Photography and Moving Image I

George Baker’s “Photography’s Expanded Field” challenges the idea of photographic image, effect – he questions if it still exists and if so, in what form. Photographers have started to use and reference other media and mostly supplementary aids as light, projections and video in the 80s, expanding more in the 90s. And the issue is still topical. Recently, when Susan Bright visited our seminar class, she made us understand that she prefers and appreciates the classical photography more t hat any other form it has taken, especially, “trends” as collaging or interdisciplinary forms. At the same time, I realize that many of us who have started the grad school recently, have taken different forms of expression since. Therefore I question if the photography as medium is really in “danger” or it is simply the reality of this time to merge art forms more that ever and not specify that much if an artist is sculptor, photographer or video artist. Simply, an artist. A great example of an artist who doesn’t choose one particular medium and can perform at a high level in any medium of his choice – drawing, photography, sculpture, installation, and painting – is Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco.

gorozco

Gabriel-Orozco01

Gabriel-Orozco-My-Hands-Are-My-Heart

Baker argues that photography has always been “in between” something, in opposition of something- art and technology, ontology or social usage, Barthes’s punctum and stadium, sequence and series among others, and that is its problem. The stasis that has been a characteristic of photography at its beginning is no longer its quality, therefore Baker calls this condition “photography between narrativity and stasis” or not-narrative and not-stasis. Even though Baker names a few photographers that have expanded the photography’s field, i.e., Cindy Sherman, James Coleman and Jeff Wall, he stresses that the most important is to realize the new formal and cultural possibilities. He talks about a cinematic photograph and film stills (used in photographic projects), however there are also, as he says, nearly static films or still films. I often think of these as very photographic – sometimes I’m interested in the film mostly for its photographic qualities. I recently saw a German film “The Strange Little Cat” which can be perfectly described as one. The film stills might be easily taken for photographs and the film itself was slow, reflective and lit in the way that reminded often of a staged photograph.

strangelittlecat4

strangelittlecat3

strange little cat1

Photography fits in cultural field, says Baker, and “medium-specificity seems in a potential danger of forgetting.” Mediums expand. Photography does too, temporarily and spatially.

David Campany’s introduction “When to be Fast? When to be Slow?” to his edition of “The Cinematic” (2007) outlines the relation of cinema and photography and cinema’s development – how it was fast in the 1920s and 1930s as the enthusiasm of the new technologies and possibilities and how it developed into the slowness as films of Ingemar Bergman or Krzysztof Kieslowski “to hold on to the decreasing opportunities for serious artistic reflection.” As the cinema (and television) kept developing, Campany argues that photography therefore is a “relatively simple and primitive medium.” At the same time, photography’s stillness is a compelling aspect to film makers – “still is a pause in a flow”. The examples of “The Strange Little Cat” are relevant here too.

Campany stresses that singularity as photography’s characteristic disappeared with assemblage, especially in a book form where one can create order, a pace or make a pause. Also, all the characteristic differences between film and photography are well challenged in the influential Chris Marker’s work “La Jetée” (1962) – composed of stills, it questions film’s and photography’s properties. “This is the story of a man marked by an image from his childhood” – that’s the opening of the film and a possible answer to Marker’s choice of making the film out of stills and the thematic – memory and time – two thematics that are so difficult to visualize in photography.

Stills from Chris Marker's film "La Jetée"

Stills from Chris Marker’s film “La Jetée”

Stills from Chris Marker's film "La Jetée"

Stills from Chris Marker’s film “La Jetée”

Stills from Chris Marker's film "La Jetée"

Stills from Chris Marker’s film “La Jetée”

Tom Gunning, in his “Moving Away from the Index: Cinema and the Impression of Reality”, talks about André Bazin’s film theory and photographic image. Gunning asks a question – “what are the bounds that cinema forges with the world it portrays?” I think that cinema is as realistic as photography, sometimes even less because with a chosen narrative (montage) it alters the reality (unless it is documentary but even a documentary film has a script and director’s viewpoint which then no longer is a reality), sometimes more because it mimics the reality more with the moving image (as almost nothing in the world is still all the time). In this way, both, photography and cinema can use reality as a material but non of those is reality; they can be realistic.

He talks a lot of how photography refers more to the past and cinema to the presence. Also, that still there is nothing else that could convey motion except motion. One thing that caught my attention was the sense of presence he attaches to the cinema. I don’t really agree that the cinema can give the same sense that reality itself. They are not identical because cinema is still a projection and even though it is absorbent, it can make a spectator really forget anything else, it does’t replace or imitate the reality.

Finally, I wanted to share an interesting film experience I once had. I was translating for a French film festival in Latvia and, for one film – “Nathalie” by Anne Fontaine – there was no copy to watch before the screening, however they gave me the transcript to read. I did and the reading made me imagine how the film would look, I developed my own film in  the head. At the screening, to my surprise, it was nothing to do with what I had imagined and I am not talking simply about the visual. The text and the film didn’t coincide in a way; or, just reading the text I was mislead of the action – the main character didn’t actually do all the actions she was talking about – they existed in the text but not in the movie.

 

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Week 14: Digital II

Lev Manovich in his text on everyday media life talks about how the development of softwares and devices have facilitated the use and distribution of media. The most astonishing is the fact that “most of the content available online finds an audience.” A question Manovich asks – are the identities commercialized – responds to the article I saw on the New Yorker a few days ago – how Facebook – certainly one of the most used social networks with millions of images uploaded daily – is also the biggest direct-marketing company.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 09.34.19

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2014/04/facebook-worlds-biggest-direct-marketing-company.html

Gunter Grass on the other hand gives a commentary on Facebook’s absurdity; for a renowned writer who feels like a dinosaur  because he is still writing manuscripts by hand and research when looking for information, such a fact as having hundreds of friends (on Facebook) is a proof that one doesn’t have friends at all. Another absurdity is that just next to the video that is critiquing social media one can find all the possible icons how to like, share, follow and do whatever else can be done to promote it on the social websites.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 09.27.32

http://channel.louisiana.dk/video/günter-grass-facebook-shit

An interesting thought in Manovich’s text is how tactics became strategy and then, in order to encourage the creation, companies designed some of their applications “for ‘hackability’ and remixability”.  In a way, they work together, the main concern is to get as many visitors as possible. However, as most of the sites concentrate on profit, the contents is most often commercialized, thus, it is not so much about creativity. It can be be different for Vimeo, for instance. One can upload only their creation or copyrighted copy with permission, no business, as advertising videos, are not permitted. Their slogan says: “Life—and video sharing—can be better”, maybe hinting some critique towards YouTube. Although, the YouTube video, Manovich mentions “Web 2.0… The Machine Is Us/ing Us” by Michael Wesch, is really a great piece to show how the invention of www has changed people, ethics, privacy.. “how it is linking people”.

