Photography: A Critcial Introduction pt4.

The subject as object looks at the body in photography, at the different trends and the body and society. How they lay across each other making a complex matrix. It’s often not the picture itself but the intentions behind it. The same type of image can be inclusion or exclusion. The photos used to define and identify can also be used to liberate and include. The Victorian desire to gather information, to control and define almost draws a line through eugenics towards nazi ideology  and total states. But they can also attack these total states. August Sanders vision of Germany was too inclusive for the Nazi’s.

The chapter looks at pornography and objectification. An area of intense discussion and argument. It talks about  ideas regarding the male gaze, its internalization, objectification and fetishism. The reduction of the real to fantasy/ownership/reduction. Is this just a debate around pornography or does it repeat itself across all society, all representations? Does photography not objectify and fetishise in other ways? class? race? etc. Is this a product of representation and its reductions?

For others it can bring them into existence outside of the vanilla assumptions. A way to make visual the other. To show we exist. To play and demand visibility. To claim existence in a Sanders like continuum of life? Of difference and variability of life and love and sex? What is pornography and erotica? Views from class and history. There also seems to be an argument about the industrial and craft in this? Is pornography pornography because it is a larger industry than the craft of erotica, both with their limitations? Craft with its attempts to represent personal experience and experimentation? Pornography with its attempts to create its realities combining the everyday with the fantasy of almost classical airbrushed “perfect” nudes? Or the”reality” of real people?  Is erotic more complex and more real due to its complexity, that it fits into other contexts?

It also talks about the camera as it interacts with the body. The camera as an extension of the body allowing it do more. Changing seeing, it gives it explicit purpose, and extends it. The futurist vision of technology and the future. That machines are better. A good way of working, efficient. That we should in fact be machines. Industry’s attempts to place people as cogs, time and motion studies. Taylorist workers on the Integral in We by Zamytin. And the effects of the machine upon us, on our bodies and the “other”. The technological impact of war and industry. And ultimately the processing of the body on the industrial level.

As mentioned before seeing photographs from albums of the dead it can be a strange experience from this point in culture and history. In some ways this seems tied to ways of death. The commercialisation and the distancing of death. That it is no longer part of the process of life but the end of it. That in this society it is almost a thing of shame, set in a culture of youth and health. That we have lost a closeness to death that we outsource the disposal of the corpse. The body is removed from the house, distanced, there is no time together with the body, we no longer wash and dress the body ourselves. Do we not take pictures of the dead because they are waste? Do we take photographs of waste? Have we lost touch with death? Were we sold new services for profit? Our own american way of death? Which came first our desire to remove this process from our lives or were we encouraged in this direction? Or is it more philosophical? That we have changed our vision of the person and the dead. That life, the soul leaves more rapidly. That the transition between loved one to empty shell is now more rapid?

Having said that there is Sally Mann’s pictures at the body farm. They are intense pictures. We are not used to looking so directly at the dead. These are not just photos of the dead but of human decay. They are far from bodies they have become objects. Still lives. Walter Schels’s photographs of the dying and the same faces when they have passed away seem to be more about death (as well as the living). Before and after photographs. With life/without life. Closer.

What of the portrait?

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Filed under June 2011, Readings

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