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Representing War

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As long as there have been wars, artists have tried to depict the realities of war. From Goya and Picasso to Capa and Nachway, atrocities have been rendered in every medium. When photography emerged as a new medium for documenting wars, the images were supposed to accurately display the condition. It told the true story because it was a mechanical reproduction. The photograph became THE tool to tell the truth about war. With every following war, at the technology of photography improved, the role of the war photographer evolved. They became embedded to get closer to the action to capture more compelling images.

Over the hundred-plus years war photography, a visual language has developed. The same images are produced in every battle of every war, of soldiers, of destroyed homes and cities, of casualties.

In the article Unconcerned but Not Indifferent, authors Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin describe their experience judging the World Press Photo Contest in 2007. This annual contest promotes the excellence in photojournalism by selecting one image they consider the best of the year. The judges spend a week sifting through some 81,000 submissions going round after round narrowing the selection of images until they arrive at what they consider the best image of the year. In the first round the caption information is left out for the sheer amount of time needed to go through so many images in the first round. The authors don’t agree with the process, because they argue citing Susan Sontag, the photograph relies on its caption to create meaning.

So they sit in a room and watch images flash on the screen, images of reoccurring themes including people suffering, women holding children, reflections of puddles and fighting. They describe the numbing effect of clicking through a slideshow of the years’ news. “When you see hundreds of pictures, many of the describing human pain, and all seamlessly stuck together in a power point presentation, each individual image becomes less demanding. One persons suffering is instantly cancelled out by the next.”

When judges of such a prestigious award, men who are undoubtedly passionate about the field of photojournalism, describe the vast majority of photojournalism — war photography included — as clichéd, there is a problem. People are shooting the same photos. The dates change, the countries change, but the imagery changes little. One blurred, low resolution black and white image of a soldier, a finalist in the 2007 competition, looks very, very similar to an image Robert Capa would have shot in World War II.

Then when the photojournalists themselves admit to trying to find a different way to document conflict because they are bored with what they are seeing and what kind of imagery they are producing. Alexandra Boulat, describes this experience in her multimedia presentation. Her decision was to shift her focus to the everyday experience of women in the war torn country, Palestine. By this different philosophical approach, she begins to show a different perspective of the war, one that is still often shown in the media. James Nachwey also photographs women suffering, and so does Lynsey Addario.

Though viewers become desensitized to these images, and the imagery often resembles photographs from other, past battles, photojournalists still risk life and limb to go into battle and capture these images. A risk that has recently increased.

There has always been risk with this profession, that photojournalists accept for the drive to show the world the suffering and tragedy that occurs that the people elsewhere are isolated from. Larry Burrows and Robert Capa both died photographing wars. Dying by land mines and crossfire aside, there have historically been rules set up to address and mitigate the risk to journalists. These rules for treatment were established in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols. Where journalists have two options: under the Geneva Conventions they can imbed themselves as a war correspondent and accompany military forces but risk being targeted by opposing forces but are entitled to prisoner of war status if captured; meaning they get fed, housed, regular medical care and have the right to send and receive letters. Or journalists can cover a war as a civilian correspondent under the Additional Protocols. Journalists can’t be deliberately targeted but aren’t entitled to POW status if captured and detained by a hostile government.

Recent stories about the treatment of journalists in Egypt and Libya have highlighted a growing problem. Two different stories by journalists highlight the need to be more resourceful. One man recounts his experience of being beaten by a group of Mubarak supporters and his eventual rescue by soldiers. In another story, photographer for the New York Times describe the new approach he has to take to keep himself and his gear safe: including disguising his nylon camera bag in a  trash bag, and using consumer gear that makes him look like merely a tourist. A limitation on the quality of content he can capture but solution to limit negative attention. “It is precisely because you have good equipment that you can operate in loud, crowded situations such as Tahrir Square. But they are exactly the sort of things that we can’t be seen carrying now.”

Journalists take these steps to hide the fact they are part of the media because of the shifting attitude where photojournalists act independently of the fighting to becoming targets in conflict. Today, marking “TV” on the side of a vehicle doesn’t shield you from the fighting, it turns you into a target.

Because of the targeting of journalists, many media outlets rely on “citizen journalists” to capture images of important events with their cell phones. However many editors reluctantly rely on this method because of the vetting that has to happen over determine the accuracy of those images. A citizen may not be a trusted source like the freelance photojournalist they regularly work with.

But sometimes even photographs from trusted sources are inaccurate. What we learn is that many of these images are lies of some sort: Photographs were staged, images altered, and captions changed so the same image would be used by opposite sides of a war as propaganda.

Some argue that the fact an image is staged or a caption altered doesn’t alter the reality of the condition of war that the image depicts. Robert Capa’s Fallen Soldier may be staged, but this could happen.

Thibault Brunet’s plays with the fiction of war. He works within the language of war photography but his images have a twist. His images of soldiers and battle scenes, matted and framed and hung in galleries aren’t photographs are actually screen shots of first-person shooter games. He captures compelling images of battle scenes: soldiers catapulted in the air by a bomb blast, gritty black-and-white images of bullet hole-scarred businesses. His work highlights how the visual language is so ingrained in our minds that video game creators can recreate these environments that when presented in a gallery matted and framed like a photograph, they can easily be mistaken for war photography. “I chose to explore theses games against the natural will of my avatars, the one that usual player would use. I chose to do it as a photographer.”

What is also interesting about his work, is that this medium, video games, is made for an entirely different audience, but provides an avenue for people to experience war. And that the creator of these games strive so hard to accurately depict that environment they hire retired soldiers and advisors, and capture audio of actual weapons in use.

Medal of Honor, the first successful first-person shooter game based on a historical war was created by Stephen Spielberg right after “Saving Private Ryan” as a WWII game for Dreamworks Interactive. It has gone through a series of versions over the years but in the version that came out summer or 2010, the franchise moved the battle to the present day. The story begins just before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and gamers describe the perspective you see in a game as “the camera,” even though video games are not really a lens-based medium.

Users can play roles like a member of a Navy Special Operations team, Army special operations soldier, Army Ranger, and an Apache helicopter gunner. They seize Bagram air base, ride ATV’s through real valleys, and snipe Al Queda Fighters near the mountain of Takur Ghar

The developers invested a lot in creating a game that accurately depicts the environment and experiences of fighting in Afghanistan. The game has more than 50 actors, there are thousands of lines of dialogue, many in foreign languages like Pashto, Gulf Arabic and Chechen. The computer-graphics team examined videos from Afghanistan that were posted on YouTube and LiveLeak. They recorded actual weapon fire, attached microphones to Apache helicopters to record take-off and landings. They even hooked microphones to the targets they destroyed. Waylon Brinck, the computer-graphic supervisor for the game said they wanted the player to feel, not like they are in a movie, but like they are in Afghanistan.

