‘Other Than’ Photography

 

640px-Still_Life_with_Turkey_Pie_1627_Pieter_Claesz

Claesz, 1627. Still-life with Turkey Pie

Photographically, my interests are wide ranging but I am especially passionate about both food photography and still life.

Still Life with Turkey Pie” by the Dutch painter Pieter Claesz (1597 – 1661) is an example of the kind of art which inspired my interest in food photography.

Claesz’s work is renowned for the use of subtle colours and relatively simple compositions in order to produce atmospheric paintings in which beautifully soft light plays gently on the subject to create a richness whilst capturing the solidity of the object.

I find the painting of the window reflection in the glass especially beautiful.

The Photographer Sergei Sogokon is particularly proficient in producing images which look like painterly masterpieces. It’s a level of work to which I aspire.

http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=142087

http://www.rps.org/member/gallery/sergei-sogokon/Light-Painting-Still-Life

The Global Image & My Photography

What is meant by “global image”?

One possible view is that the term “global image” refers to the kind of images that arise universally throughout the world wherever people take photographs with a camera, images where the subject is different but the purpose for taking the photograph is held in common.

For an entity to have uptake on a global scale it must have universal appeal. It must fulfil a need that transcends geographical and cultural barriers.

Global imagery arises from people’s desire to document, in a visual form, the world around them. There is a common interest in the human condition which is not bound by but instead accommodates cultural diversity – whilst the subject may change from region to region the wish to record our lives and our environment remains constant. This common interest has been referred to as “universalism”. Barthes in his 1973 book ‘Mythologies’ argued that such a universal requirement is no more than “ambiguous myth” but, undeniably, there exists a wish, observable repeatedly on a global scale, to capture specific types of images. This wish is being fulfilled by photographers on both professional and non-professional levels.

When viewed retrospectively, early photography was a cumbersome process but the benefits that it offered in comparison to any form of visual representation that preceded it were that it was fast and it was cheap. Factors which gave photography huge popular appeal from the outset.

Simple photographic images taken using mobile telephones and basic digital cameras can now be made and shared across the world in seconds. Fundamentally though, today’s digital imaging owes its rise in popularity, its rise in becoming ubiquitous, to the same reasons that made early photography so popular.

The first image I wish to share is a portrait of my daughter, Caitlin.

downpour-lying-down-watching-the-rain-copy-2

Morris, 2010. Caitlin

This image is a representative example of people’s desire to document those with whom they share their lives – a need as valid and as widespread today as in the early days of photography.

From its inception, people found that sitting for an early photograph, even with its long exposure time, was still a faster process than undertaking multiple sittings for a portrait. A photographer with a camera could produce more images per unit of time than could an artist with brush and paint, and so, because of the economics of supply and demand, with speed came a price affordable by most people and, with this, came accessibility.

Today, accessibility is delivered through a new form of technology: built in cameras mean that anyone with a mobile telephone can find a portrait opportunity wherever and whenever they encounter people, social media provides almost limitless opportunities for the resultant images to be shared.

The second image I wish to share is a documentary type photograph.

samphire

Morris, 2016. Samphire

This second image is a still life of some marsh samphire – an edible species of plant whose growth is unique to the British Isles. It is an example of the kind of image that captures a subject that is unique to a particular geographical location and allows it to be viewed by people in other regions of the world.

In the 19th century, few people were able to go out and see the world. If the people couldn’t go to the world, photography brought the world to the people and with their “eyes opened”, the people began to want to explore the wider world in which they lived through the medium of photography.

Today people still rely upon photography as a means to explore the natural world or remain informed about events in distant places.

In conclusion then, photography has found widespread use since its formative days in the 19th century.

Parallels can be drawn between the widespread use of photography in its early stages and in the modern digital age. These parallels arise due to the common driving factors of speed, affordability and accessibility.

Irrespective of geographical location, humans have a commonly held desire to document themselves and their lives. Consequently, the new technologies – photography in the 19th century and digital imaging in contemporary times – have been globally embraced as a form of visual communication.

