Category Archives: Introduction

Eric Kessels

There is an extremely interesting discussion on the OCA site regarding the flood of images that hits the world on a daily basis. Kessels is a curator and art director. He downloaded and printed every photographed uploaded to Flickr during a 24 hour period. As can be seen on the link above, the photographs of all these photographs are quite mind boggling. Entire rooms are filled with mountains of photographs and viewers to the exhibition walk freely over all these private moments.

The blog posting states that there are three ways in which photographers deal with this flood of images.

  1. They embrace the flood (use it in their work)
  2. Appropriate images from the flood to use in their own work
  3. Use the images in story-telling

We are asked to consider how we would deal with the flood? Knowing that by taking photographs we are adding to the deluge, what motivates us to do this?

I think the “flood” has always been present. Before the digital age, photographs were contained in private albums, taken out on special occasions to reminisce over. We don’t really know how many prints were made, but I am sure that in relation to modern times it would have been a large amount, especially when the Polaroid camera was introduced to the market. We just didn’t have access to the photos. Nowadays online photographs litter the internet, displayed in various online photo sharing sites, Facebook, Flickr and other sites.

Just as there are billions of books out there in the world, of which I will only read a micro-fraction, so too will my viewing of online images be. There are books that I have no interest in reading and so too there are images that I have no interest in viewing. One has to be selective in one’s viewing.

What motivates me to add to the flood? My images are uploaded for my edification in order to improve my craft and also to share with family in distant countries. When I was doing research for TAOP’s assignment 5, I came across quite a lot of images of my chosen subject. I took note of the surroundings, and various lenses that were used to shoot the photos. So I knew what to expect when I arrived at the destination. As I worked through the assignment, I soon realised that even though I was shooting in the same location as the other photographers, my images had a very different essence to them. This, I think, constitutes a motivating factor to reproduce one’s work in some form.

Bibliography

Dent, Gareth, (2013). Dealing with the Flood [online] Open College of the Arts. Available from: http://weareoca.com/photography/people-are-hungry-for-stories/ [Accessed 21 April, 2015]

Joachim Schmid

Another photographer we are encouraged to look at is Joachim Schmid. Schmid is an artist who has been collecting photographs, buying them from flea markets and since the advent of Flickr, has also been collecting them online. He digitizes most of his found photos. What he discovered in his amassing of the photographs is that people tend to photograph the same things in similar fashions.

I look at his website at the section where families pose next to their cars and this struck a deep chord and got me thinking about the many photos that we as a family have of similar scenarios. It was the done thing when relatives came from afar and they were shown the sights of the city. One would stop at a tourist attraction or restaurant and everyone would pose next to the car – a record for posterity. I’m reminded of Berger upon referring to a painting depicting an art collector’s study, who says ‘they show him sights: sights of what he may possess” (Berger, p 85). I believe this statement is applicable to photographs as well. We probably have an innate need to subconsciously show the world our possessions, or experiences. Which is probably the reason one only sees happy photos on Facebook. Friends tend not to share their sad or tragic moments.

Our stilted and awkward group poses in these photos are probably deeply instilled from our exposure to the old paintings, whether we have seen them on gallery walls or in books of photos, I think subliminally the imprints are made in our brains throughout all generations across the globe, and so we pose in a similar fashion.

Personally I don’t think this is going to change. These idiosyncrasies are what give¬† snapshots their quirkiness, their inherent character. It is often the slightly out of focus, stiffly posed photo that is going to become a treasured memory for someone. When our family emigrated to Canada nineteen years ago, we had sold everything we possessed. The only things we brought with us were our clothes, a couple of boxes of books, our children’s drawings and all our photographs. I was prepared to do without my creature comforts, but my boxes of memories were not negotiable. To throw them out would have been like wiping out our lives, erasing the past entirely.

References

Berger, John. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books

Judith Williamson’s Commentary on Apple

In the introduction to this course we are encouraged to begin questioning photographs by asking who, what, why, where and how in order to dig below the surface of the photograph and extract its meaning. We are encouraged to look at and read certain texts, one of which is Judith Williamson’s commentary on an Apple advertisement. The commentary was found in the Source Photographic Review and provided online on the OCA student website.

The ad features a little Asian girl lying on her bed holding up an Apple iPad. She is staring, almost transfixed at the iPad, its white light illuminating her face and pillow. A free form poem consisting of three verses is written on the right hand side of the image, slightly above and behind the little girl’s head. Below that is the tag line “Designed by Apple in California”.

Williamson goes into so much depth lifting layer upon layer of meaning from this advertisement, gradually disseminating the back story information which casts a horrible contrast to what Apple is really trying to say to its consumers.

She begins by touching on the angelic quality of the light cast on the little girl, who is a picture of innocence, suggesting that the iPad’s stream of light and position from where it is coming “feeds into the central connotation of being touched by some kind of pure, heavenly power.” Having established that argument, she then turns to the poem, which thankfully she reproduced in her commentary (I found it rather difficult to read from the ad). The poem reads as follows:

This is it.
This is what matters.
The experience of a product.
How it makes someone feel.
Will it make life better?
Does it deserve to exist?

If you are busy making everything,
How can you perfect anything?
We spend a lot of time
On a few great things.
Until every idea we touch
Enhances each life it touches.

You may rarely look at it.
But you’ll always feel it.
This is our signature.
And it means everything.

Williamson turns this seemingly innocent poem on its back by revealing Apple’s policy of outsourcing the manufacture of its products to China, in horrific workplaces where child labour is practiced and exploited. She mentions the hypocrisy of people nowadays where they pretend outrage and horror at the work houses and child labour practices of Dickensian times, yet turn a complete blind eye to the same, or worse conditions of factories in Asia. A classic case of “so long as its not in my back yard”. The poem’s first verse encourages the consumer to ignore these facts (if they are even aware of them). Child labour doesn’t really matter is what it is really saying. The following verse touches on ‘perfection’ which Apple is hoping to sell to the consumers. The company is trying to put the idea across that it makes superior products, but the final two lines of that verse, “Until every idea we touch enhances each life it touches” is a continued affront to the child labour situation. The lives of those children, who are forced to work such long hours for such little pay, not to mention the working conditions, can definitely not fall under an “enhancement” category.

Apple has to deflect or disguise its source of manufacture by stating in bold letters across the ad “Designed by Apple in California”. This is a devious way of misleading consumers to think that the product originates or is manufactured in America. This trend seems to be extremely popular among all manufacturers, especially food manufacturers as I have often come across labels on tins where it is stated that the products is “packaged in Toronto” but if one takes a magnifying glass and reads further, one will see “product of China”. I really hate this type of false advertising and get very riled up about it, especially when food is involved.

I was amazed at the depth that Williamson goes into in her arguments. I know I definitely would not have been able to extrapolate all the connotations and facts that she has imparted in her commentary. It just goes to show that nothing should be taken at face value. Learn to look long and deep into each photograph and do the necessary research wherever necessary.

Reference

Williamson, Judith, (2013).  Apple. Source Photographic Review