Category Archives: Pre- Production

Casting a new “Rosie the Riveter”

After having struggled to produce the “we Can Do It, Too!” image with my first subject I had to rethink and prepare that I might need somebody else to do this shoot with me.

So I travelled to Cardiff to meet p with my friend to take some test shots because I thought she would be very suitable for the role because she is a very energetic person.

In addition she is relatively femminist and might therefore be more suitable to bring a certain character across better.



Planning “Guitar Guy”


LOCATION: in front of the Watershed (in the evening)

BACKGROUND; Blue (-> Watershed)



This one is very easy, all I need is a guitar and my subject.




Planning “That Girl with the Pearl Earring”





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A turquoise silk scarf and and a beige one to be transformed into the “turban” the Girl in the original painting wears.


Of course the Pearl Earrings…


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A creme base blouse and a dirty yellow kimono like in the original.

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As an alternative I found this beautiful dark yellow silk blouse. Not exactly the colour as on the original but a nice comination with the other colours and fabrics.


An iPhone to be used as the instrument the girl uses to take a Selfie.



Planing “We can Do it,too”

SUBJECT: Genan/ Esra

BACKGROUND: Yellow blanket

LOCATION: St Matts Studio




Finding a Red and White dotted scarf was a bounty hunt. There seem to be no red and white polka dots scarfs in all Bristol and I did not even find a plain red one I could have worked with.

At the end I managed to find this scarf  on Ebay.



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In Islam ladies do not really show their bare arms so I had to get something to cover them even if she would pull up the bouse.

Experimenting with the Standard blue blouse I was not very happy with the look so I decided to get a sailor/ uniform like dress instead.

Looking really closely at the original Rosie the Reveter has a very slim waist and I believe the reason is that she wears a fitter waist skirt over her blouse. In order to get a similar effect I got something like above.



Because I wanted to minimalise the extend I have to edit my images I decided to get a yellow background instead of changing the studio background in Photoshop.


-White button (optional)

– Retro Orange Nail Vanish

– Strong make-up



Planning “the Black and White Kiss”

Subjects: Me and my boyfriend

Location:  street in Bristol (several)

Background event: Run Bristol 10K (11th of May)

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(Everywhere wre a smiley is is a crowd point)



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Karen Millen Black CP009 Classic Investment Coat_4 Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 22.37.44


The original:


Planning “John and Judy”

The original:


Subject: Ted (wants to remain anonymous)

Location: Carpet in my flat with beige blanket



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Shoulder length like on the photo and relatively natural looking plus glasses which are not on the photo but might be worth to experiment.


This is Judy a classic novelty blow up doll not a sex doll. She is not asian but I think the idea will be recognisable.

Planning “the Venus”

My Subject: Theresa

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As a guideline for the colour palette I would use for requites I chose colours that exist within the original painting.

By doing this I hoped to underline the reference to the original subconciously.


The grey hair is to exaggerate that it is not a hong Venus.


I chose to use a yellow bathing suit in reference to the Venus’s blonde hair that covers up her body. It is also relatively skin neutral and does not contrast the skin tone of the subject too much.


The towel will be on the floor behind the Venus, replacing the role of the shell hence the shell colour tone.


Optional accessoires like a turquoise sarong or a shell belt might be added experimentally. (All within the colour rangne of the painting)


Images to be re-staged and how:

The birth of Venus (Borticelli)


This will be set in the modern environment of a swimming pool instead of the beach. The shell will be replaced by a towel that the Venus holds behind her (probably in a similar shade)

Embodying youth beauty and femininity, I want my venus to challenge the concept of this image especially addressing discourses around age, beauty and gender.

Which means I will have a Venus who is at least over 40 years old.  According to my research in fashion magazines mid- 30s is the latest age group represented, therefore I thought it would be interesting to work with an age group outside this zone.


The old Guitarist (Picasso)


The Old Guitarist will be restaged with the help of a homeless person.


The Girl with the Pearl Earing (Vermeer)


Looking back over the shoulder as if she was seriously fought in the moment. One could argue that to some extend painting are to some extend very staged and unnatural even though the end product seems to reflect something very natural and spontaneous.

Similarly work selfless in todays world. They are often made to look like random snap shots but do indeed involve a lot of staging and acting.

Therefore the girl with the pearl eating in my version will take a Selfie of herself providing a two framed image.

So rather than commenting on the meaning of the image itself this would refer to the meaning of portraiture and phortography.


We Can Do It (Propaganda Poster)




V-J Day kiss aka “Times Square kiss”


The gender roles within this picture are very classically and traditionally separated. Woman white (innocent), lower than the man within their position (submissive) and looking a bit more passive than the man. Man in black (strong, mysterius), on top (dominant) and very obviously acitivly leading the situation.

Aesthetically the colour contrast is what makes this picture interesting which is why it is curtail that I maintain it. However in my production I will swop the roles of man and woman.

