[2Feb20, [2, p.55]] The projects by Smith and Campbell both had accompanying text. I stated my view on titles in EyV, though that does not really cover wordy essays such as these. What I take exception to are fey, 'Fotherington-Tomas'[i] titles such as 'alone with his thoughts' or even 'windy day': it is the responsibility of the photographer to depict their intention and then leave it to the viewer to interpret it and reach their own conclusions. A location and date might be relevant, together with the name of a sculpture, building etc.
Barthes has pronounced on the matter in his 1967 essay Rhetoric of the Image. He identifies two usages,
Anchor - this clarifies the meaning of the image when several are possible and is used, for example in a newspaper which wishes an image to be interpreted in a particular way and advertising works (or worked) similarly.
Relay - where the image and text are of equal importance and enhance one another.
Stephen Bull [8, p.40] comments that while Barthes' point on newspapers remains valid, the use of text in advertising has changed in the intervening years and that they are now more likely to use relay. Whereas Barthes' example (fig. A1) showed the ingredients of spaghetti sauce and the text clarified its purpose, it is now common for ads to be aspirational to a certain life style — wear a certain scent and become glamorous; drive a certain car or use a particular method of shaving to become more attractive: here the text is essential to establish the supposed (and often contrived) link.
Calle's career has encompassed a number of projects involving the investigation and publicising of others' lives - The Guardian article summarises some thus,
This is the woman who 30 years ago started her career following and photographing strangers in the street, once trailing a man to Italy. Over a decade before Tracey Emin displayed her soiled sheets, Calle invited strangers to sleep in her bed for eight-hour shifts over nine-days, photographing and asking them what age they were when they last wet the bed.
She got hold of a lost address book, interviewed everyone inside about its owner and published the results in the newspaper Libération, delighted when he sought revenge by publishing a nude photo of her. She got a job as a chambermaid in a Venice hotel to rummage through guests' possessions and photograph the mess people left.
Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, 16 Jun 2007 [ii]
When a boyfriend dumped Calle by email, she turned it into a project, Take Care of Yourself, involving 107 other women reacting to the email in a variety of ways - analysing it, analysing him, shooting at it, performing it and so on, see fig.B1, below.
Bright & van Erp [9, p.18] use Calle's Suite Venitienne, 1980 (following a new acquaintance to Venice, fig. B2) to illustrate the distinction they draw between 'reality, witness and points of view': they regard Calle's work as 'blending' the three as it 'obscure[s] the lines between fact and fiction'.
The images in the installation are processed from obsolete records from an obsolete astronomical telescope built by retired astronomer Dr Roderick Willstrop. On the artist's web site, a description of the project is followed by a selection of images (see fig.B3) and then four sections of text, possibly autobiographical: 1. describing a child being tested for and wearing spectacles for the first time; 2. seeing the night sky with unusual clarity while backpacking; 3. a meeting with the astronomer, discussing his life's work and his working methods; 4. watching children playing through the window of a stationary train.
Some of the other projects detailed on Rickett's site are: The Death of a Beautiful Subject (2015) 24 photographs of butterflies, 'retouched so as to distract from the original butterfly subject matter'. Link The Curious Moaning of Kenfig Burrows, (2019) inspired by the life and work of Thereza Dillwyn Llewelyn, a little-known Welsh artist and astronomer active at the end of the 19th Century. Link
A year-long project (2009) in which volunteers from the local readership (NY, pop. c.8M) were featured in the Metro section of the paper.
Á propos earlier sections, Bright & van Erp [9, p.18] mention the NYTimes' published statement, Guidelines on Integrity[viii] that includes a section on photographs - the full text is shown on the newly created Manifestos page.
b: Albuquerque, New Mexico Artist's site - no Wikipedia
While studying for her MAPhot at South Wales U., Deveney befriended a neighbour whose life became the subject of this project which includes, '83 photographs by KayLynn Deveney, 77 handwritten captions by Albert Hastings and an assortment of Bert's poems, drawings and family photographs' [v]. See fig. B4.
Deveney's other projects shown on her site include, All You Can Lose is Your Heart, which shows how US homeowners have modified their bungalows. Edith and Len, an elderly couple living in a nursing home in South Wales: the format is similar to … Alfred Hastings.
We first encountered Knorr early in EyV (p.15) as one of the examples for photographing a neighbourhood for the initial Square Mile project. Her work was documented then.