These games as a medium to depict war are unique because they give you a sense that you are someone else not just controlling someone else. You never hear their voice or or see anything of them other than their hands because the developers don’t want to break the immersion. And because of this, a gamer and explore the environment and engage in battle of their own will. They have some control over the narrative.

However, because the game is so authentic and deals with a contemporary war and because users can play the role of a member of Taliban, this game has offended people. Specifically families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even the British defense secretary, Liam Fox has called for retailers to ban Medal of Honor.

Other argue that these games are about navigating a virtual world and not about relating emotionally to the particulars of that world. A study by Joel Penney, a doctoral student at the University of Penn found that gamers did feel empathy for the characters in the game. One respond wrote that, after playing the games, his “feelings have deepened in respect for those who have died.”

The first-person shooter game, Six Days in Falluja is not only authentic but is also very realistic. It depicts the environment and conditions of an actual battle in Iraq. In an effort to accurately depict the battle and just like in a documentary, creators interviewed marines who fought in the battle for Falluja, but also talked to Iraqis who lived through it — both civilians and insurgents. Though the creator called it an interactive documentary, and the effort to stay true to the conditions and events rivals that of a film documentary, this game still offended Americans.

This game is also unique because it adds a layer of moral ambiguity that doesn’t exist in other first-person-shooter games. An Iraqi will pick up a gun and will the player must quickly decide whether that individual is a friend or enemy and whether or not to kill him.

Though the creators call the game an “interactive documentary” the concept for this game created an outcry from families of soldiers killed in that battle. A video game doesn’t have the aura of respect or concern for respectfully depicting the events of that battle. A documentary with this amount of research or even a photo essay would have been heralded for its level or research. Maybe, like the documentary Respeto, it would have won awards for its compelling narrative and accuracy in storytelling.

The idea of showing the realities of war in an interactive environment is compelling. By using a foundation of a first-person shooter game, people may develop a more nuanced understanding of a soldier’s thought-processes in battle. However, the audience of first-person shooter games may not be the same audiences that seek documentaries or photography of wars. This message may be lost on the wrong audience.

Resources:

Andrew Burton, “A Photojournalist Attacked in Egypt,” The Picture Show, NPR February 3, 2011, accessed March 27, 2011.

Halla Beloff, “Social Interaction in Photographing,” Leonardo 16 (1983) 165-171.

Ernst Jünger and Anthony Nassar, “War and Photography,” New German Critique (1993) 24-26.

Anthony Shadid, Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell, & Tyler Hicks, “4 Times Journalists Held Captive in Libya Faced Days of Brutality,” The New York Times, March 22, 2011 accessed March 22, 2011.

Stephen Farrell, “What Not to Bring to Tahrir Square” Lens: Photography, Video and Visual Journalism, The New York Times, February 8, 2011, accessed March 36, 2011.

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, “Unconcerned but Not Indifferent.” (2008)

James Estrin, “Finding the Right Tool to Tell a War Story,” Lens: Photography, Video and Visual Journalism, The New York Times, November 21, 2010, accessed March 27, 2011.

Committee to Protect Journalists, “On Assignment: Covering Conflict Safely.”

Elizabeth Rubin, “Lynsey Addario at War,” Aperture, Winter 2010, 25-33, 78.

Written by uartsgr655

May 13, 2011 at 2:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Product Placement Today

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PDF version can be downloaded here.

Wan-Ting Chang
Jason Lempieri
Graduate Seminar: Visual Culture Studies
10 May 2011

Product Placement Today

Due to the media spread today, product placement is already everywhere. How can we distinguish from what is an advertisement or what is not? Particularly the media today has spread into so many formats. Sometimes even a topic from the news on TV can be a product placement advertisement. In Taiwan, there is a whole different style of media that is abused by the business world and politics. The press and TV channel usually have their own side for the political party. It is really hard to tell the truth for the public and is disturbing people.

The following will discuss two main issues, how to distinguish product placement and whether or not it is ethical to get paid for doing product placement in blogs without noticing the readers?

I. How to distinguish product placement

First, there is a pattern that usually can be followed to distinguish product placement as an advertisement. For example, showing a closer shot for the product is the most common usage. Furthermore, we can tell from the frequency of the product that was shown on the media. If people do pay attention to what happens around them, they will find out that there are some products that are frequently exposed through the mass media during a particular time, suggesting that it is their campaign period. For example, there was a blog post about a new instant noodle that will be launched to the market. The review from the post seemed very attractive, so it came up the question: Is that true the product is really that good? Then I use Google to search it and found out there are more blog reviews than I thought (Figure 1). By the time we saw these results, we can realize it is a product placement that was put in these articles.


Figure 1

If we add the keyword “blog” into search condition, we can find out there are 98,400 results pop up (Figure 2). This will be a strong evidence to prove it is a product placement.

Figure 2

Recently, Google has launched a new experimental project called “Google +1 Button.” It basically works like the “like” button on Facebook which allow you to press the “+1” button if you find the search result works for you, and Google will store this data on your profile page. Next time when your friend is search for a similar thing, it will help you out. Is this going to be a new format for advertisement, which merchandisers can create a lot of accounts and add their website of products to their +1 accounts? How do we distinguish those accounts that are for business use or personal use?

In addition, there are some people who get paid by wearing some manufacturers’ clothes or get free clothing from them and the influencer wears them around, acting like a living advertisement. Whereas, there are other groups of people who pay these manufacturers for putting their products on them, such as people who pay a lot of money to get a simple Louis Vuitton bag, and carry it around (Figure 3).

Figure 3

that count as one kind of product placement or advertisement for the brand? These people who have brand loyalty can be separated into influencer and influencer-want-to-be, which sounds pretty sarcastic. This leads to the question: how do we see the truth? The answer will be being aware of things around you or be suspicious of everything, or at least do not be brainwashed by the media by listening to only one source of them. Last but not least, always be open-minded to different kinds of things.

II. Is it ethical to get paid for doing product placement in blogs without noticing the readers?

There are several scandals that the bloggers fake their reviews for their contracting companies. For example, a girl blogger faked her cosmetics review that she showed her acne scars had faded after using the product for 4 days, but she actually just Photoshoped it or used a concealer to cover the marks. Netizens (people actively involved in online communities) found out the truth by discovering that those pictures she took were all stamped in the same day by looking the EXIF information (Figure 4 – Figure 6). As we can see in Figure 4 which is shown that it was the first day she used the product, the scar was more obvious. In Figure 6, the scar was almost gone. If we look at the EXIF information, the latest on is actually taken earlier than the other two ones. All these three photos are taken in the same day.


