Week 9 Critical Theory

This week we were introduced to a number of ways in which images can be received, perceived, understood and reflected on. The photographers included those who have focussed on their own children (Sally Mann and Tierney Georan) and those that are abstract and representative which without explanation may be viewed entirely differently and with different emotional responses. For example, Ori Gersht in the series Liquidation (2005) presents images which are blurred and feint in their subject matter (forest) and as such are ethereal and beautiful. Then one is informed that this was a site of mass killings…..The information does have a definite impact for me and how I continue to see the images, probably in common with others. Similarly the work of Misrach (1999) Battleground Point which depicts a picturesque sand dune surrounded by water, has levels at which our understanding and apprecuation can rest. But once knoweledge is added at each tier my cognitive and emotional responses change.

Following presentations and readings this week our activity was:

Week 9 Activity: Critical Perspectives

Conduct your own research into one (or more) critical perspectives on your own practice.

Don’t be afraid to be creative in terms of what these could be, thinking beyond the fields of visual and cultural studies.

Briefly, write up your research notes and reflection in your CRJ and be prepared to discuss your findings during the webinar this week.

I chose two types of image for discussion in the webinar. The first two of the first type were of a pony club outing on a beach I was surveying for my project. I had a dilemma wanting to photograph the young riders and their ponies as this was an unusual event to witness while thinking that I should not be photographing children without their or their parents’ permission. Nevertheless, I went ahead with some distant shots which also caught the landscape that I was interested in. I did this on the grounds that many others were taking photos and as far as I could make out that included members of the public who were also using the beach, as well as parents and chaperones who had accompanied the children and their ponies. I also took some photos of the children and their ponies travelling away from the camera, a viewpoint that would not necessarily identify them, and felt much more at ease with this approach. Mann and Gearon both seem not to agree with or perhaps understand the negative views of their images that some hold. I wonder if this is to do with their being mothers and they were present during the shoots (which they were doing) and had an immediate presence re their children’s protection. Once in the public domain they could not protect in the same physical way but clearly were still mothers of the children involved, thus there was a dissonance with their maternal feelings and their viewers feelings.

Pony Club Beach outing 1
Pony Club beach outing 2

The second type of image is one image presented in two ways. Depicting a spider feasting on a fly it had clearly tied up in it’s web I wondered whether processing in different ways would have different impacts for the viewer. Although large on the screen the spider was much smaller than my little finger nail. It was one of several I viewed in the same area having an early breakfast. What caught my eye was the beautiful markings on the spider and the early morning light that lit up the scene including the web. It reminded me of the song ‘There was an old woman who swallowed a fly, I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die. She swallowed a spider to catch the fly….’
For one version I presented it in colour and the other in black and white. Both had the same crop and a Lightroom colour cross process 2 preset. For me the colour one does create a fascination to see what is going on and a slightly yucky feeling about what it was doing. It also was more like the original image and therefore the activity felt more real. In the B&W version I felt I had presented it as more of an artistic/aesthetic view of the image, it had less of an emotional impact and might look nice on the right wall! I will present it in the webinar to see if others think there is a difference in impact and then reflect on whether the way we process our images , not just take them, can make such a difference in their impact for the viewer.

The spider’s breakfast in colour
The spider’s breakfast in black and white

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