Her projects include: Belgravia (1979-81) the houses and residents of this wealthy area of London. (Knorr used her parents and their contacts, much as Bill Brandt had done 50 years earlier). Gentlemen (1981-83) posh chaps in their clubs with commentaries on the images, see fig. B5.
and more recently, Metamorphoses (2014-18), wildlife in old and opulent rooms.
The cmat describes Michals as, 'an influential American photographer who places text on top of, or
close by, the photographs. The text is often hand written, giving a personal and intimate
quality to the work'. It concentrates particularly on one image, This Photograph is My Proof (1967-74), fig. B6.
The cmat asks some specific questions about these pieces,
First Question - On Calle and Rickett, 'How do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?'
Calle's Take Care of Yourself is not a mainly photographic work, it is a work about an event where the artist's life pivots on a single artefact, a Dear John email. The majority of the effort in creating the piece is undertaken by Calle's colleagues / contributors / consultants in reworking / recycling / reimagining the artefact and Calle has used photographs to capture representations of others' efforts to create an exhibition. The images are, in a sense, 107 versions of the same thing, but the exhibits are far removed from the event.
At the top of this hierarchy is the email;
at the next level is Calle's response to the email, engaging her collaborators
the collaborators' reaction to the email;
output of those reactions;
and that is what Calle photographs: a fifth-order manifestation of the original artefact, by which time there is only a homoeopathic residue of the original.
It occurred to me while getting my head around this that photographing a football match is definitely photography
, so what am I trying to get at. I think the point is that a football match is real, in that is witnessed by spectators and photographs image memories of that real event. Here the photographs are so far removed from the real event - the receipt of an email - that I am struggling to understand what the artist intends the photographs to represent.
I find Rickett's work far easier to engage with. The astronomer Willstrop's whole working life seems to have been rather wasted, as he spent it developing an analogue optical telescope at a time when it was being replaced by radio astronomy and then digital imaging. Nevertheless, it kept him in a job and resulted in some pleasing imagery into which Rickett has breathed new life. The four pieces of text that accompany the images all pertain to optics or astronomy or the transitory nature of observation and fit together quite neatly. I dwelt longer on the images than on the text, but the third section, the conversation with Willstrop provided useful context.
Second Question - On Michals in particular (as autobiographical) but also Deveney and Knorr, 'Michals pairs image and text so that they build upon one other to create a fuller reading
for the viewer. He also refers to the medium of photography in his texts to challenge
notions of what a photograph is; this self-reference is another technique characteristic
of postmodernism. Is this image actually proof of a happy liaison or is that just what we
choose to see? What do you think?'
The Deveney and Knorr pieces are relatively straightforward documentary with Alfred Hastings' active participation in Deveney's project giving it more direct impact. Knorr's wry contextual comments inform the images but Hastings becomes an (almost?) equal partner in the work.
Michals adding his own text to images the text turns the piece into something other than photography. Although I am not much involved in social media, this mixing of manuscript text purporting to explain (or perhaps the text is being supported by ) an image can turn the work into what looks like static snapshots of an online blog and that diminishes them.
I found much of this work interesting and particularly liked Calle's, Suite Venitienne with a set of entirely pleasant photographs deriving from a whimsical, impulsive adventure. Nevertheless, I am unlikely to depart from my original standpoint that accompanying text is, at its best , brief, factual and informative.
With the exception, that is, of John Baldessari's, Throwing Three Balls In The Air To Get A Straight Line (Best Of Thirty-Six Attempts), 1973 which is a perpetual delight.
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Selecting a subject
[16Feb20, [2, p.58]] Back now to David Hurn's On being a photographer for what might be the most impportant part of the course and where I am prone to serial failure. Once again my 2001 edition seems to bear little relation to that used in the cmat. The cmat summarises the passage as,
the person who becomes a photographer is not interested in photography as an end result but uses photography to pursue an intense interest in something elseC&N [2, p.58]
This brings to mind a quote widely attributed to Lange (I do not have a citation) that takes the matter one stage further,
The good photograph is not the object, the consequences of the photograph are the objects.
It comes down to the choice of subject. The photographer must have intense curiosity, not just a passing interest, in the theme of the pictures. This curiosity leads to intense examination, reading, talking, research and many, many failed attempts over a long period of time.David Hurn On being a photographer
My gear lust is a distraction from what my real purpose should be, finding subjects that interest me and depicting them successfully for others to see.