This means that the woman will be in black and the man in white as well as chaining over the positions.

The crowds in the background will be a local demonstration, parade or marathon.



Love and Harmony with Yoko Ono and John Lenon


Yoko and John were often referred to as a perfect harmonious couple in their time. Whereas some might argue that this was not the case this image of the two does do well in embodying all these values: Harmony, trust, affection and love.

Therefore I will be aiming to provoke this meaning by a reference to something embodying the consumer culture of a sex driven generation. I will replace the role of Yoko with a Blow up doll.


Update: RePhotographing Method


Based on some of the CONs I have listed in a previous post about this Methodology I had an idea to slightly change it in order to make it more suitable.

I would now restage an image but instead of leaving the consumer without any clues to its original I could include a slightly blurry version in the background.




Having considered all Methodologies in the past few days I am most leaning towards two ideas.

1. Restaging/RePhotographing

2. Drawing imagination

I still have to make up my mind on which method would be most effective for what I am meaning to say with my project.




*It visualises what it outside of the frame and points out that everything outside the frame is indeed formed by our imagination (therefore it supports the theory I have so far explored.

*Simple and straight forward method of communicating my approach (even for people that are nore familiar with what I am intenting to do)


*Difficult to draw and remain a professional look

*It is not photography throughout and therefore maybe not really appropriate for my project.

*It might be too simple and highly depends on the image content and what I will draw.




*It is probably more critically reflective and intriguing

*Photographically challenging and more serious

*Subtle approach


*Might be to complex (for people not familiar with the topic to understand the connection)

*Requires potentially a lot of people and requisites

*Needs very good images to base itself on

* Do not really go as well well with the theory of “beyond the frame” and what I have so far found on picture-in-picture Photography as the picture-in-picture is a process that takes place in the mind.


To DO now:

I will look for famous images I could potentially restage.

Meanwhile I will also set out to produce images I could continue to draw.


Methodology Idea 3: Drawing imagination

Everything beyond the frame of an image is drawn by our own imagination….



The idea of the methodology is that the outside of the frame is all imaginary.

Every image we view, we are not familiar with its original surroundings and context. Therefore we make up for this missing information with our imagination.

I would therefore compose images inside a digital frame (Smartphone, tablet etc.) and continue the scenery with drawings.

These drawing could be based on things not grasped by the image such as atmosphere, instincts, impressions or characteristics.

Opening Sequence Watchman

The opening sequence of Watchman has an interesting range of intertextuality.

Replaying famous images of historical events.

Hippie placing a flower in gun barrel:



The V-J Day kiss:



The last supper:



See the entire Opening Sequence here:

Image-to-image intertextuality

An image referring to another image could be considered as a picture-in-picture, making use of social connotations from one image to the other.

In that case the the whole picture is never shown on paper but instead created in the sphere of our imagination.


From the beach series by Rineke Dijkstra


‘The birth of Venus’ Borticelli


Jeff Wall


Japaneese oil painting

Even though quite simplified compared to the original, R.D. ‘beach series’ is composed to visually refer to the Borticelli classic effectively. yet very subtle.

The key to restaging an image successfully is to identify the core elements that ‘make’ the picture. This will allow a more simplyfied version of the original, something which when having limited resources is something to aim for.

Methodology Idea 1: Rephotographing

Rephotographing is usually a practice of restaging a landscape/ street photograph from the past.

klett-interview-inline-3_525 images

As seen in the pictures above, this requires a older picture to base the new one on. As I am not planning to work with found footage I could make use of a similar technique but instead of showing the original picture I would just refer to it (visually).

Blow Up





Photo-Ops (Peter Kennard)


Bringing the WAr home (Martha Rosler)


‘Multimedia’ photojournalism and visual storytelling

SSPL 10299598 Comp Multimedia, photojournalism and visual storytelling

What is “multimedia”?

Searching for a single definition in answer to this question is neither possible nor desirable. At its most basic, “multimedia” signifies some combination of images, sound, graphics, and text to produce a story. In different realms of practice people speak of “cross media,” “transmedia” or “mixed media.’ In photojournalism, “multimedia” has often been first understood as “photography, plus…”, principally the combination of still imagery with other content. Nowadays we see it in multiple forms ranging from online photo galleries where pictures are combined with text captions, to audio slideshows, linear video (both short-from and long-form), animated infographics, non-linear interactives, and full-scale web documentaries and broadcast films.

The digital revolution has been a defining development in the emergence of “multimedia” that blurs the boundary between still and moving images. But that boundary has long been blurred. Even a brief consideration of the history of image making shows considerable overlap between still and moving images. Close-ups and freeze frames are moments in which cinema employs the still image, and photo-stories and sequences testify to the influence of cinema on photography. Famous photographers like Man Ray, Paul Strand and Gordon Parks were all involved in filmmaking and films like Chris Marker’s “La Jetee” (1962) and Agnes Varda’s “Salut Les Cubains” (1963) were based on still photographs. Ken Burn’s creative use of archival pictures in “The Civil War” (1990) was so powerful it gave rise to an effect now immortalised in video editing software. Modern television is not averse to deploying stills in either opening credits (as in David Simon’s “Treme”) or in news broadcasts, when a slower pace is needed to underline the significance of the event (the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the invasion of Iraq being two such cases), or when video is unavailable.