In short, since its inception, photographic technology has provided arguably the most accessible and readily used means of satisfying the human need to visually record our time on Earth.

The Challenges of Global Photography

How do photography’s close ties with global corporations and institutions affect the kinds of images that are seen and/or how they are made?

Do you think the global nature of photography diversifies the kind of photography that is seen, or homogenises it?

Do you think that there is indeed such a concept of ‘universalism’, given the diversity of cultures? How does photography ‘impose’ such ideas?

Global corporations and institutions choose specific types of images in order to fulfil a particular type of corporate strategy. In 1989 the Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani was involved in a controversial advertising campaign for Benetton Group, Vittoria Rava – Benetton’s Advertising manager commented: “We believe our advertising needs to shock – otherwise people will not remember it.” (Graham as cited in Ramamurthy, A., 2015, p. 285).

Global imagery arises from people’s desire to document, in a visual form, the world around them. There is a common interest in the human condition which is not bound by but instead accommodates cultural diversity – whilst the subject may change from region to region the wish to record our lives and our environment remains constant. This common interest has been referred to as “universalism”. Barthes in his 1973 book ‘Mythologies’ argued that such a universal requirement is no more than “ambiguous myth” but, undeniably, there exists a wish, observable repeatedly on a global scale, to capture specific types of images. This wish is being fulfilled by photographers on both professional and non-professional levels.

Billions of images are now exchanged in an hour. This could lead us to ask if we are desensitised to events around us through overexposure as a result of the sheer volume of images that are generated? It could be argued that the sheer volume of images has a homogenising effect on the various types of photography resulting in grey areas where one type of photography has undefined boundaries with another, indeed, as Price suggests: “documentary is often associated with other kinds of photography, especially those of war, travel, and photojournalism. There are often no clear lines of demarcation between these genres, nor is it possible to find exclusive descriptions of them (Price 2015, p. 77.

 

Price, Derrick., 2015, “Surveyors and surveyed” in Liz WELLS (ed.) Photography: A Critical Introduction, London: Routledge, p. 77.

Ramamurthy, A., 2015, “Spectacles and illusions” in Liz WELLS (ed.) Photography: A Critical Introduction, London: Routledge, p. 285.

The “Global Image”

I found the task quite challenging. To select one image that to me represents the theme of “the global image” was not an easy undertaking.

This seemed to pose more questions than it created answers.

Firstly, what is a “global image”?

Could it be an image deliberately created by a large corporation or institute with the specific aim of fulfilling a particular corporate strategy? Images which lack aesthetic appeal but which are instantly recognisable, arguably, the kind of images used by corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds in the advertising campaigns.

Alternatively, could it be the kind of image that arises from people’s desire to document, in a visual form, the world around them. Certainly there is a common interest in the human condition which is not bound by but instead accommodates cultural diversity – whilst the subject may change from region to region the wish to record our lives and our environment remains constant. This common interest has been referred to as “universalism”. Barthes in his 1973 book ‘Mythologies’ argued that such a universal requirement is no more than “ambiguous myth” but, undeniably, there exists a wish, observable repeatedly on a global scale, to capture specific types of images.

Perhaps a “global image” could be defined as the kind of image that shocks us, that stops us from “focusing” on the mundane routine of life and forces us to take stock of events unfolding in other areas of the world.

I finally decided on the following image which falls into the latter category.

In 1972, Nick Ut was a photographer working for Associated Press in Vietnam. His photograph of Phan Thị Kim Phúc badly burnt by napalm and fleeing from her smoldering village has become one of the twentieth century’s iconic images.

nick_ut_photo

Nick Ut, 1972. The Terror of War

Does the fact that I found it hard to identify one specific image to represent the “global image” suggest that the sheer volume of images that are now produced has desensitised us? Are we oversaturated with images?

http://blog.leica-camera.com/2012/09/18/nick-ut-the-amazing-saga-and-the-image-that-helped-end-the-vietnam-war/