The world with the web seems smaller indeed, the communication can happen quickly and easily. Is it adding any quality, is another question. The accessibility does not guarantee the quality nor the ease to use. I googled “how many websites are there”. The data shows that as of Janaury 2014 there are around 861,379,000 registered host names however, the number of active websites recorded in January 2014 actually contracted by around 4 million to just over 180,000,000. Just! I don’t know how many art related websites could there be out of this number but I would say – enough not to be able to navigate all of them and not to receive qualitative information from all of them. Not that it is a requisite, it just makes more difficult to search for the information. Also, it makes the flow faster. In everything. The speed is accelerated, the changes are happening as we speak; more photos and videos uploaded, more sites created.

Jason Evans in his essay “Online Photographic Thinking”  argues that the photographic exploration online is unsatisfactory. Let’s look at his own explorations. What is interesting about his website and his blog “The Daily Nice” where he shows one photograph daily of something that made him happy is the fact that it is never the same. Every time one refreshes the website, the content changes, as the blog – the image of the day is there only for that day – no archive, no trace of the previous images.

Image from Jason Evan's website

Image from Jason Evans’s website

Image from Jason Evan's website

Image from Jason Evans’s website

Image from Jason Evan's website

Image from Jason Evans’s website

These three images, taken as screen shots from Evans’s website show a different set of images, as it changes every time one refreshes the website. The images are usually put one next to other, sometimes they overlap. I question if Evans’s has programmed the various versions or they are completely random.

Another site he launched (in 2007) is TheNewScent.com. I have no idea what it is about (Evans doesn’t talk about it in his text more than to say that it had 3700 visitors in the first month. And after?) as it seems to be in Japanese (or another Asian language). He argues that the web had created audience that was not possible before, as well as that the digital can expand what photography can be. “An interesting thing about the digital is that it does us good (mentally, anyway) to sometimes put aside the seductive “thing-ness” of photography and engage directly with the image.” There is a certain truth in what he says, although I personally prefer that “thing-ness” instead of technology’s “coldness”.

What I find useful for many photographers with web is the fact that it provides a certain identification if one has not yet been exhibited or publish. And not all the photographers will be, so to a point, it fills this gap. Also, as the unblushing, for instance, is so expensive, web lets the photographer to use the possibilities of showing the work without practically any cost.

Evans’s essay is followed by the comments in the discussion forum. I agree with Amir Zaki that work, created for or only appearing on web, won’t at some point be taken seriously. Unless it is created for the web as a critical art work. As to the following comments, I guess it is a never-ending process – everyone will defend his position – as a beginner, someone can find a lot of advantages to the Internet promotion, as an established artist, one may not even need a website. As to the discussion of analogue vs digital, I don’t think it is very fruitful as a debate which one is better. It is the same for the Internet; there are advantages and disadvantages for any matter; if the Internet can advance someone’s artistic practice, terrific; if it raises important questions of audience’s response, they need to be discussed. However, the problem is that the Internet, due to its accessibility, is full of crap. That leads to the fact that people need to be more critical than ever. Penelope Umbrico adds an important point – whatever the Internet and digital practice provide, the content is created by us, it is a record of our culture. It is also expressed in Lev Manovich’s article in Aperture Magazine – our world has never been so extensively documented as today.

And some links to photo blogs:

JM Colberg’s “dumpster

Foam Magazine blog

Martin Parr’s blog

Monsters&Madonnas – ISP’s Library blog

Hester Keijser’s blog

Still Searching – online discourse on photography

 

 

Week 13: The Digital

This week’s readings concentrate on the digital practices and how they relate to the making of photographs.

Jeff Wall in his writing from 1989 “Photography and Liquid Intelligence” uses complicated language – as he does in his photographs too. He argues that there is a dry and a liquid part in photography. The first is associated with optics and mechanics of photography and related objects as enlarger, for instance. The second – the liquid – is the opposition and relates on one hand to the expression, the quality of the conceptual image and on the other hand to the symbolic representation of the photography’s history, i.e., “it embodies a memory – trace of very ancient production-processes – of washing, bleaching, dissolving.” Wall argues that photography is suitable in depicting natural forms and movement, as, for instance, in his photograph “Milk”, emphasizing the relation to nature.

Jeff Wall, Milk, 1984

Jeff Wall, Milk, 1984

Writing this from his perspective, well acknowledging that the technologies were about to change and later recordings of these natural forms would evolve – as digital replaced the water in analog photography, Wall stresses the process itself – no matter how the dry intelligence develops, the liquid intelligence, the conceptual part, can advance on its turn too. If it concerns the natural forms, the liquid representations, there are enough visual investigations to produce; moreover, by making a comparison to the ocean and how it is “itself an intelligence which is studying” the scientists in turn, Wall implies that the subject matter of the photography does not end with the photographers’s intention and representation of it in the photograph but that it also “studies us, even from a great distance.” In this way, the transformations of the natural form in photographic form can take diverse appearances.

Jorge Ribalta’s “Molecular Documents: Photography in the Post-Photographic Era, or How Not to be Trapped into False Dilemmas” deals with the relational between traditional and digital photography. He is in opposition of the statement that photography is dead and immediately asks questions – if it’s dead, “what do we have instead?” He doesn’t agree with William J. Mitchell who argues that photography’s death is it’s liberation. Ribalta agrees that the analogue photography has been increasingly losing its materials in front of ascending digital technologies. However, it is not the death of photography, it only means that the photographers had to “reconsider their relationship to their own materials.”

