Thursday, 31 March 2011

Michel Foucault and Laura Mulvey

Foucault makes the argument that we live in a society of “surveillance” This is to say that our society is based on amalgamation of “forces and bodies” all of which act to create an individual.
The Panopticon focused on the remaking of people and through self monitoring believing that one is being constantly watched. This worry shapes who the individual becomes in society. A society in which, due to the possibility of constant surveillance, individuals would start disciplining themselves.
Mulvey argues that visual pleasure is dominated by the male gaze and that female viewers learn to see through male’s eyes. Women are seen as objects of sexual desire. Men are associated with voyeurism, control and authority.
In my study voyeurism benefits the watcher whilst the watched is unaware of the intrusion. The watcher has the control, the power. The question is, are we the voyeurs or are we just curious about what we see?  When Gary Winogrand snapped a kissing couple in New York in 1969, he was echoing Robert Doisneau's famous shot of a "spontaneous" lovers' kiss in Paris in 1950. But there's an onlooker in the image as well, a girl staring at the camera as if to challenge its presumption; the woman being kissed is staring, too; everyone knows what's going on (whereas Doisneau's couple are professional models pretending not to know. Modern surveillance techniques looks like science fiction. But there's nothing new about the desire to watch someone without them knowing – and nothing unnatural about them being furious if they find out.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

My own practice

The gulf between rich and poor has grown wider in the UK.  It paints a picture of a country shaped by equality and class difference, with the children of the poor destined to live much harder lives than those of the wealthy. My focus is that on our City streets these two types of people walk on the same pavements and breathe the same air. My aim as a photographer is to capture something about them as people, showing a contrast between the divide (the rich vs the poor). How do these two types of people present themselves? Our cities have a great divide between the very rich and the very poor. Do the rich look down on the poor? Is class difference evident to the passer by? Do people really care who they share a pavement with? City dwellers usually walk quickly and with their eyes fixed to the ground. What are they thinking? Where are they going? What is the hustle and bustle really about?
In my photographs I want to portray the way people identify with their environment, how they show their identity and social status in their actions, personality and surroundings. Is there no hope on the streets for our youths and are they becoming a threat or danger to others with anti-social behaviour. How do the rich and the less fortunate present themselves? These are all issues I am going to research and uncover through my photography.
I experienced a taste of this when I was photographing on the streets of Leeds. My subjects appeared quite hostile and defensive. I felt as though I was intruding, invading their space. There was a feeling of uncertainty between us. What was I doing taking their photographs? Was I capturing them in the way I wanted?

Format Festival Case Study

I have selected the above photographs as the subject matter relates to my interest in street photography. I find people and what exists  beneath the exterior fascinating. Loosing myself on a busy city street glimpsing at passers by and scanning how they could interest me as a photographer is compelling. Gary Winogrand creates black and white photography of street scenes. He documented the city and the urban landscape concentrating on it’s people and capturing animate with inanimate objects became a fascination. Winogrand’s unique view of the world is captured through his photography.
The second image focuses on the characters of the people and in the way they are interacting with one another. The male in his dominant role is seen holding the female and kissing her in the doorway. The female figure stares at the photographer with a look of awkwardness. She seems unaffected by the passion of the male. The girl standing on the pavement appears to be quite accepting of the kiss and possibly surprised when the shutter clicked.
Winogrand said “photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed” This image looks intriguing. The figures do provoke thought. The surroundings do relate to the people. The whole composition comes together to create an image that will be remembered and discussed.


Simon Starling bases much of his ideas on efficiency. He once described his work as “the physical manifestation of a thought process” revealing hidden histories and relationships. He makes objects, installations, and pilgrim-like journeys which present him with an array of ideas. His interest is in transforming one object into another. He is more interested in the process that goes into the work of art than the end product.
For Tabemas Desert Run in 2004 the artist crossed a Spanish desert on an improvised electric bicycle. Water was the only waste product which was produced and he used that in a painting.
He is always mindful of the commercial exploitation of natural sources.
In 2005 he produced ‘Shedboatshed’ this was a dismantled shed made into a boat and filled with the sheds contents. The boat sailed down the Rhine and the shed was reassembled in a museum. Shedboatshed is seen as the artist’s comment on mass production and capitalism.
There are many meanings that we draw from his work. It is probably about Global economics, the balance of diplomacy between East and West. The message is clear that Asia’s economic power will overtake the money markets of Europe and we will all be powerless to stop it.
Simon Starling’s works have been exhibited world wide. His work is in the permanent collections of museums such as, Tate Modern, London, Guggenheim, New York, Museum of Modern Art Sydney. Alongside icons like Francis Bacon his exhibits have made a mark on the art world. His work weaves, eccentric, transformative stories from familiar objects, translating them, from one language, one state of being to another. There are transitions from modernism to mass production, collectable to disposable. Starling seizes upon everything and this makes his work exciting and magical.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Thomas Demand

Demand begins his research for every new work by selecting a pre-existing photograph from various sources; the media, history books or from Demand’s own family archive. The artist usually studies the photograph for some time and he often attempts to find out who the photographer is and searches for other related images. He then builds, in his studio, a three-dimensional, life-sized model based on the photograph. Thomas Demand relies on painstaking effort, but his images appear crushingly simple. The model is made solely out of cardboard and paper. When the model is finished, Demand photographs it. The model exists only to be photographed, as it is destroyed afterward. Demand then exhibits, as his work, a large-scale photograph of the model. In the course of his practice, the artist invites us to understand what we are looking at, and in turn to become conscious of our process of understanding.

