a way to explore their potency.

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Elmgreen & Dragset’s installation Prison Breaking/Powerless Structures, Fg. 333, 2002

This piece was the first artwork that caught my eye when I walked in the room, this installation piece looks like a prison cell which has been destroyed, all the materials used look like what you would find in a prison cell. Due to it’s life-like size you can walk through the installation, seeing all the object, or lack of that have been put in the cells. The fact that the cell has seemingly been destroyed and people can walk freely in and out of them makes them meaningless as the objective of a cell is to keep people in.
This work is important as it shows how pointless captivity can be, at first sight I found the work quite intimidating, I’ve never experience being near a cell before and with all that it symbolises being able to walk around it, it became less worrying.

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Doug Aitken, Free, 2016

Doug Aitken’s work shows the word Free sculpted and then lined using a shattered mirror as you walk around the sculpture changes, the light and reflections change depending how you look at it. One way to look at this work is that it’s showing how fragile freedom is, and from a more superstitious point of view as a broken mirror means bad luck, in which this piece could perhaps be foreseeing this for the future.

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Kara Walker, Tell Me Your Thoughts on Police Brutality Miss ‘Spank Me Harder’, 2015

Kara Walker’s work shows drawings in pencil on paper, she combines these drawings with writing. Her work explores racism and it very important with the recent killings and assaults which has brought together the Black Lives Matter campaign. Her work also looks back at the legacy of the American Civil War. The way the figures are drawn really show the anger and hurt she feels towards this matter which makes it even more emotive.

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Richard Prince, Untitled (protest), 2012-2014.

Richard Prince’s work is based on photographs which are juxtaposing images of heated demonstrations with pornographic image. The images aren’t consistent in size or placement, but with most of the couplings for pornographic images seem to dominate the images of protests. An emotion that both images seem to connect by is heated and in a way makes me think of the term ‘make love not war’.

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Sarah Sze, Calendar Series China Revision, 2015
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Sarah Sze, Calendar Series China Revision, 2015

Sarah Sze’s work has been created using newspapers and acrylic paint, and the images shown on the print have also seemingly been changed. In her previous work Calendar Series, 2013 Sze’s work was rejected by censors ahead of its inclusion in a biennial in China, for Protest she has included her work which shows New York Times covers, covering up all of the content, apart from the content which references China.
As you can see from the images there is very little from the cover which isn’t covered with acrylic paint, and in some I really had to search to actually find the part that was not covered up, which shows how little China is mentions in the New York Times.

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Alice Neel, Nazis Murder Jews, 1936

Protest not only shows recent work but also historical works such as the oil on canvas painting shown above. The painting depicts a Communist party torchlight parade through the streets of New York City. The painting is very dark which gives emphasise to the brightest part of the painting, the Nazis Murder Jews banner which has given the painting its name. I found this painting quite disturbing to look at due to the darkness that surround it not just in tones but also with the time in which it shows.

The Protest exhibition as a whole was very eye opening to all different issue there are, and through sculpture, installation, painting and video the work shows many different ways to express emotion through art and to also put light on important matters both in the past and that are still going on today.

Gallery visit: The Feminist Avant-garde A Radical Revaluation of Value

Today we went to the Photographers Gallery to visit ‘The Feminist Avant-Garde A Radical Revaluation of Value. The exhibition displays art on everyday life and questions art history which excludes the feminist art movement and female photographers all together.
The work shown challenges how we view gender and domestic life, what is expected of women. Feminism isn’t just about women however but also how men are expected to act towards women, there have been several waves of feminism which each were concerned with different areas. Post-feminsm was mainly focused on how men and women behave towards each other.
Today in our photography classes there are more women than men, but a couple of decades ago this would have been the other way around. I feel that photography is becoming more of a feminine subject to study. There was a time however when women would be discouraged from contributing to any creative media such as painting, photography and film.

Penny Slinger’s work Wedding Invitation shows her dressed as a bride wearing her wedding cake and gradually takes slices away, revealing her naked body. This is to represent the wedding night which is linked to the body and pleasure. It shows the sexualisation of marriage but also the roles which men and women have in domestic life which is mainly presented to you through looking at your parents relationship which is different for everyone. There is also a power balance in a marriage where you have to decide who’s going to have what role in your everyday life.

The exhibition is split in three sections, the second part of the exhibition is about beauty, specifically the female body and performance. The female body can take on many persona’s when dressed up, we can become someone else entirely through make up and different clothing. This can be something to hide behind or to liberate so everyday life.
Today men too are becoming more ridiculed for what they look like and can be expected to have the ‘perfect body’ we see in magazines and movies.
The creation of contraception plays a major part in how women’s bodies are sexualised as sex becomes about pleasure and not just for producing life. In the 50s/60s movies, novels and images became more sexualised as women became sexually liberated.

Identity and gender, the women you see in newspapers, magazines and all over social media are always shown as beautiful, you would never see someone of front of a magazine who does not fit their criteria. Photoshop plays a big part in this as it creates the illusion that they’re perfect. Even wedding photographers now use it to make the bride look perfect.

All of the work shown doesn’t look worn, I found it all very interesting and unfortunately still links with issues we have today. When analysing the work you can use gender and history methods, looking at the context in which it was created. There were videos Letítia Parente and Martha Rosler, this was before digitisation so the videos are quite clunky but using this technology was more of a male domain at the time so it challenges this.
I would describe myself as a feminist and believe that men and women should be equal, I found this exhibition very interesting as it explores this methodology.

 

History as a Field and Method of Photographic Research

Historical research can be interpreted in many different ways, specifically in this lecture we focussed of history as a field and a method of photographic research.

As a field, history can be looked upon as its own collection of people, peers, when and where and the material used. It can also be looked at through the period in which it was created in. How the styles interacted with one another and also how different movements came and went, how did they effect each other?

When looking at history as a field of study you can also ask different kinds of questions:

What exactly happened in a period x–y? (Descriptive account – say, the order of events in the early days of photography: who really achieved what results and when?)

Why did it happen? (Seeking the objective causal background of some event/s – say, the forces and events that ultimately led to the announcement of the daguerreotype in the way it was done in 1839.)

How was it possible that it did happen? (Seeking to explain the occurrence of what might superficially seem like an unlikely event – say, the importance of women practitioners in photography.)

Why an individual/set of individuals acted in a certain way. (Seeking to explain individuals’ intentions, motivations, influences etc. – say, why exactly did Stieglitz allow Strand to publish a basically anti-pictorialist article in Camera Work?)

We were however only given these questions as examples of the principles we could use when doing our own research into history as a field. These are starting points to get us thinking on how we can view images in this way in our own research.
This form of research can help discover hidden aspects in an image that without the knowledge of the history, the time it was taken can create a whole other meaning to the image itself when viewing it.

As a method 

All photographs are produced within a context. A photographer works with materials (camera, computer, prints etc.) within a definite social place and time. These materials and the choices the photographer exercises over them, whether conscious or not (i.e., not ‘thinking about it’) organizes the look of the picture.

(Bate, D. 2009, p.16.)

Every photographer and artist, conscious or not is interwoven with the history’s context. You can only take an image in your own time, and it reflects this in it whether we recognise it or not.
History as a method can be linked closely to the previous question ‘Why did it happen? (Seeking the objective casual background of some event/s/)’ This method of research photographic work can take a long time as it takes a lot of reading and visual research, making connections in timelines and concepts.
It may take a long time to do the research but by doing this we can get a very detailed analyse of why the image was taken the way it was. Being thorough could also lead to a unique perspective of the photographic image that others had not considered, changing the understanding of the image for others.