Figure 4


Figure 5


Figure 6

Moreover, the clothes and the makeup she wore were the same in all the photos. Therefore, it is really difficult to find out it is a fake unless it is full of flaws. There is another scandal that the contracting company even provided a shopping checkout list for the blogger to prove that the item he/she writes about is really purchase by him/herself.

These evidences come along with questions: What if blogs posted statements that the review was written for a contracting company? Does it still work as well as a review-like advertisement? These questions can be categorized like this:

If the product placement is

1. Clearly marked as an advertisement –

A. Do readers still buy it?

1). If readers don’t buy it – then it is a failure, otherwise, it is a success.

2. Not clearly marked as an advertisement –

A. If it is distinguished as an advertisement then are audiences still

1) Believing it? or

2) Not believing it?

B. If audiences can’t distinguish it – is that ethical?

To answer the last question, I think it is unethical even if the product placement did not be marked as an advertisement. Because not being marked as an advertisement might cause a lot of issues, such as lawsuits. This will be a cheating to the audience, which is totally not fare to the public. Since it is a cheating, it might work for a while, but it will not work for the long term concern. Therefore, it is better to be marked as an advertisement, because people today are drowning in information and will not have much time to figure out the real truth of it. We even should establish a law for product placement such as São Paulo, a city in Brazil, has lunched a new law in 2007 called “The Clean City” or “Antibillboard” that the government made all the billboards empty (Figure 7) so that the passerby in São Paulo can see the real face of the city.

Figure 7

Last but not least, if we want to passively avoid the product placement advertisement, one is that we can run away from the place that is involved with human beings, such as countryside and nature in the wild, or two, we can simply close our eyes.

Works Cited

Denny, Kalyn. “Product Placement on Blogs, An Ethical Dilemma?” BlogHer. 20 July

2006. Web. 1 Apr. 2011. <http://www.blogher.com/node/7797&gt;.

Google. “Google +1 Button” Web. 1 April 2011.

<http://www.google.com/+1/button/>

Joshi, Pradnya. “Approval by a Blogger May Please a Sponsor – NYTimes.com.” The

New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 12 July 2009. Web. 1 April 2011.

<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/technology/internet/13blog.html&gt;.

Anonymous. “Honey造假/部落客照片的分析.” 無名小站. 12 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 May

2011. <http://www.wretch.cc/blog/anwong25/33905429&gt;.

Harris, David Evan. “São Paulo: A City Without Ads | Adbusters Culturejammer

Headquarters.” Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters | Journal of the Mental Environment. 03

Aug. 2007. Web. 10 May 2011.

<http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/73/Sao_Paulo_A_City_Without_Ads.html&gt;.

Written by uartsgr655

May 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Clash of Icons

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Bin Huang

A Fire in My Belly, by David Wojnarowicz

In 2010, National Portrait Gallery of Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. put on an exhibit called Hide/Seek. It was the first gay-theme exhibition in a large art institution. The exhibit comprises art works from some of the biggest names, such as Andy Warhol, and Thomas Eakins. However, the fuss is not about Andy Warhol, Thomas Eakins, nor the fact that this is the first gay-theme exhibition in a major art gallery, it is about a 4-minute video clip from David Wojnarowicz‘s unfinished film “A Fire in My Belly”. The video contains images of references to Christianity, including the most outrageous scene of ants crawling over a crucifix. The appearance of this video clip in Smithsonian drew furious attack from the Catholic League, and later on, attentions from the Congress: Representative John Boeher, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor criticized the presence of the video, and demanded removal of the video installation from the exhibit. Eventually, Smithsonian had to remove the video from the exhibition, despite the fact that the exhibit was “funded by individual donors”, and underwritten by foundations that support gay and lesbian issues”.

This is not the first time the government and the public react strongly to a controversial art work exhibited in a museum. In September 1999, Brooklyn Museum of Art was threatened to be cut off from New York City’s financial support because of the “sick nature of the museum’s exhibition”, Sensation, according to the then mayor Rudolph Giuliani. British artist Chris Ofili’s interpretation of Holy Virgin Mary induces the liberal and the conservative to a heated argument, especially the elephant dung on Virgin Mary’s breast. Artists’ constant “offences” of religions brings up the questions: Why do artists keep crossing the line? In fact, where is the line between the sacred and the profane?

Holy Virgin Mary, by Chris Ofili

First of all, visual art and religion shares the power of looking. The primitive art grew out of ritual. Throughout the history, religions have recognized the power of images, and have been the biggest patron of visual art. Religions and visual art both strive to express ideas in a concrete form, namely in the form of images, as opposed to philosophy and science, which adopt more abstract forms to convey ideas.Art and religions both have the power to evoke deepest human emotions. They are both capable of providing very personal experiences, as well as facilitating people’s activities of allying with others who share the same opinions and ideology.

The common characteristics shared by visual art and religions allow them to use each other to its own advantage. In addition to illustrating the stories they are trying to tell, which is prevalent in Christianity, religions is in fact the ultimate example of taking advantage of the totemic power of visual art. The power of representation in imagery, combined with the proliferation of religions, results in the depiction and embodiment of religions, mainly religious symbols and icons.

Icons for Christianity and Islamism

Icons are often perceived to represent universal concepts, emotions, and meanings. Thus, an image produced in a specific culture, time, and place might be interpreted as having universal meaning and the capacity to evoke similar responses across all cultures and in all viewers. Ancient religions are no strangers to icons. The crucifix is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. The images of Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, even depictions of God, can be easily identified, even though they all vary in details.

In Islamism, depicting God is forbidden. In Islamic drawings, the face of Prophet Muhammad is always covered, so that people do not have a visual impression on what Muhammad looks like. It became the reason why a call-out for artists to interpret their perceptions on Prophet Muhammad’s appearance caused many upheavals in Muslim countries.

Cartoonists' Depictions of Prophet Muhammad

While Islamism is reluctant to depict the image of God, the religion does not lack of prominent symbols. The symbol of a star adjacent to the moon in green has been commonly recognized as the symbol of Islamism. In addition, the calligraphy of Quran, especially the name of Allah, has become iconic images of the religion.

Left: Turkish School, Mohammed. Right: Islamic Calligraphy of Allah

Religions use the power of images to their advantage. As the New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman pointed out, “To many people, pictures will always, mysteriously, embody the things they depict.” Religions utilize the power of looking to evoke emotions, and stimulate the feelings of awe, mystery, fear, and worshipful in their believers. It progresses almost to a level of personal ties to the images, which will elicit strong reactions to any sorts of offence. David Freedberg, an art historian, sums up the images’ power to call out to people in his study, The Power of Images:

People are sexually aroused by pictures and sculptures; they break pictures and sculptures; they mutilate them, kiss them, cry before them, and go on journeys to them; they are calmed by them, stirred by them, and incited to revolt. They give thanks by means of them, expect to be elevated by them, and are moved to the highest levels of empathy and fear. They have always responded in these ways; they still do. They do so in societies we call primitive and in modern societies; in East and West, in Africa, America, Asia and Europe.