Another important novelty and a proof that photography is far from being dead is its accessibility and frequent usage by amateurs – the digital photography has facilitated its use and post-production. Ribalta argues that the death of photography only means that it is now in a different form of visual. And, as this new form is a success, “photography’s death [..] is most definite triumph.” He adds: “Photography dies but the photographic is born.” With this latter, he emphasizes the shift, the change in photographic medium that was used to know before the digital, that we can no longer talk about the photography in the same way, therefore it needs to rephrased too. Ribalta says that digital photography is an imitation; photographic is something that is resembling a photograph. Therefore Ribalta places emphasis on documentary tradition (photography) and denies the power of photography without realism (photographic). The question rises – “can photography maintain its social relevance?” He argues that Photoshop brings “new celebration of visual tricks [..] but we need a critique [..], a new, complex and meaningful renegotiation of realism and universalism.” The new documentary is the new realism which Ribalta names “molecular realism” – “reinventing documentary methods based on the negotiation of the relationship between author and spectator.” Here he mentions Jo Spence’s work as an example of changing, new perspective as a self-taught photographer who experimented and worked conceptually, wanting to democratize the practice and addressing her critique to the institutions.

Jo Spence and Terry Dennett, Remodelling Photohistory (Colonization), 1982

Jo Spence and Terry Dennett, Remodelling Photohistory (Colonization), 1982

In this photograph from 1982, Jo Spence plays with the cliches – mostly social as the women’s role as a housewife who would keep the house clean and provide food (the milk bottles in the corner) but also as mother (those milk bottles mimic the milk she can provide to a child, especially because she is standing naked). This is an example of molecular documentary. As the medium was changing, another question Ribalta was asking was if the institutions were capable to change too to be able to accommodate the new documentary. It is also a question of society’s ability to accept. And, as Jo Spence mentioned, important for photography to be accessible not only for the elite but for anyone, there the importance in the shift of how the images are “distributed”.

Nicholas Bourriaud in “Post Production” expresses a thought how photography since digitalization has brought photography in different sector – tertiary – because it no longer deals with primary materials but is grounded on “re-” – found, obtained, recycled; a material for manipulation. “Post Production” deals with “the knowledge generated by the appearance of the Net.” Artists use the ideas, problematics of other artists’ work when creating their own; the references are sometimes very clear, up to the level of duplication. Artists are reprogramming existing work, inhabiting historical styles, making use of images, using society as a catalog of forms and investing in fashion and media. All these practices, as Bourriaud deduces, “have in common the recourse to already produced forms. They testify to a willingness to inscribe the work of art within a network of signs and significations, instead of considering it an autonomous or original form.” Thus, the shift in the artistic question is from “what can we make that is new?” to “how can we make do with what we have?” He adds that post-production artists, as well as DJs and Web surfers are “”semionauts” who produce original pathways through signs.” The already existing materials is the data to build their practice on. It is a recycling, a time consuming investigation to find what to use from what already exists.

The section “The Use of Forms” questions the copyright and ethics in this new form. Bourriaud mentions The Situationist International and their extolment for la derive or the drift. French artist Raymond Hains – best known for the layered, torn and weathered posters that he found and removed from public display and exhibited unaltered in galleries and museums – is a precursor of this new culture of reusing the existing.

Raymond Hains

Raymond Hains

Bourriaud claims that anyone can compose today; 12 years after publishing  his text, this claim is even more topical as the technologies progress all the time. And, an art work, created today, can become the source material for someone’s art tomorrow – “a rotation is established.” As to other artists as Mike Kelley and John Armieder, among others, they use the culture (whatever has been done before) but place it in a different context. Interestingly, Bourriaud announces that even though “the world is saturated with the objects [..] overproduction is no longer seen as a problem but as a cultural ecosystem.” Contemporary artists consider what conditions, age they live in and find a way to create work with a new paradigm, new narrative. This is a way how Rirkrit Tiravanija works – unprecedented experience he offered in the gallery space. In 1992 he made a work Untitled (Free) which consisted of giving free rice and curry to gallery’s visitors. MoMA’s curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture Laura Hoptman, speaks of this event in the video. In this way, he “produces modes of sociality that are partially unforeseeable.”French artist Pierre Huyghe invites everyone to “become actors and co-writers.” British Liam Gillick says: “I try to encourage people to accept that the work of art presented in a gallery is not the resolution of ideas and objects.” There are possibilities, different engagements.

Liam Gillick, Prototype-Erasmus Table 2, Gent, 1994

Liam Gillick, Prototype-Erasmus Table 2, Gent, 1994

Italian Maurizio Cattelan, for instance. exhibited a live donkey in a gallery in 1993 – as a reference to Jannis Kouneliis’ 12 horses, his homage to Italian modern art movement Arte Povera.

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled / 12 Live Horses, Rome, 1969

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled / 12 Live Horses, Rome, 1969

Maurizio Cattelan, Warning! Enter at your own risk. Do not touch, do not feed,  no smoking. 1993

Maurizio Cattelan, Warning! Enter at your own risk. Do not touch, do not feed, no smoking. 1993

All these artists use artwork from history in order to create another space where the art can start a new conversation. They don’t simply appropriate the artwork, they use it as a means to create and interact with it – politically, socially, critically, ironically. Although, I don’t think that today, in the copyrighted space, it would be possible to create the way these artists have “deejayed” together the existing material. It is certain that today’s creating often comes form the found, Internet material and that is in a way the same as far as the concern for rights. I think that today everyone is using digital technologies at some extent, therefore, also in photography, it has become a certain norm, a part of the process as pure analogue photography exists more and more rarely. The digital changes the speed of information, of flow, of expectation.

Week 12: Photography as Object or Thing 2

This week’s reading is Mark Godfrey’s essay “Cameras, Corn, Christopher Williams and the Cold War” in October Magazine in 2008. The main topic is Christopher Williams’s work and particularly “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle”, providing an in-depth analysis of the complex Williams’s work. At the beginning of his essay Mark Godfrey quotes Christopher Williams: “It’s about things not connecting and people not connecting.” We might consider these words as a keynote to understanding both, Godfrey’s essay and Williams’s work.

The title of the essay points at the subjects of Williams’s work. One can then ask why these subjects and what they have in common. Williams’s work is built on a profound research on history, photography, art, politics. There are references to something in every piece and seemingly, a reference can refer to another; as Godfrey points out in p.122 and 141 (among others), Williams’s photographs are self-reflective. The multitude of references may address an influence of Williams’s as Ed Ruscha, for instance, who, in like manner as Williams, worked within different modes of as, as Pop art and Conceptualism. (p.117) Here, a photograph by Ruscha from 1965 in L.A. might be compared to Williams’s image of Lodz apartment building.

