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Approaching Visual Culture: Notes on Photography

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Matthew Sini

on 14 August 2017

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Transcript of Approaching Visual Culture: Notes on Photography

Artistic Photography
Institutional Photography
Photographs as evidence. Photographs as things to control your behaviour. Photographs as disciplinary measures.
Memoiristic Photography
Journalistic photography
What is Visual Culture?
Image saturation
Approaching Visual Culture
Imitating Ourselves
“represents that very subtle moment when, to tell the truth, I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I then experience a micro-version of death.” (Barthes,
Camera Lucida
, pp 13-14)
Attempting to come to terms with the way we use visual culture and the way it sometimes uses us is important work. Looking at media as modes of visualization rather than just pure textualisation opens up many fruitful areas of research. It allows us to take account of the experiential nature of media as well as the interpretive. Photography is of course only one aspect to visual culture, but its ubiquity helps us to understand that what we see via the mechanism of the camera is intimately tied to culturally determined ways of seeing.
MECM20011 Week 4
Are images "read"?
What do we actually "do" with images?
W.J.T Mitchell:
"the realization that spectatorship (the look, the gaze, the glance, the practices of observation, surveillance and visual pleasure) may be as deep a problem as various forms of reading (decipherment, decoding, interpretation etc.) and that ‘visual experience’ or ‘visual literacy’ might not be fully explicable in the model of textuality” (1994: 16)
from Mitchell, "Showing Seeing," 170.
Visual Culture and Everyday Experience
For Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life, consumption and usage are everyday practices.

"Ways of operating are necessary to be explicated in the process of representation as well as 'consumption', a hidden production by its users" (xiv)

He distinguishes two nodes of power: strategies and tactics.

Everyday practice should not be concealed "as merely the obscure background of social activity," but it is necessary to penetrate this obscurity and to articulate everyday life
"Reading" Photographs?
Semiotics and structuralism may be helpful for photographic analysis, but does not give us the whole "story."
Andre Bazin - Ontology of the Photographic Image
"The personality of the photographer enters into the proceedings only in his selection of the object to be photographed and by way of the purpose he has in mind. Although the final result may reflect something of his personality, this does not play the same role as is played by that of his painter. All the arts are based on the presence of man, only photography derives an advantage from his absence. Photography affects us like a phenomenon in nature, like a flower or a snowflake whose vegetable or earthly origins are an inseparable part of their beauty." (7)
Family photos, pictures from your holidays, parties, weddings, birthdays, milestones, pictures with and of partners etc.
" a journalist, my reaction was fine, as a human being I felt I’d really let myself down.”
Panopticon and power
Industrial Photography
Social Media Photography
The Specular Economy
The specular economy differs in older models of self-presentation in
“...its new reconstruction of how the self is reconstituted through the screens of engagement and interactivity that serve to organise and shape our lives. Instead of television or magazines organising a sophisticated panoply of idealised representations of ourselves through famed and celebrated people, we now have an incredibly complex presentation of the self through the screens of social media via the Internet and mobile communication” (Marshall, 499).
The (dreaded?) selfie!
See you next week!
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