Conversely, some artists incorporate these icons religions have created, but in a subversive way. They break the traditional use of these icons: they immerse the holy cross in piss, they “throw” elephant dung on Holy Virgin Mary, they draw sarcastic cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, and so on. While most of these sacrileges are only met with various degrees of verbal protest, there are times when it becomes a matter of life and death. In 2004, Danish filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was brutally murder on the street by a Muslim extremist, who shot Van Gogh 8 times, stabbed him several times, tried to decapitate him, and left a five-page threatening letter with a knife implanted in Van Gogh. The appalling murder was all because of a short film Theo Van Gogh made. It is called submission, and it tells a story of domestic violence to a young Muslim girl by his uncle, and it details her internal struggle with whether she should reveal it or submit to men. Some people, because of the writings of Quran on the girl’s back, deemed the film as an attack on Islamism. Theo Van Gogh lost his life by shattering the taboo, and profaning the sacred.

Left: Submission by Theo Van Gogh. Right: Crime Scene Photo of the Murder of Theo Van Gogh

Secondly, art keeps pushing the limits of perceptions. “Art is the name of a perpetual human struggle with the limits of perception.” In order to extend the limited perceptions, art borrows from religion, most times its symbolism, to express ideas beyond descriptions, expecting to evoke strong reacting emotions from the audience. David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” is a good example. The artist suffered from late AIDS symptoms, and he was having a physical struggle that can be described as hundreds of ants crawling inside his body. In addition to that, David was suffering from a mental struggle that came from the world’s condemnation on AIDS as a curse and uncleanness. With the image of ants crawling over the cross, David Wojnarowicz tried to express his physical and mental struggle, his anger, and his cry for people’s attention to the suffering of AIDS patients, as cross being a symbol of suffering.

What’s interesting is that some artists who have offended religions actually come from a religious background. Such artists as Chris Ofili, Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, were brought up in religious families, and some still practice their beliefs. They are familiar with religious symbols, which sometimes they believe are the most appropriate visual representations of their feelings. They use these symbols to express meanings and emotions they have personally attached to the symbols. As Andres Serrano stated, “my Catholic upbringing informs this work (Piss Christ) which helps me to redefine and personalize my relationship with God.” Artists often depend on the manipulation of symbols to present ideas and associations not always apparent in such symbols. Because of the meanings the artists have attached to the symbols personally may have other meanings than worshipping, some of the usages become controversial. On this note, there raises the question of what is blasphemy, and what is sacred and should not be offended?

Piss Christ, by Andres Serrano

There is nothing that is sacred and cannot be offended. In fact, these religious symbols are so universal that everyone can attach his personal feelings to them. However, because these symbols are so universal, and people interpret them with personal feelings attached, they become open to interpretations, which people often ignored. If people put bumper stickers saying, “Jesus is My Co-pilot”, “My God is alive – sorry about yours”, use the name of the Lord in vain, and do so-called causes in the name of their gods, then why are the artists getting condemned? In fact, Andres Serrano put the cross in piss, partly because he wants to ask people to put a stop to using the name of Jesus Christ in vain.

Moreover, because religion’s attribute of being personal makes it sensitive, people often attach their agendas when they are condemning the artists. Condemnation from such conservative groups as Catholic League is no more than just an obvious cry for attention. Majority leader Eric Cantor’s relentless reaction against Smithsonian Institution may due to the fact that he just got selected. Similarly, Rudolph Giuliani’s harsh criticism on the exhibition Sensation at Brooklyn Museum of Art was partly because he just announced running a campaign for Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Unfortunately, art becomes the sacrifice for political and religious authorities.

With that being said, artists have their agendas as well. Similar to the other side of the table, there are artists creating art works to offend religions, purely crying for public attentions. While those cheap art works are easily forgotten, some artists aim to use their art works to call people’s attention to more serious social issues, such as AIDS, domestic violence, and ultimately, religion conflicts. They break the traditional uses of these religious symbols, and give their own interpretations or attach their personal perceptions to them, not for the sake of creativity, but for the cause to challenge societies, and call for changes. They challenge people to rethink their identities in societies in terms of race, gender, class, sexuality, etc. “Such taboo arts serve as powerful components in the making and shaping of society since they reveal a general public’s lusts, longings, fears, and repulsions.” They are the soldiers in this cultural war. Even though there are revenges and casualties, and even though political and religious authorities usually win, they do not stop fighting!

When people look at these “blasphemous” images, they should see the power of images that evoke the deepest and most personal feelings. They should see the use of religious imagery as testimony of its continuous relevance and richness, rather than as a single- (and simple-) minded attempt at offence. Most importantly, they should examine the contexts of the art works before they interpret them, in order to realize the cause of waging this culture war to challenge societies and call for changes.


Resources:

  1. Bullying and Censorship.” The New York Times. 6 Dec, 2010. Web. 10 May, 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/opinion/07tue4.html&gt;.
  2. Rosenbaum, Lee. “My Q&A with the Smithsonian on “Hide/Seek” (and NPR’s Interview with Me).” ArtsJournal: Daily Arts News. 1 Dec. 2010. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/2010/12/my_qa_with_smithsonian_on_hide.html&gt;.
  3. Trescott, Jacqueline. “Ant-covered Jesus Video Removed from Smithsonian after Catholic League Complains (video).” The Washington Post. 1 Dec. 2010. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/30/AR2010113004647.html&gt;.
  4. Harrison, Jane Ellen. Ancient Art and Ritual (1913). Kila, MT: Kessinger, 1998. Print.
  5. Mintcheva, Svetlana. “Art, Religion and Censorship.” Conscience: A Newsjournal of Catholic Opinion XXIV.1 (2003): 29-30. Catholics for Choice. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/conscience/archives/documents/CONSRelAndArt.pdf&gt;.
  6. Andreev, Ivan. “Religion and Art.” Orhodox Christianity and the World : A Russian Orthodox Church Website. Trans. Savvatii Lewis. 7 Aug. 2006. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.pravmir.com/article_132.html&gt;.
  7. Kimmelman, Michael. “A Startling New Lesson in the Power of Imagery.” The New York Times. 8 Feb. 2006. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/08/arts/design/08imag.html&gt;.
  8. Cohen, Patricia. “Danish Cartoon Controversy.” The New York Times. 12 Aug. 2009. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/d/danish_cartoon_controversy/index.html&gt;.
  9. Serrano, Andres. “Ambiguously Provocative.” Conscience: A Newsjournal of Catholic Opinion XXIV.1 (2003): 30-31. Catholics for Choice. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/conscience/archives/documents/CONSRelAndArt.pdf&gt;.
  10. Plate, S. Brent. Blasphemy: Art That Offends. London: Black Dog, 2006. Print.
  11. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. Practices of Looking: an Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
  12. Freedberg, David. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2007. Print.

