Critical theory – Part 1.
Looking at photographs.
An enhanced critical appreciation should, in theory, help an artist create images that communicate clearly. By considering an artist’s intention and other contexts it will help us to appreciate the meanings of photographs, particularly in an time when images are everywhere.
Eric Kessel’s work (shown this week) highlighted how photographs are competing for our attention in his installation 24 Hrs in Photos. Symbolising the amount of images, mainly of personal moments, shared to Flickr in one day, viewers were able to walk among the mountains of prints, something Kessel said that they may find strange as if “walking over personal memories”. The project showcases the democracy of photography; how they are everywhere.
The questions how many photographs have you seen today (last 24-hours), which did you remember and why provide an interesting reflection. Daily life is surrounded by imagery, in my ‘day job’ as a communications officer and freelance journalist, on my iPhone, via the MA forums; on social media, when researching other photographers and in shop windows. And it was an advertising image used in an Ann Summers shop that has stuck with me today. Yet again, a female example that has (presumably) been post-production tweaked to create a body that could not possibly grow a single hair except on its head. It is this unrealistic imagery that I hope does not impact on younger women or girls in particular so that their view of who they can be is not tainted by someone else’s marketing fantasy. This has nothing to do with a dislike of sex or personal insecurities or even jealousy; it is very much routed in a sadness that beauty is so manufactured, but it probably always has been – apparently a mixture containing arsenic was used to whip off the unwanted back in the day: renresearch.wordpress.com – and big up to the lady celebs who have #sharedthehair in more recent times: mtv.com
Francis Hodgson was also shown this week sharing his thoughts on how there needs to be a means to describe quality within photography. I felt he was saying that just because the subject matter is important the image may not stack up a good image all the same and there has to be a way to sift the good from the bad in such a “broad church”.
He said that when a photograph matters people will concentrate harder to receive it and in an age when it is easy to take pictures there must be a way to determine what is quality. Hodgson claims that through concentrated looking images are able to not become alike. It was mentioned that his view may be seen as elitist but I agree that to separate an image from the plethora we see each day and set it apart, we need to be prepared to spend more time considering its aesthetics, context etc..
This is different I think to snobbery, which can pervade the art world. Being made to feel uncomfortable in a smaller gallery if your face or clothes don’t fit goes against everything I believe art stands for. But most galleries are first and foremost retail spaces and I imagine they would prefer potential paying customers than those of us “just browsing”.
Although there maybe millions of images created and shared daily, in a sense this is no different to other mass produced items. Everyone can usually see the difference in quality between a Primark garment and a handmade one-off outfit. It is the handmade one-off type of image I think Hodgson means when he talks about a means of determining quality. To do this, I do not feel is elitist, it is how the image is represented that can cause elitism and that is up to the photographer to decide.
Gallery walls have never be a massive lure for me as a photographer, nor even private viewings. What matters to me is the enthusiasm or intrigue I can create with my work that spark conversations and make people feel included and valued. That’s why photography matters to me. When I look at an image I want to feel something; a tug that makes me want to linger longer or learn more. To avoid triviality in my own practice it is this intrigue I aim for. Once the initial aesthetic pull has passed, I hope people will feel inquisitive to step into concentrated looking, ask questions and feel fulfilled.
Responding to photographs.
I’ve been having a fascinating