Ed Ruscha, 818 Doheny Dr., 1965

Ed Ruscha, 818 Doheny Dr., 1965

Christopher Williams, Lodz, October 2, 2004

Christopher Williams, Lodz, October 2, 2004

Ruscha was more interested in repetition, both, to show the amount of same looking building in L.A. and in the construction of the image – a conceptual approach; Williams’s method is one image concept. Ruscha’s interest is pop culture, Williams’s interest refers to the Soviet era architecture, Cold War product – an apartment building in Lodz could be anywhere else in Eastern Europe, and I would add, anywhere else, especially, in socialist countries however Ruscha’s building too, is stripped off a clear reference to a specific space, it talks about L.A. culture in general. Overall, they have quite a lot in common.

A reference can also relate to the research, for instance, photographs that refer to an advertisement allow us to think that Williams has done a research in the mentioned field (only by well knowing the subject he can play with the necessary elements to point out his concerns), the subject, for example, the corn, leads to think of the historic background – colonization, as well as the use of the product today – even in photography – “the lubricant used to grind the camera lenses has a corn by-product in it; the film strip itself has a corn by-product in it”. Moreover, to wider the reference range and to my surprise, the shower image model’s reference goes even to Jacques Tati Playtime – “a female lead whose appearance suggested education and refinement, qualities that Williams discerned in this model. (p.127-128)

Christopher Williams, Model # 105M â R59C, Kestone Shower Door, 57.4 X 59â / Chrome / Raindrop, SKU # 109149, # 96235. 970 â 084 â 000 (Miko), Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 6, 2005 2005

Christopher Williams, Model # 105M â R59C, Kestone Shower Door, 57.4 X 59â / Chrome / Raindrop, SKU # 109149, # 96235. 970 â 084 â 000 (Miko), Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 6, 2005 2005

Barbara Dennek in Jacques Tati's Playtime, 1967

Barbara Dennek in Jacques Tati’s Playtime, 1967

Williams’s photographs are a puzzle to play and apparently he likes to play – another characteristics to his work. Once a viewer has seen a thread, it leads to another; however then the viewer questions its importance and later discovers that it works in juxtaposition to the latter. “The reader is provoked into seeing non-existent relations between images from separately authored articles.” (p. 138) The viewer is expected to play too.

As to the title Godfrey has given to his writing, it refers to the subjects Williams has been working on for the several revisions of his “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle” – postwar era, Americanization of European culture, Cold War, leftist politics and related topics to that. Also, the title of the exhibition itself  is important. As it has a reference to Raymond Aron’ s book and Luc Godard’s film “Two or Three Things I Know About Her” (1967), which leads us to think that Williams has a particular interest in French cinema and culture – another reference to his work. The title encompasses Williams’s interest – “industrial society” – its social realities, including transportation, decolonization, sanitation and design (p. 129).

Christopher Williams, Untitled Study in Yellow and Green, East Berlin

Christopher Williams Untitled (Study in Yellow and Green/East Berlin) Studio Thomas Borho, Düsseldorf, July 7th, 2012, 2012

In this image “Untitled (Study in Yellow and Green/East Berlin) Studio Thomas Borho, Düsseldorf, July 7th, 2012″, 2012 Christopher Williams shows somebody (by hands, I would guess, a woman because they look lie woman’s hands, especially, well manicured nails) washing a yellow bell pepper. There is some soap foam left on hanses, pepper and sink’s plug. The sink itself is perfectly clean, with nice shine on it.  The wallpaper has a square pattern in yellow and green shades. This photograph shows Williams’s thematic – decolonization in the pepper – as the seeds were brought to Europe in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, the sanitation in the washing and soap, and design in the wallpaper. However, the purpose of the photograph is more abstract, for a viewer to solve (play the game). The perfect shine of the sink leads us to think in the direction of the advertisement but it doesn’t look like an advertisement for plumbing, nor wallpaper. If it was for the washing soap, then a viewer would elect the bottle to be in the picture. But then, the title  – and Williams gives for his pieces are very long, explanatory and, as Godfrey adds, cumbersome titles – tells us that the picture is supposingly taken in East Berlin and, knowing Williams, I’d think of historic East Berlin in between 1949 and 1990 and not now; therefore, I wonder how Williams refers to the history within this image. Does it have anything to do with the working class? Food? Design? This image does’t particularly reference socialism for me. At the same time, after reading the essay, it seems that Williams could be “deliberately misleading”.

Finally, another important thing to mention is Williams’s quote at the beginning of Godfrey’s essay: “It’s about things not connecting and people not connecting.” Godfrey quotes Williams (p. 140) “this moment of blankness reflects or could represent a viewer’s relationship to the world outside of the pictures.” This connects to the earlier quote and also to Williams’s decision to separate titles from the work – “Williams thus represents the structure of the relationship between human beings and objects as it persists in industrial society.” Also, Williams emphasizes the separation by working on individual photographs instead of series, by the themes he is working on, as well as the physical gaps. Finally, Williams extends the spectacle about his photographs and photography in general by working on absurdity on different levels. It feels that, as Williams has invented the game, he is always one step ahead and everything a viewer could see in his images, he had actually already anticipated it and therefore has included something else that the viewer has to then resolve. And then it leads, in fact, not connecting.

 

Week 11: Photography as Object or Thing

This week’s readings are dealing with photography’s relation to things and objects and hopefully will answer the question what the difference is between a thing and a object because Oxford English dictionary defines object as “a material thing that can be seen and touched” and other meaning also often employ the word “thing” to explain it; thing is defined, for instance, as “that which is thought; a thought, an idea; a notion; a belief, an opinion”, also as “anything, something” and “a  material object, an article, an item”. Therefore, it seems that a thing is a larger concept, as an object is more concrete.

Bill Brown’s “Thing Theory” starts of with a Michel Serres quote “the subject comes from the object”. Let’s see how this is reverent in Brown’s theory.

Brown argues that with the emergence of material culture, everyday objects as art make things more reverent than ideas, therefore there is place even for thing theory. What strikes me the most in English language (especially since I am in the United States) and I hope all the time that I won’t adopt this habit, is the use of the word “thing” in everyday language. Thing can be anything (well, as the the dictionary defines it) but the use of this word seems so reductive to the content, it feels lazy and unnecessary. And it also leads to “body is a thing among things”. Brown gives the first response to the quote he chose to begin with : “We look through objects because there are codes by which our interpretive attention makes them meaningful, because there is a discourse of objectivity that allows us to use them as facts.” As to the things, they are such a large concept that they “lie beyond the grid of intelligibility”.