Written by uartsgr655

May 11, 2011 at 8:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Visual Literacy — Nicolas A Coia

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The following video will  focus on three topics.

  • Visual literacy in the design of information.
  • How errors create failure.
  • And the education system’s lack of teaching in a visual manner.

This argument revolves around how these three facets of information are intertwined, and through this presentation I hope to provide an example of this argument. Thank you.

We are becoming “thinkers” as opposed to “doers. We read, rather than write. Information needs to be conveyed in logical terms, uphold artistic qualities, and maintain simplicity all while delivering complicated and enriching information. The presentation of information is more important than society understands. Well-delivered information decreases human error and affords the ease of concentration as opposed to increased distraction.

Lack of visual literacy coupled with poor information design hinders our ability to absorb data and increases our level of distraction. Users have set goals in mind when performing tasks and look towards information to accomplish these goals. When information is delivered in a poor manner, the user is more prone to failure at their given task “and thus impinge on information design or interface dependability [and] usability.” (Albers, Design for Effective Support…).

The solution is not simply the implementation of standardized guidelines for consistent and affective information design. We need to understand, as a cohesive body of people, how to portray information for the masses and niche alike. ­­This understanding needs to come from education and its guiding principles.

An educational experience that leverages visual design principles in the portrayal of information to young students can be used as a multi-faceted approach. 1) These educational changes help increase information retention for students as proven in Elizabeth K. Wilson, Vivian H. Wright and Ann-Mari Peirano’s case study, “The Impact of Using Digital Timelines in the Social Studies Classroom” (2007). Their study focused directly on the use of Microsoft’s Photo Story 3 and enabling students to use the program in delivering a visual, audible and sequenced visual depiction of nine historical events of the American Revolution.

2) Educating the young through a more visually engaging experience will train students to better understand how information should be visually conveyed. As adults, these individuals will be better suited for navigating an abundance of information and information layouts. Michael J. Albers “Design for Effective Support of User Intentions in Information-rich interactions” (2009) presents a thorough synthesis of a users intentions with the information world, the goals we have in mind when performing tasks and how poor information design enhances distraction that leads to task failure.

This paper will introduce the concepts mentioned in full detail and explain how visual education will promote a greater understanding of visual design. From which the circle of confusion, distraction and failure will begin to cease.

On a whole, our workforce is focused more on the “thinking” side of Erik Hollnagel’s scale of Human work (“doing” to “thinking”). This scale depicts “doing” as a form of physical action where thinking is considered “diagnosis, planning, and problem solving.” It is important to understand that we have evolved past a culture of makers and into the realm of desk ridden thinkers, producing complex systems analysis, user interfaces, business-to-business solutions and etcetera. With this evolution of focus, the opportunity of distraction has also risen greatly.

In the World Wide Web, there are two types of information portrayal to be considered, “Pure information” and “Information to be acted upon.” Pure information is where the user’s main focus is passive knowledge, nothing more than the gathering of information is performed. Websites depicting information to be acted upon affords the user extraction of information with the expectation of data synthesis, making decisions or taking some sort of action. This essay focuses on sites that deliver the latter, action based information.

First, goals are determined; an individual can have multiple goals at any given time, prioritizing an average of two to the top of their task list. While trying to reach these goals, a person looks for additional information to accomplish the task(s) at hand. But poor information design increases incorrect actions from the individual while achieving her goal(s). This is known as failure or error.

This becomes a negative circle of influence, as designers are distracted in the creation of decision-based problem solving information, they fail in completing their goals, this later allows others to fail in the understanding, evaluating and complex use of this new information, and the cycle continues.

In the realm of failure there are three different types of errors that can occur, Skills-based, Rules-based and Knowledge-based, ranging from unconscious to conscious areas of thought, respectively. There are multiple slips that can occur in Skills-based errors, but from a holistic point-of-view, Skill-based error occurs from the lack of the physical ability or miscalculation from the mind while performing a task. Rule-based errors occur when the individual misinterprets a situation and chooses the wrong rule or structure. And Knowledge-based error is apparent when the individual simply hasn’t the knowledge to solve the problem at hand, but thinks he is adequately prepared. (Milekic)

It is difficult to design for each stage of error, as different stages require different constructs to ensure the rate of failure is decreased. Not to mention those users with different knowledge – visual, professional and the like – need different solutions to decrease their rate of failure.

Rather than rely solely on designers of how information is portrayed to and for the masses, updating the educational system to better influence the progression of visual understanding is of greater value.

Through education, society has immediate access to a toolbox of understanding and problem solving techniques. Visual understanding is one of the most important tools our education system obnoxiously overlooks. Humans absorb 80% of information through our eyes, and yet the education system relies heavily on text based books with some contextual images that don’t necessarily represent in greater detail or a better explanatory way the information being taught.

Wilson, Wright and Peirano’s study is a step towards proving that the education system needs to be updated. Although their study, “The Impact of Using Digital Timelines in the Social Studies Classroom” is focused on one subject, it adequately proves the importance of visual learning. Visual learning helps better instill complex information for recall and analysis in the future while a larger “[repertoire] of cognitive skills [allowing humans to] gain access to powerful new tools of creative thought.” (Messaris, 1998, p.70).

In this study, students used digital media, Microsoft’s Photo Story 3, to compile a visual and auditory timeline based on the American Revolution. After the experiment, students stated they felt more involved in the learning process than with most assignments. However, their interest revolved more around the structure of the timeline, pictures, font, music, and overall visual style, not content.

During student critique, the main focus was on the visual portrayal of information, not the actual context or content of data. The goal of the assignment was not to elaborate on historical context, but to build a visual timeline based on nine facts from the America Revolution. Contrary to the assigned structure of the deliverable, and the resulting critiques, “when asked to write a cause and effect essay on an American Revolution culminating test [the students] showed more sophisticated and higher level thinking than on previous topics.” (Wilson, Wright and Peirano, p.176).

It is not surprising that visual learning affords students a greater ability for information distillation from which they can call upon more easily in the future. A engaging students through visual tools at younger ages will help deter from higher rates of failure, while also eliminating diligent analysis of error proneness.

