Staging or faking? Exploring the Myth of photographic truth

In fact, every photograph is a fake from start to finish, a purely impersonal, unmanipulated photograph being practically impossible” (Edward Steichen, Ye Fakers, 1903)

Despite the fact that Steichen openly admitted this way back in 1903, the perennial question that rears its head time and again in discussions of (particularly news and documentary) photography – is it a truthful image, a faithful representation of event as it actually happened, or was it all dreamed up and orchestrated by the photographer? At the end of the day, does it really matter that much? It seems to! Continue reading “Staging or faking? Exploring the Myth of photographic truth”

Image-text combination as narrative instrument

Of course, you don’t need to resort to image manipulation techniques to alter the meaning of an image, as Errol Morris (2008) puts it, “[c]aptions do the heavy lifting as far as deception is concerned. The pictures merely provide the window dressing” but this aspect of fakery is less commonly explored in discussions of misinformation. Continue reading “Image-text combination as narrative instrument”

Attitudes to disability in the media

“Disabled people rarely appear in popular culture. When they do, their disability must be a continuous preoccupation overshadowing all other areas of their character. Disabled people are disabled. That is what they “do.” That is what they “are.”” (King 1993, p 72)

I think that a good way to start researching for my project is to look at how disabled people are portrayed in the media; this will give me some ideas of how to approach and how not to approach my subject matter. It is important that I do not evoke feelings of horror or pity; I wish to challenge stereotypes, not to reinforce them. Continue reading “Attitudes to disability in the media”

Documentary and narrative traditions

The goal of this part of my research is to explore the documentary genre, particularly photographers who are using the tradition to make statements as opposed to merely recording what takes place in front of the camera. I am also looking at artists (not only photographers) who use narrative text, often alongside images, as a way of empowering subjects and allowing them to have a voice. I’m not so much looking for inspiration as exploring different means of presenting the materials as well as different working methods and techniques. One of the criticisms of my last major project was that it lacked conceptual thrust, so I will be exploring other photographers’ work in light of that.

Dorothea Lange & Paul Taylor, An American Exodus

What I really respect about Lange is that she went in with the idea of telling these people’s stories, hence the work she did with husband Taylor is one of the first instances I can find where images are systematically displayed alongside first-hand testimony that speaks of the why and wherefore behind or related to the visual. Continue reading “Dorothea Lange & Paul Taylor, An American Exodus”

Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices

EACH DAY when you see us black folk upon the dusty land of the farms or upon the hard pavement of the city streets, you usually take us for granted and think you know us, but our history is far stranger than you suspect, and we are not what we seem.” (Wright 2002, p 10) Continue reading “Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices”

David Whitford, The Most Famous Story We Never Told

In this article, written for Fortune Magazine in 2005, Whitford revisits Hale County (again!!) 69 years later and talks to some of the surviving members of the three tenant families. What is really great about this article is that Whitford allows the subjects to speak for themselves, and even includes some of their slang and grammatical errors so we can almost hear the Southern drawl in their voices. Continue reading “David Whitford, The Most Famous Story We Never Told”

James Agee & Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families

This is one of the first books that I found when I started exploring documentary photography back in the early days of my study! What impressed me at that time was the fact that the text in no way tries to explain the images or define them, or describe what they depict (although as Errol Morris has pointed out, Agee does an inventory of the contents of a sharecropper family home and Evans photographs it, even using this as the basis for his photographic revelation of Evans as one not averse to moving objects around the interiors or even adding the infamous alarm clock!). Continue reading “James Agee & Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families”

Erskine Caldwell & Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces

One of the first books to come out of the depression era documentary movement was this book. I found a lot of the pages published online here. Continue reading “Erskine Caldwell & Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces”

Disability and sexuality: reclaiming the disabled body

“Disability represents a significant pivot point where the difference between sex and gender becomes problematic. Gender in the presence of the disabled body does not overlay sex in the typical way because the difference between ability and disability trumps the difference between Ladies and Gentlemen, suppresses the assignment of gender, and denies the presence of sexuality.” (Siebers 2008, p 174)
Continue reading “Disability and sexuality: reclaiming the disabled body”