An interesting thought is delivered when mentioning dreamwork, i.e., that Walter Benjamin claimed that they were “less on the trail of the psyche than on the track of things,” acting less as psychoanalysis than as anthropologists.”

Overall, Brown’s text is a certain compilation of  references to other author’s texts and ideas, therefore it is even more difficult to perceive the idea and comment on it. As for the art, we also use the term “art object” to designate an art piece; it might be more current term in French though. If I would need to apply thing theory to the photography, I would also use the term “object” instead of a “thing” and it would concern a physical object, an image on a paper, framed or not, within an instillation, or a 3D object. Anyhow, referring to a photograph as an object (versus an art work, for instance) encompasses a certain cheapness, as reminding how easy in most cases is to reproduce a photograph, in opposition to a painting or a sculpture. Besides, there is also a photo book that is a concrete object; never before a photographer has thought of a body of work created to only be a book – if with Jeff Wall the photograph was made for the wall, today, there are regular examples when a photograph is made for a book. Finally, a photograph can be thought as or referred to an object when the conversation about artwork leads to think about the relationship of photography and object. Here I think, for instance, of Darren Harvey-Regan. He often combines photography with an object or entitles an artwork that leads to think about their relationship.

Darren Harvey-Regan, The Halt (2011) C-type print with axe, 54 x 43cm

Darren Harvey-Regan, The Halt (2011)
C-type print with axe, 54 x 43cm

Daren Harvey-Regan. When is an image Not an Image? Fiber based handprint on MDF, 54x43 cm, 2013

Daren Harvey-Regan. When is an image Not an Image? Fiber based handprint on MDF, 54×43 cm, 2013

In the first image there is a real axe but the second one’s geometry and title lead to think more of an object.

Thing is not used in this context, if only in order to talk about something unspecified or to designate something that one cannot find another word for, as, “do you remember that thing we saw at the exhibition last week?” At the same time, we are surrounded by the things, we talk about things (and not objects) when talking about the material culture, although there are “everyday objects”. So, it might as well be a conversation for philosophers, linguists and theoreticians to talk about the difference, the various, very subtle aspects.

The second reading is a conversation between two artists – a multi-discipline artist, as well as curator and writer Noah Simblist and photographer Walead Beshty. Their conversation starts off with an interesting topic – about the site-specificity; Beshty argues that “the particular building’s interpretation of the conventions of display implies a definition of the art object.” He doesn’t make artwork for a specific site but the specific site does influence how the artwork is disposed and how it interacts in it. He stresses the importance of depiction, i.e., to think of a photograph as what is there and not what isn’t there as it is often done, think presence instead of absence. Also, he emphasizes another interesting point – that we should be careful what terms we use, “what terms we allow into our thinking”. I agree that it is important and we should be more careful when using specific categories, especially, when not clearly knowing their meanings or not sully comprehending them.

Finally, the third reading is Gregory Foster-Rice’s “Object Lessons”, dealing with the race and visuality, and a body, and specifically the exhibition “Black is, Black Ain’t”, curated by Hamza Walker in 2008 at the Renaissance Society at the Univeristy of Chicago. With the help of the exhibition, Foster-Rice asks about a specific body in space – “a body addressed by the artwork.” An object defines how a  body would perform. From this performance with the object, it becomes a thing. Also, by engaging with things, “we can learn a great deal from the new, meaningful gestures that result.” This article make me think that we can talk about thing as subjects, whereas objects are still only objects, therefore, things can invite for a larger conversation. When Foster-Rice turns to the Cabrini Green, the theme of “wall” returns – with the poem and emphasized conversation on the race and the inequalities of race in Illinois, as well as photographs by Paul D’Amato – it feels that the “wall” has become a specifically important part of the conversation – with the “photographs for the wall”, Jeff Wall, wall a metaphor; possibly a more important term than I could have imagined. Foster-Rice argues that Paul D’Amato’s “Bedroom Door” “shifts the dynamic from documentation of thingness to an experience of thingness.” By the large format and detailed description, this photograph becomes the illusion of the thing itself, it becomes the door, therefore “it demands a bodily response.” And, as a functional object, this door has a “life” behind it, there is a history, relationships, people – “the consideration of things necessarily involves the consideration of people.”

Paul D'Amato. Bedroom Door, 2007

Paul D’Amato. Bedroom Door, 2007

 

Week 8: Photojournalism issues

Mark Reinhardt in his “Picturing violence: aesthetics and the anxiety of critique” talks about the difficulties in rendering the pain within photography. First issue is the aestheticization. To eschew indignation or insult, for instance, photographers tend to formally represent the subject in an idealized way and the critics, on their way, oversimplify their way of looking at the photographs. This issue is Reinhardt’s concern.

Images, shown from distance, is one proof of the reluctance. Then, Reinhardt points out the critics often avoid the matter by talking about something else: “direct their indignation not at the horrifying scene itself but at those who suggested it revealed something important about the conduct and character of the war.” He talks about the images form Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse;  in this case these images became a proof of the tragedy however it is interesting that trying not to show, give access to them, it was an attempt not to talk about what happened; as if without this visual proof it didn’t happen however it was a necessary tool for the abusers to use to increase the humiliation. That is noteworthy because, as awful as it could be, there have been other atrocities against humans that were never photographed, yet they happened. By using the photography as an additional tool of abuse, the causers made their act even more atrocious.

Another problem lies in the fact that the press does not want to publish the war images: “According to a comprehensive Los Angeles Times study of the contents of major news from the sources from September 11, 2004, through February 28, 2005, neither that paper nor The New York Times and The Washington Post, nor Time and Newsweek magazines published a single picture of a dead American soldier.” Reinhardt highlights the problem of withholding that shape the problems in representing human suffering.

I think it is not easy nor unambiguous to talk about the war photography or, in fact, to portray the war. A photojournalist can try his best to show with the best neutrality possible what the situation looks like, however, I don’t think that it is humanly possible not to take a side. Therefore, even if the reportage is as emotionless as possible (because a photographer is not asked to talk about it but to show the images), it would still show a certain point of view. Another question is – how much photography can show at all? Even if the photographer has the best intentions to give the most encompassing proof possible. One man cannot be everywhere all the time, the camera is not ” on duty” all the time and it cannot copy the emotions; those stay to be interpreted and there lies the problem.