Since it is more complicated to focus on error resolution – due to the number of different users and failure types – teaching and allowing for visual critique in early education affords a better understanding of visual principles. As it stands, students are not taught good aesthetic techniques and as they become professionals of numerous industries, humans have a great lack of visual literacy.

This illiteracy is what starts the distraction loop. A human has a goal in mind and begins to formulate the way in which she must solve this goal. As she begins the process of solving the problem, poorly design aesthetic information confuses her and one of two things happen. The individual either fails in choosing the correct rule to solve the problem or feels she has gained the correct knowledge and completes the goal in a failed manner.

Now lets say, for instance, that this individual was an information designer. This designed data, now distributed to millions of individuals has been created not only in a visually illiterate way, due to her lack of visual education, but her skill or knowledge based failure is also prevalent. The solved problem in-adequately portrays information while also delivering incorrect data. This is a loop of negative information delivery, endlessly affecting future individuals and the delivery of information.

This proposed situation would need great analysis of where errors occur and why the errors were influenced. Much time would be required, well-trained analysts needed and maintains the propensity of failure. However, proper education would afford a greater visually literate network of people, who would be enabled to deliver more comprehensive and error immune alternatives.

Bibliography

Albers, Michael J. “Design for Effective Support of User Intentions in Information-Rich Interactions.” Web. 27 Feb. 2011.

E. Hollnagel, CREAM—Cognitive Reliability and Error Analysis Method, 2006. Accessed March 27, 2011 at http://www.ida.liu.se/~eriho/CREAM_M.htm

E. Hollnagel, The Elusiveness of “Human Error”, 2005. Accessed March 27, 2011 at http://www.ida.liu.se/~eriho/HumanError_M.htm

Norman, D. A. (1986) “Cognitive Engineering.” In D. A. Norman and S. W. Draper (eds.) User Centered System Design: New Perspectives on Human-Computer Interaction. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Messaris, P. (1998). Visual Aspects of Media Literacy. Journal of Communication, 48(1), 70-80.

Wilson, Elizabeth K., and Wright, Vivian H. “The Impact of Using Digital Timelines in the Social Studies Classroom.” Web. 27 Feb. 2011.

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May 11, 2011 at 6:20 am

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Chrysler C300: Designed with Who in Mind?

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May 11, 2011 at 3:50 am

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Beyond the Clinical: Sensational Aesthetics of Representation in Human Anatomy

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May 11, 2011 at 2:08 am

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How Process Imbues Meaning: Daguerreotypes in Contemporary Photography

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( Isabelle Heyward / May 10, 2011 / GRAD 655)

In 2006 Nikon announced that it would no longer make most of its film cameras, shortly after Konica Minolta released a statement that it would be quitting the camera business altogether. A year earlier, both Kodak and AgfaPhoto announced that they would no longer make photo paper (The Economist). The traces of manual cameras and printing from negatives are fading into the past while the use of digital cameras is becoming more pervasive. As Adobe Photoshop and other photo editing softwares are blurring the lines of reality and technique, the photographer is taken farther and farther away from the once laborious photography process. In the modern photographic age, some artists would prefer to shirk the connections between process and product; however, by returning to bygone, labor-intensive processes, such as daguerreotypes, photographers are using process to imbue variations of meaning onto their work. Factors that caused the abandonment of daguerreotypes in the first place are what some artists fine the most appealing. Including the complexity of the process, which starkly differs from the ready availability of modern, digital photography. While artists have different reasons for turning to long-eclipsed processes, they add a layer of meaning unavailable in digital photography, which is consistently beguiled by technology. The use of daguerreotype in the modern age begs the question: how much of the resulting work’s narrative is dependent on the process?

The first daguerreotype, by Jacques Mandé Daguerre, circa 1835.

The first daguerreotype, by Jacques Mandé Daguerre, circa 1835.

During the first half of the 19th century a boom in photographic technology took place. However, from its inception, the art in photography has been questioned. It primarily filled a need for documentation and portraiture achieving the status of ‘art’ only as a working term. The first photogram was made around 1802. In 1835, Jacques Mandé Daguerre invented the daguerreotype process.

The daguerreotype was introduced to the United States by Samual Morse in 1840, and quickly was embraced as the first form of commercial photography. It allowed the middle class to have portraits taken, something previously reserved for only the upper class that could afford it. The next iteration of photographic technology, the cyanotype, appeared only a few years later. The daguerreotype faded from use after about a decade due to the harmful chemicals it uses and its inability to produce a consistent image (Mallin, 68-73). New technologies such as cyanotypes, tintypes and printing from negatives took the place of daguerreotype. The speed of newer photographic technology pushed use of the daguerreotype quickly into obscurity.

 1857

Daguerreotype portrait, 1857

1852

Daguerreotype portrait, 1852

Daguerreotypes produce images whose detail and clarity have never been duplicated. In fact, many of the earlier types of photography are still noted for the depth, texture and character that will never be reproduced or fully mimicked by modern technologies such as Photoshop. The process in making a daguerreotype; however, is fraught with opportunities for flaws. There are clear steps to creating one, however any misstep along the way noticeably affects the resulting image, though these flaws are not apparent until the process is completed.

To make a daguerreotype, a photographer starts out with a thin copper plate, on which they spread an even thinner layer of silver nitrate. This plate is then thoroughly polished and made light sensitive by exposing it to collodion (bromine and iodine). The image is cast onto the plate through a box camera. However, it is not until the plate is exposed to heated mercury vapors that an image appears, through texture, onto the plate. Only recently have two other steps been added to this process: bathing it in hypo (sodium thiosulfate) and a toner solution to make the image permanent (Osterman, 12-15). The daguerreotype was driven from use because of its unpredictability and complexity. However, artists today see these two characteristics as part of the medium’s appeal. Unlike digital photography, which provides an instant image, using the daguerreotype process requires much more time—approximately six minutes for exposure—and thorough knowledge about each step. It is a physical engagement with the process and produces completely unique images (Harris, 64-68).

Contemporary artists first started to turn to archaic photography processes in the 1960s and 70s (The Economist). This, coincidentally, was the same time period in which Poloroid cameras first became
prevalent in the United States. There are many personal stories of why artists turned back to processes like daguerreotype and cyanotype, however the most

widespread is that it is able to further narratives and even create its own within a piece of work. Considering the process and time period from which the daguerreotype was born, artist are able to manipulate meaning in a way unavailable when using modern, instant photography. In the late 1990’s, when turning back to older processes grew into a noticeable practice, the term ‘Antiquian Avant-Guard’ was coined (Rexer, 72-85). A seemingly ironic title, ‘Antiquarian Avant-Guarde’ cannot be applied to all photographers turning back to long obsolete processes, only those who do so with irony, not those who choose the medium solely to reference the time period from which it came.