He has built and torn down alters of pop and politics, youth cultural icons, and national symbols of power and corruption.
Demand uses a large format camera to photograph his constructions before destroying them. He also films his large scale models using a special effects camera. The destruction of his work further complicates the relationship between reproduction and original that his photography investigates.
The artist, who began as a sculptor, in the past has simulated shapes and textures.  A fax machine has harsh edges to go with its box-like shape. Even then, all those piles of paper paper crammed with paper Post-Its are impressive. His photographs show hallways, with nothing more noticeable than a banister, open doors, and light switches. Some show desks or floors strewn with paper, but without a word. It also excludes people, as if the offices had suffered a sudden forced evacuation. There is a link here with Baudrillard, who takes us into a hyperreal world where models of reality dominate and reality itself has given way to simulations of the real, and eventually to simulations of simulations that have no anchor, nor interest, in the real whatsoever.

His exhibitions present large-scale photographs of paper reconstructions that, when first perceived, look like documentations of real objects and places. At first glance, his works tend to deceive the viewer. Only after a closer look, when encountering the disturbing effect of the works, does doubt arise regarding the true nature of the images.
Thomas Demand explores reality as well as unreality in his work as well as the nature of the modern image. The images themselves are all concerned with the idea of how photography can give life to the objects.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was one of the most important figures in the Pop art movement. He became as famous as many of the celebrities he portrayed in his popular screen prints.
One of his many famous quotes was “In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.”
He painted thousands of commissioned portraits of famous and obscure personalities, creating a world fascinated by appearances. Warhol revived a neglected genre, he applied new codes and changed the history of portraiture.

Warhol focused on re-creating images with as little use of the artist’s hand as possible as a means of showing objects of popular consumption. Warhol expanded his artistic endeavours to include the infamous Hollywood legends Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson to name but a few. Warhol used colour and repetition to emphasise the iconic qualities of his portraits. All of the artist’s portraits glowed with the aura of his genius.
In this series Warhol painted a picture of an entire society and invented a new form of artistic production – serial and almost mass produced.
Warhol photographed his subjects and then reproduced the images onto canvas through a silkscreen process. Warhol then retouched them. He said
“I sort of half paint them just to give it a style” Some of the figures he painted were appropriate, given Warhol’s fascination with heroes of popular culture.
His portraits understate reality at the same time as exaggerating it.
They keep the essence of the features that make an image recognisable. There is nothing ornate or elaborate. The images have become iconic.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Helmut Newton French Vogue 1975

Helmut Newton's photography is remembered for pushing nude photography to its limits.
He established a style that bordered on erotic, stylised scenes which could be interpreted to be sado-masochistic and fetishistic.

In this photograph the two females appear to be together, to be in a relationship and then again because of the female in her nudity against the clothed female suggests a different meaning. Is she a stranger, is she trying to seduce her? Why is the female dressed as a man?
The female wearing only a hat and stilettos examines the suited figure. She is dressed in a striking designer suit which suggests that she is part of the social elite.
The nude is positioned behind the other figure. She has her leg stretched out before her. Is this a barrier she is not permitted to cross?
Newton gives the viewer part access to the female body, with certain parts not visible. She touches her arm in a fond, loving way. This move rejected by a lack of response. The setting is one of affluence, probably near to a sumptuous hotel in an area of luxury and privilege. The suited figure appears to be wealthy and famous, quite arrogant in gesture.
I think the image is inviting questions. There is a surreal feel to the mood and there is a confusion of thought in trying to make sense of the message behind the image. Why has Newton portrayed the female in immaculate make-up, wearing serious stilettos, mostly naked and seen on the arm of a socialite. Is it that the artist is trying to create a unique imaginative world for us to lose ourselves in for a few moments, or is it that the artist wants us to decide whether
or not we believe that art is a dirty word and we respond with erotic thoughts.
Perhaps the artist wants us to see the pose as a form of fashion advertising, allowing the viewer to interact and idealise the self. Women dressed as men in fashion terms is considered modern and unthreatening. Or perhaps the artist wants us to consider transgender problems in society. Whatever the thinking, this is a strong, stunning image by Newton.