French photographer Benedicte Kurzen who works for Noor, hold a degree in contemporary history and wrote on a myth of the war photographer for her thesis. When I interviewed her, I was interested what she discovered as being the myth and the truth. She replied that her main concern was and still is that a war photographer is perceived more of a modern hero as a fireman or a soldier. She wanted to understand how the society build the whole idea of war photographers being heroes and what are the elements of this image that they project. “At that time I got really upset with the fact that the war photographer was positioning himself as a ultimate witness. It’s only partly true; it’s brutal and that’s just the way it is. It’s hard to go there and not feel voyeur. It’s part of why we make all the excuses for us of being there, yet just to be there should be enough! We shouldn’t have to justify ourselves but we do. That’s the part I don’t agree with. Also, I think we give too much room for pathos, it is a vicious movement”. I think these are interesting realizations. So, where the photographer can stand not to feel voyeur, not to make himself a hero nor portray the events with potential pathos reaction? Where is the moral golden mean?

A recent exhibition I saw on war photography was held at the Brooklyn Museum in New York  – “WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath“. The rooms were packed as the walls – photographs from more than 280 photographers from 28 countries covering 160 years of conflict. Nothing easy to look at, to see the absurdness of humanity, the cruelty of mankind, the never-ending suffering. After a while, it was hard to breath, the room seemed to get hotter and hotter. There was quite a lot of critique on the show, mostly for not being chronological but choosing the thematic path to show the subject. I don’t think it was an issue so much; however, I’m wondering if showing what happened in one or another place is enough. And I’m not sure either if photography is the means that can change the world where political games are played as chess with real people, yet I am wondering if there could be an exhibition which would show more what and if people learn from the conflict, the war. The fact that it still happens within modern times, society where there are many laws, pacts, agreements show that it is still one of the most (if not the most) influential ways how to demonstrate the power. And it is absurd.

W. Eugene Smith’s “” shows how a soldier is unprepared for a real battlefield. I cannot imagine all the reasons why one becomes a soldier but the most obvious feels – to defend your country when in need. However when the real need is there, a soldier need to follow the instructions – a lot of those might be considered as being wrong but that is not for a soldier to decide. In this photograph, W. Eugene Smith has captured a moment where a human instinct pics up a dying child (even if it is the “enemy”) but no training informs the soldier what to do next. It feels like the soldier is asking his mate for an advice, yet there is no answer – to let it die or survive, to help the Japanese infant or try to escape and stay alive himself. The other soldier seems more reluctant – he has a cigarette in his mouth but a gun in his arms – ready to leave and/or shoot. He is waiting and not going to help with the answer. What a soldier can feel with the dilemma and if he chooses to leave the child behind? This is the image that appeared in Life magazine in 1944 which Smith had an assignment for.

W. Eugene Smith, Dying Infant Found by American Soldiers in Saipan, June, 1944

W. Eugene Smith, Dying Infant Found by American Soldiers in Saipan, June, 1944

However, there was another frame where the soldier looks at the baby. In the first one he looks for the help, in the second one he tries to decide himself.

Smith-Dying-Infant-788x1024

The LIFE publication showed what real war looks like. Smith wrote: “Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes-just sometimes-one photograph or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends on the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to though.”

A more recent photograph from Spencer Platt – “Beirut Residents Continue to Flock to Southern Neighborhoods, 2006” shows young Lebanese driving by ruins. The image look unreal – the young Lebanese are beautiful, tanned, wearing sunglasses, driving in a convertible. It is not clear from the image if they are driving around to see what was happening; for instance, the woman using the cell phone – is she trying to reach someone and waiting for a signal or is she photographing? The image looks like a screen shot from a bad Hollywood movie, however the title says that they are the residents and it turns out that they were trying to get to their homes to probably later try to escape further. The absurdity of the image proves the absurdity of the situation.

Spencer Platt, Beirut Residents Continue to Flock to Southern Neighborhoods. 2006

Spencer Platt, Beirut Residents Continue to Flock to Southern Neighborhoods. 2006

None of these images though show the aestheticization about which Reinhardt talk about. Let’s look at this year’s World Press Photo winner’s – John Stanmeyer – image. It is a photograph of African migrants on the shore of Djibouti City where they raise their phones in an attempt to catch an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia. They had left their homes in order to try finding a better life in Europe. They try to communicate with their families back home. The image is taken at night, the light of the cell phones together with the moon slightly illuminate their bodies. Their gesture – hand towards the sky – looks gracious, preacher-like but if I didn’t know the story, I would even think that these men are photographing the hypnotizing moon. The color is a beautiful range of blue, maybe the metaphor for the hope but nothing in the image itself tells about the struggle and hopeless journey towards a potentially better life. The problem is aestheticized. It looks like a proof of that it exists. That is it. Besides, by aestheticizing, the image is also transformed. But then, as Reinhardt suggests, photography’s nature is to give an aesthetic form in general. If that is the case, then maybe photography simply fails in showing the suffering at all. And that is what we should accept.

John Stanmeyer, Signal, Djibouti City, Djibouti. 2013

John Stanmeyer, Signal, Djibouti City, Djibouti. 2013

Reinhardt asks a significant question: “Might beauty, in particular, breed passivity?” I have two different examples to discuss. First is a color photograph by Alexandra Avakian from 1992.

Alexandra Avakian. 1992

Alexandra Avakian. 1992

It shows a woman sitting in a bed. She deliberately shows her bandaged breast, we can see other bruising on her leg. She is looking away to her right, possibly in conversation with the photographer or another person while a young boy stands next to her bed, gazing at her. The title explains: “Leonora Gregorian was tortured and raped in front of her 4-year-old son by Azerbaijani troops before Armenian soldiers rescued her, Nagorno-Karabakh.” The contents of this image is dreadful and even if there would be no words, the fact the the boy is looking at this half naked, bruised woman is quite disturbing already. The image is direct and raw.

Another example is talking more about the aestheticizing, yet I believe that the author has done it to pay respect and not to hide the suffering. It is an image from Jonathan Torgovnik’s series “Intended Consequences; Rwandan Children Born of Rape” where he pictures woman and their children, born from rape during the Rwandan genocide – an estimate, 20 000 children. Eighteen years later, the mothers of these children still face enormous challenges, among them, being stigmatized within their communities for bearing a child fathered by Hutu militiaman.