 Lantern Magic, Mark Osterman image, 2006, © 2009 Scully & Osterman

Lantern Magic, Mark Osterman image, 2006, © 2009 Scully & Osterman

The George Eastman House, an international museum for film and photography, first started to hold daguerreotype workshops in the early 1990s, around the time digital photography was starting to take off in international markets. In the mid-90s, Mark and France Osterman started The Collodion Journal, a reputed resource for those turning back to the wet-plate process, another term for antiquated processes like daguerreotype. The Collodion Journal serves for many as a reference guide from two practicing artists who spent decades perfecting obsolete processes: becoming historians and masters of collodion photography, even going so far as to print on mica sheets. While Mark Osterman’s work is true to the process, each piece so heavily references the 19th century and early 20th century that it is impossible to see the line between the final image and the process, the fact that it is a daguerreotype seems to dominate the narrative.

Creating nostalgia with an old process can conjure up thoughts of civil war re-enactors. Some modern artists using daguerreotypes are even selling their work as antiques. Artists like David McDermott use daguerreotypes to shoot scenes that look like they were shot in the 19th century. McDermott himself is even known for dressing in 19th century garb (Rexer, 72-85). Using the process as a way to play dress-up panders only to nostalgia and in a way only makes the resulting image less valuable. In these cases, the process then seems more a novelty.

Interior (Floating Cloth), Dan Estabrook, 1996, © Dan EstabrookDan Estabrook alludes to photography’s early years in ‘Interior (Floating Cloth)’. Photography was once likened to a magician’s act and that message is apparent in this piece, which uses visible wires to levitate a piece of white cloth. ‘Interior ’ also alludes to the dubious nature of photography, especially what it has now become with Photoshop and technologies that help to change the reality from which the original image was taken. While this piece is full of messages, which the use of daguerreotype helps to reinforce, there seems to be so much emphasis on the process, the aesthetic creativity is only of secondary importance.

Florence Deshon, by Pictorialist photographer Margrethe Mather, 1921

Florence Deshon, by Pictorialist photographer Margrethe Mather, 1921

What are the implications for turning back to a process that is difficult, dangerous and highly unpredictable? In the digital age of photography, when film and photo papers are on the verge of extinction, a movement back to photography’s roots references the Pictorialism movement of the late 19th century, which reached its height in the early 20th century. During the Pictorialism movement, photographers approached the camera as a tool, like a paintbrush, that could produce artistic expression. They sought to fight the use of photography for its literal and documentary functions and instead use it for “personal artistic expression” (1911 Encycolpedia Britannica). Pictorialism was a direct response to the industrial revolution, and the modernizing of creative methods.

Daguerreotype can be used to gain a unique and painterly manipulation of an image that has nothing to do with Photoshop or contemporary photographic technology. A contemporary backlash of the industrialization of design and artistic expression can be found in other mediums as well, especially in Dutch industrial designer Tord Boonjte’s designs. Boonjte’s Rough-and-Ready Chair is an example of a piece that strives to offer a personal meaning between the object and its user through a hands-on creation process (Poyner, 58-63). The consumer is charged with the task of making the chair, and in doing so, they eclipse their role of consumer and create a unique sense of ownership with a piece of furniture often created in mass quantities in factories. Parallels can also be drawn between the resurfacing use of daguerreotype and the use of the letterpress in modern printing. The also archaic and time-consuming process of letterpress emphasizes the amount of time the artist spends with the product, which increases the value. Letterpress, like daguerreotype, also provides detail that modern printing technology strives to duplicate.

Unfortunately, selling daguerreotypes made in the 21st century is not a statement by modern artists about how people view process as it relates to value. Today, in thirty minutes, one can get photos taken with their digital camera, printed out at Target. To make the process even easier and involve the photographer even less, one can send their image files via the Internet and get printed pictures mailed. Even printed pictures are fading into obscurity. Plug in photo frames that cycle through digital images are becoming more prevalent. What does this say about how we currently value photography? Has the accessibility and ease when it comes to taking a picture deteriorated the value we put on photographs? If it did not, would there be a movement of artists who have returned to the labor-intensive and dangerous process of making daguerreotypes?

2006 Self Portrait, Chuck Close, © Chuck Close

2006 Self Portrait, Chuck Close, © Chuck Close

Jayne Hinds Bidaut, a contemporary photographer—who first turned to daguerreotypes and tintypes to photograph her entomology collection— uses antique velvet cases for the images she takes, doing so, gives the images more value (Rexer, 72-85). Bidaut is known for staying true to the older process, however some contemporary artists incorporate modern technology to enhance their products. Chuck Close, who has worked with Jerry Spagnoli to use daguerreotypes for portraits is an example. In his series of torsos, Close incorporates visual references to the modern time in which he works: evidence of surgical scars and tattoos. As one can see in his 2006 Self Portrait, Close gives daguerreotypes a kick in clarity and texture with the use of high-intensity strobe lights to bring out even more detail than the medium already allows. By using newer technologies, artists such as Close can expand on the medium’s image capturing possibilities (Harris, 64-68), however, if the process is often used to further meaning, then what does changing the process say? By changing the process to enhance it beyond its original capabilities, one could conclude that Close uses the daguerreotype primarily as a process, not as part of his story. In concentrating on the aesthetic attributes and the technique it requires the artist to produce an image, Close takes on the role of craftsman. He ascribes to the idea that making a hands-on, one-of-a-kind object makes it more authentic and states that the daguerreotype process is “…an uphill struggle to get an image that you want with any predictability,” (Harris, 64-68). Close has been working with Jerry Spagnoli for years to perfect the process and chooses the daguerreotype to emphasize the focus and clarity available in the medium (Harris, 64-68)). Within his work, there are no subject references to the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Similar to Pictorialism, the use of daguerreotype is a romantic response to the disappearance of human affect in the image taking process. Where photography in the digital age emphasizes information within
the image (graphic or iconic imagery), the daguerreotype process emphasizes the relationship between the subject and the medium, which intensifies personal meaning (Rexer, 72-85). However, when the
two compliment each other—subject and process—a truly successful piece is born.

While the use of daguerreotype by contemporary artist has the ability to create a postmodern piece, this is only possible if the artist uses the medium with irony. Jerry Spagnoli—a master of the daguerreotype
process—uses the medium in a postmodern way without modifying the process. In his Machine for Destroying Daguerreotypes, Spagnoli places a cherry blossom and a daguerreotype print inside a box with a peephole. As the flower decays, it off-gasses and affects the metal plate that the image rests on, ultimately destroying it (Rexer, 72-85). Spagnoli uses the process to create a narrative in the piece, wherein the image on the daguerreotype —which isn’t notes by The New York Times—isn’t even important. Spagnoli’s uses the medium as the subject, but one has to wonder how the image on the daguerreotype could have supported his narrative that beauty and permanence are incompatible.

Candy Cigarette. From the series « Immediate Family », 1991 © Sally Mann, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York

Candy Cigarette. From the series « Immediate Family », 1991 © Sally Mann, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York

Sally Mann is an example of a postmodern photographer who has gravitated to daguerreotypes. She has been using them in her work for the most part of the last decade and has not modernized any of
the steps to enhance it; she even uses 19th century lenses when she can. Mann rose to notoriety with her 1995 series, Immediate Family, in which she photographed her children at their home in rural Virginia. With Immediate Family, Mann was both criticized and lauded for her black and white depictions of her children’s daily lives. Her children are again included in her show, Flesh and the Spirit, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. These daguerreotype images starkly contrast Immediate Family in many ways, most immediately noticeable in their presentation. The series focuses in on her children’s faces, and the prints themselves are a large format: over four feet high on average. Whereas Immediate Family showed daily scenes, caught in an instant in a predominately 8”x10” format.

Jessie #34, Sally Mann 2004 from the series Faces © 2010 Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Jessie #34, Sally Mann 2004 from the series Faces © 2010 Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

The viewing experience for a daguerreotype is different than any other photographic image in that it is based solely on reflected light, so that while five people look at one large-format print from Flesh and the Spirit, all five will see something slightly different based on their angle to the print and the reflected light. Mann uses the daguerreotype medium to give the viewer a more personal connection to these images of her children, possibly as a reaction to the misconstructed meaning some media outposts construed from images of her unclothed children in Immediate Family. While the technique itself produces an image on a smaller silver plate, photographers are able to transfer the daguerreotype
to a larger plate, as Mann has done in Flesh and the Spirit.

In the daguerreotype portraits of her children, Mann uses the process to create utterly unique images that reflect the bond she has with them. Taking six minutes to process, a daguerreotype doesn’t just capture an instant as digital cameras do; they capture a passage of time. The process adds to the aesthetic quality of the image as well with scratches and fades that creates an ephemeral quality and ghost-like images. These marks, or as Mann puts it, “perfect flaws” put the process in the forefront (Longmire). Daguerreotype seems to be as important to the final piece as the subject itself.

 Body Farm, Sally Mann © 2010 Sally Mann

Body Farm, Sally Mann © 2010 Sally Mann

Body Farm #8 “Laughing”, Sally Mann, 2000 © 2010 Sally Mann

Body Farm #8 “Laughing”, Sally Mann, 2000 © 2010 Sally Mann

However, in another series of Flesh and Spirit, Body Farm, in which Mann photographed at the grounds at the University of Tennesee’s Forensic Anthropology Center, the use of daguerreotypes furthers the narrative and adds another dimension to it without eclipsing the subject. The Center, also known as The Body Farm, is an open, rural area in which unidentified bodies naturally decompose so forensic tests can be practiced and developed. In taking these images with daguerreotypes, Mann is recording the passage of time and the decomposition the bodies are experiencing. The process itself adds a quality to the produced image of decay, further reinforcing the subject. In this series, the process perfectly aligns with the subject without creating a separate narrative based on daguerreotype. Mann has been a reputable photographer for decades, however, by returning to an abandoned process, she is able to create new levels within the stories she tells.

Modern artists are using the daguerreotype process, along with other out-dated processes to move the hands-on aspect of photography back from the cliff of its disappearance, towards to a personalized experience. Each flaw that is visible in the final print helps to tell the story of the image capturing process. Humidity, altitude and temperature all affect a daguerreotype in different ways as well (Mallin, 68-73). The image, which is a record of a period of time, not just an instant, tells the story of the artists as much as the subject in that time period. It allows intimacy with the medium that’s unavailable with digital photography (Harris, 64-68). As Irving Pobboravsky states, “unpredictability provides the gift of chance” (Rexer, 72-85). For those that embrace this unpredictability, the opportunities for meaning are endlessly supportive of the narratives the images themselves create.

The process of creating is undoubtedly important to the meaning of the final product. With daguerreotypes, the process is visible in the final product but with in other mediums, the process is sometimes taken for granted. In January of 2011, The Process Museum opened in a rural area outside of Tucson Arizona. This 70,000 square foot facility’s aim is to show the physical and mental process of the artist in creating. And they appear to do so to an almost ridiculous degree: there are sixteen rooms devoted to one artist, and 712 by another. To even visit the museum seems like a labor-intensive process: one has to make an appointment ahead of time for a specific two hour tour that is held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 am only (The Process Museum).

The Process Museum illustrates the idea that the final piece is not more important than the process by which it was created. However, is there a point when the process eclipses the creative integrity of a piece of artwork?

Sources:
Alternative photography: Unfrozen in time. The Economist v. 378 (February4 2006) p. 75-6
Fleischmann, J. The daguerreotype revival. Discover v. 23 no. 2 (February2002) p. 52-4.
Harris, J. Aura fixation: old technology for new photography. Art On Paper v. 5 no. 3 (January/February 2001) p. 64-8.
Longmire, Stephen. “LEAVES OF GLASS” Sally Mann: Proud Flesh. Afterimage. New York: Aperture/Gagosian, 2009. 64 pp. Web. 28 Feb 2011. http://www.faqs.org/periodicals/201001/1951137931.html.
Mallin, J. Photography the Hard Way [Work of C. Schreiner, J. Quinnell and R. Kendrick]. Popular Photography & Imaging. v. 70 no. 4 (April 2006) p. 68-73.
Osterman, M. How to See a Daguerreotype. Image (Rochester, N.Y.) v. 43 no. 2 (Autumn 2005) p. 12-15.
Pictorialism. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 Edition . Web. 28 Feb 2011. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/752375/Pictorialism.
Poyner, Rick. The Floral Dutchman. I.D. Magazine. June 2003. pp58-63.
Rexer, L. Chuck Close: daguerreotypes. Aperture no. 160 (Summer 2000) p. 40-9.
Rexer, L. Photography’s antiquarian avant-garde: reviving long-obsolete
processes. Graphis. v. 55 no. 320 (March/April 1999) p. 72-85.
Rexer, L. Photographers move forward into the past. New York Times (Late New York Edition). (September 27 1998) p. 39 (Sec 2).
Robert, Molly. Modern Family. Smithsonian Magazine. May 2005. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/Model_Family.html.
Sally Mann. The Gagosian Gallery. Web. 28 Feb 2011. http://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/980-madison-2006-03-sally-mann/.
The Process Museum. Web. 2 May 2011. http://www.processmuseum.org/.

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May 11, 2011 at 1:54 am

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