Jonathan Torgovnik, Intended Consequences

Jonathan Torgovnik, Intended Consequences

In this image, a woman and her son are sitting on the ground besides their house. There are palm trees on the background. They are dressed in bright colors, yet their gaze is sorrowful and inquiring. Torgovnik’s images are colorful yet sad, they are calm yet intense. Besides the photo story, Torgovnik established a foundation – Foundation Rwanda – in order to help these children and give them a chance for eduction – the highest aspiration and only hope from their mothers. If photography by itself cannot create change, a photographer can help to create change with his resources, willingness and concern. The text plays an important role in this project but do these portraits tell less suffering even though they are rendered with dignity, as some critics would say, aestheticized? For me, they do express the pain, the whole disaster of the war, its consequences and also show what the life after looks like. Yes, with the help of the text which I see as a part of the work. That is in opposition with Sontag’s standpoint that “photographs do not or cannot tell us what we need to know.”

Alfredo Jaar’s response to the genocide in Rwanda is more conceptual. “The Eyes of Gutete Emerita” brings tension – looking at the eyes of a woman who saw her family killed. I think that the later form of one million slides of her eyes – representing the million people killed – is an even more dramatic rendering.

Alfredo Jaar, The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, 1994-2000

Alfredo Jaar, The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, 1994-2000

Alfredo Jaar, The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, 1994-2000

Alfredo Jaar, The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, 1994-2000

Fred Ritchin’s chapter 2 on “A Dialectical Journalism” from “Bending the Frame” is a critique towards new media and photojournalism, more precisely, he argues that the new technologies have taken an important role in the hands of amateurs in manifesting major news such as 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan or the Arab Spring, for instance. The abundance and new forms of images no longer emphasize the author or professionalism. Henri cartier-Bresson has said that the photojournalism is “keeping a journal with a camera” has undoubtedly developed, transformed to find a new form today – blogging. Ritchin, talking about the new photojournalism, provides an interesting detail (comprehensible only in English though), i.e., subjective “I” over more impersonal “eye”; also, the new tendency of the collaboration between a photographer and a writer has become more frequent and “polished”. Dorothea Lange and Paul Taylor are an early representation of such a collaboration; today, Alex Webb and his wifeRebecca Norris Webb also work a lot in tandem. And, National Geographic has a long tradition of this model too.

Ritchin gives examples of how photojournalists have modified their practices to keep up with the time. Some stay more traditional, some join the stream and also use their cellphones to catch a quick image; serious papers and magazines do blog and use instagram to move along with the technology pace, therefore, the most important thing is the quality and not letting the bar lower. One of the blogs I follow, for example, is The New Yorker’s Photo Booth. Finally, I haven’t yet read the latest Aperture issue but it is dedicated to the new ideas of documentary “Documentary, Expanded”.

Week 7: Photography as Social Contract

Susan Sontag’s “Regarding the Pain of Others” starts off with two ideas about the impact of photography. First one stresses that the war becomes real only through the visual material (for the viewer, of course). This means, that the attitude may vary depending on what is shown. This is extremely fragile and hazardous. Here I think, for instance, of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Not only Russia is violating any human rights (but that is politics, I won’t expand), it also has a strong media control and directive, thus, at least Russia’s citizens see and hear only one facade of the conflict. For instance, Russian media mostly shows images with Russia’s flags, people who are happy that Crimea got annexed to Russia, as Western press also includes photographs as Russian army controlling another border crossing.

russiannews

AFP_western

The second idea is a paradox because, as we see so many images, Sontag claims that we get so saturated with them that at the end, unfortunately, we don’t see the important ones anymore or we stop caring, we are less emphatic. I can (also unfortunately) agree; I remember looking at the World Press Photo exhibition last year and as so many winning images were about Syria’s conflict – wounded, dead bodies, sorrow, tears and violence – I must admit that it was too much and the same that I dismissed and forgot them as soon as I could.

Paul Hansen

Paul Hansen

Emin Özmen

Emin Özmen

Adel Hana

Adel Hana

Sontag draws attention to the news on the television by saying that the images from there sooner or later are tedious. Interestingly, Sontag mentions that this idea of overwhelming imagery and the critique of modernism at the same time goes back to 1800 when an English poet and then Baudelaire, 60 years later, indicated the faults of the news’ “imagery” (newspapers didn’t carry images at the time of Baudelaire). The question is – “what is really asked for here?” an interesting take on the critique lies in an argument that “there is nothing to defend”; we are drawn to the mass of the images, we exchange the reality for them and we expect them represent the new “society of spectacle” although Sontag calls it provincialism, assuming that “there is no real suffering in the world.” Her suggestion is simple – generalization is not satisfactory.

Also, I find that another important point is Sontag’s thought that ignorance, moral defectiveness can no longer exist as we are able to see everything. She delivers another meaningful thought once she goes on – Sontag states that too much value is assigned to memory, not enough to thinking. “Remembering is an ethical act, has ethical value in and of itself.” However, as there is “too much injustice in this world, to make peace is to forget.” I rely a lot to these words, personally, with my country’s history, with the knowledge of today’s situation. For instance, the state of Latvian and Russian relationship within the country is not uniform and sometimes tense. Latvians don’t appreciate that Russians don’t learn the language and are in many cases pro-Russia, Russians on their hand feel that the state don’t do enough for them to integrate. Both are nationalists in their way, both want the better good in their way of seeing, both often live in the past, rely too much on remembering that making the future. An interesting place is a park in Riga – Uzvaras parks. It has been lately photographed by a Latvian photographer Arnis Balčus to stress the historical and political aspect of this controversial place. He writes on his statement: “Despite the fact that the park got its name to celebrate the Latvian independence fighters of 1919, nowadays, for Latvians, the park is the main embodiment of Russian chauvinism, Russian-speaking community and the Soviet occupation. Most Latvians see the Victory monument and the celebrations of 9 May honouring the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany as a threat to Latvian identity.”

Arnis Balcus, Victory Park

Arnis Balcus, Victory Park

Arnis Balcus, Victory Park

Arnis Balcus, Victory Park

Arnis Balcus, Victory Park

Arnis Balcus, Victory Park

Arnis Balcus, Victory Park

Arnis Balcus, Victory Park

In the second image, a young woman is standing, having a smile on her sun lit face in a Soviet Union’s uniform – there are red stars on her hat and on the jacket, she has a gun or at least a gun’s case on her belt around the waist. The uniform cannot be hers – there is no longer Soviet Union and she is too young to have been participated in the Second World War – she might have it from her ancestor or got it from a speciality shop. It is curious to see that a young woman, living in modern Latvia, in European Union, honors such a thing as the victory in the WWII, that she honors war in general, that she carries on her ancestor’s beliefs and participates in an event that is more or less in contradiction with the state’s politics and standpoints, and, in a way, cultivates the broader dissociation between Latvians and Russians.

Sontag recognizes at the end of the paragraph that these images – on war and suffering – cannot be more as an invitation to think, to pay attention and to learn because the photography cannot fix what was done, it cannot make suffer less. Moreover, she adds that watching a photograph or watching something happen is not different as it is still only watching; that brings us back to the earliest thought that only thing that  can change something is thinking.

Sontag looks for a way how to look at these photographs with paying more respect and comprehends that it needs a more sacred space than a museum or art gallery could provide. That corresponds with my feelings when looking at the World Press Photo images; they were in fact displayed at a church which would be a better place, according to Sontag too, however maybe to a fault of presentation and quantity, it didn’t get the empathy. A church might be the right setting but it still demands more intimacy. Here, the images were displayed similar to an exhibition hall and it was easy to forget that one actually found himself in a church. Susan Sontag also claims that all wall-hung photographs are art. Lot of text made it more similar to news yet I hope that there were people who left thinking.

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Finally, Sontag asks if there is “an antidote to the perennial seductiveness of war.” The only thing that is certain – none can understand the war unless it was experienced. And no-one should, unfortunately, the history shows that there is no such a thing than learning from the mistakes and the fact that we live in comparatively safe society (America, Europe), doesn’t mean anything; the distribution and acquisition of power leads us to the fact that some people have to experience the war. Even now.

Israeli’s philosopher Ariella Azoulay starts her “The Civil Contract of Photography” by looking back at her personal history which started with the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Six-Day war of 1967. That is what shaped her and when her interest in art and, particularly in photography, started, she claimed that the most important thing to be able to talk about photographs was to look at them; here she expresses the critique towards such thinkers as Barthes, Baudrillard and Sontag. She announces an interesting thought – that there are traces of the meeting between the photographer and the person(s) photographed that none can determine nor have a claim for, “it will always turn out that something else can be read in it.” Azoulay stresses that in order to understand a photograph, one needs to watch it, not look at it; that implies a civic skill – duty towards the photographed persons, as well as among the citizens. Also, by saying that “discursive structures of the regime [..] threaten to circumscribe one’s field of vision” includes a very important notion of power of words and ideology, especially, propaganda and how we perceive images with a certain knowledge in our heads. Azoulay uses a term “contract” in the title of her book to dismiss feelings associated with looking at photographs.

When Azoulay asks the question: “Why are they looking at me?” I can not ask is they really are. If the photographed subject does have a direct gaze, it is first directed at the camera, at the photographer however it is hard to believe that one would be aware or even thinking purposely that the photograph will be viewed by somebody else when  it is taken. Maybe in fashion or advertising but not in photo journalism, documentary. And if they do, can the viewer really tell the difference? That is, I guess, the field Azoulay is talking about yet it seems more of a thought reading than something one could read from (or watch) a photograph. Morover, if there is an additional, explanatory text, then the viewer is directed by the photographer’s knowledge and intention.  Also, whatever a person has witnessed in a photograph, can vary from what a viewer sees in it, even if he “watches” it. It takes knowledge of the event to read the photograph but even so, there is still a space for personal read, it can not be stripped from it and be an agreement between the subject and the viewer. When Azoulay shows the example of Anat Saragusti’s photograph “Hebron” (1982) and says that “the Hebron merchant isn’t demanding renumeration for the broken lock” but that “his stance is an insistent refusal to accept the noncitizen status assigned him by the governing power” it is the knowledge and additional information that permits to read it this way; the photograph itself and less the subject tells it. As the photograph is more or less emotionless, the viewer does need to look further, to research in order to understand the meaning or the intent.

Anat Saragusti, Hebron. 1982

Anat Saragusti, Hebron. 1982

In what civil contract is important and understandable is in the fact that contrary to the life it treats everyone similarly or “governed equally”. “Photography deterritorializes citizenship, reaching beyond its conventional boundaries and plotting out a political space in which the plurality of speech and action is actualized permanently by the eventual participation of the governed.” I am not absolutely convinced by Azoulay’s points, however I find that looking at the photo journalism images (especially this way where a viewer is demanded to take part) is an easier and also more complex way to analyze and comprehend an image that it is in a lot of cases in the art photography – if one is looking at the photograph, they should take part in it.

Finally, Azoulay writes on Gillian Laub’s photographs. Her project “Testimony” was created in Israel, her way of approaching and understanding the conflict and hearing out the stories of the locals. Laub has achieved an amazing directness from her sitters – in most of the cases, they look directly at the camera (her, viewer), as if they were telling their story or at least, with an intention to be heard out. Azoulay marks out a photograph – an exception – where a woman walks into the sea, fully dressed, not engaged with the photographer; this photograph stresses the cultural difference.

Gillian Laub, Testimony

Gillian Laub, Testimony

In comparison, there is a photograph, there is another image from the beach where a little boy does look at the photographer, other people – a woman and her kids – are laying on the top of each other, having fun and still, there is another woman, again, fully dressed, sitting in the water. The woman who lies on her stomach with her children on the top tells Laub that this beach is a place where they can go and not experience the difference or suppression; maybe for her however it is a well seen distinction that the Arab woman is not as everyone else, even if she is there, at the beach with everyone else. Azoulay may say that everyone is treated in the same manner in the photograph but how can a viewer read this photograph if not talking about the differences in culture and its rules?

Gillian Laub, Testimony

Gillian Laub, Testimony

Another image fro Laub’s Testimony series portrays a woman and a child, sitting on a bed. The child look at the photographer, the woman’s gaze is more absent – it is difficult to say whether she is blind or simply sad. A pillow on the bed has a text “The Happy Family” – nothing though shows that. There is no man – husband dog the woman and father of the child, the woman is sad, as is the child. The bed’s cover is with floral ornament, there are also two vases that contain artificial flowers, there are also, what seems like dried flowers behind the mirror at the background wall; this also intensifies the overall feeling of sadness of the image – nothing is life. The man is absent, maybe he is no longer with the family, maybe he is wounded and is in the hospital however the feminine interior – colors and flowers – lead to think that there is no masculine presence at the house. Besides the presence of her sitters, Laub accentuates the details, the environment.

Gillian Laub, Testimony

Gillian Laub, Testimony