The roots of “multimedia” go deeper still. In the media history of photographic images, prior to mass reproduction of images in print becoming possible, pictures were displayed to the public with the help of technological devices such as the magic lantern (as well as the gloriously named phenakistiscope, zoetrope, praxinoscope, mutoscope, etc.) that created the perception of moving images in theatrical settings.

Moving forward again, we can recall other photographic projects in which images were entwined with other forms of content. Nan Goldins’ famous “Ballad of Sexual Dependency” was originally shown in the early 1980s as a constantly evolving slideshow with music. Pedro Meyer’s “I Photograph to Remember” (1991), Rick Smolan’s “From Alice to Ocean” (1992) and “Passage to Vietnam” (1994), and Tim Hetherington’s “House of Pain” (1996) were all on CD-ROMs and it was speculated that CD-ROMs might replace books as the chosen platform for photographic presentation. Gilles Peress’ “Bosnia: Uncertain Paths to Peace” (1996) was an interactive photo essay, while Ed Kashi’s “Iraqi Kurdistan” flipbook style production (2006) closed the circle by deploying a nineteenth century technique on a twenty-first century platform.

Photojournalism has always been influenced by technological changes, and the arrival of DSLR cameras with video capability – the Nikon D90 in August 2008 followed shortly thereafter by the Canon 5D Mark II – have again highlighted the relationship between still and moving images, providing practitioners with dual image capability in a single camera body.

What is the significance of this history? It confirms that any attempt to strictly define “multimedia” would exclude more than it includes. And it demonstrates that what we need is not a restrictive definition of one genre, but an expanded understanding of “the photographic,” especially the long-standing and complex relationship between still and moving images, possibly what Tim Hetherington meant when he spoke of a “post-photographic” world. This is not a world in which one visual form has died, but a world in which multiple visual forms are alive and stronger than ever.

This is why this study speaks of “visual storytelling”. It opens up the field to different communities who share a common purpose in image-oriented reportage. It is the zone in which photojournalism, videojournalism, documentary, cinema and interactive storytelling have the potential to intersect. This does not create a new visual genre, but it constitutes a space in which photojournalists can bring their aesthetic abilities and commitment to reporting, and learn from those operating outside of photography.

This is not the “convergence” of everything into one, nor a place where a single new form replaces all others – none of this leads to the conclusion that all forms of print are passé. Instead, we have arrived at a place where image making is important to storytelling, and storytelling encompasses many forms across many platforms.

‘the Photographer’


This comic-style Documentary offers n insight into the everyday reality of Afghanistan’s citizens.

Some of the imagery drawn some photographed the book combines visual elements to communicate the truth of life more effectively than just one image would.

Being designed with various panels per page, it shows more than just one frame of the image which is essentially what I am aiming to do for my project as well.

The Photographer graphic novel inside spread

Guibert, Lefevre and Lemercier (2009) The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan With Doctors Without Borders, New York: First Secound.

Exploring my technique

Things I am setting out to explore to develop a good methodology for my project:


How subtle do I want my technique to be?

Are there clues indicating what is going on immediately?

In what ways could I reference an image without immediate response/ suspision  of the image-in-image effect?

What do I want my context to be?

Theoretical sources

Ritchin, F. (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary and the Citizen, New York: aperture.

Langton, L. (2009) Photojournalism and Today’s News: Creating Visual Reality, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Taylor, J.( 1998) Body Horror: photojournalism, catastrophe and war, Manchester: Manchester University Press.


Kobre, K. (2008) Photojournalism: The Professional’s Approach. Focal Press, Amsterdam.

Steel, A. (2006) The World’s Top Photographers and the stories behind their greatest pictures: Photojournalism. Rotovision,Mies.


Photography is particularly subtle in the way that it is digested. it is unlike other forms of representation in that its interpretive nature is less obvious. Individuals believe what they see

Loupe Langton in Photojournalism and Today’s News: Creating Visual Reality


Project Proposal

For my Intensive Production project this semester I am planning to create a series of picture-in-picture imagery.

Picture-in-picture is a method used to add to the context of a picture by adding a second image.

My idea was to use this technique to address the decontextualisation of media footage by showing what is “out of the frame” of the original image.

It is a critical approach to the “truth of Photography” and the nature of an image.

“Any picture is a visible mark no matter how simple…is  capable of becoming a metapicture.

Pictorial self-referance is, in other words, no exclusively a formal, internal feature that distinguishes some pictures, but a pragmatic, functional feature, a matter of use and context.  Any picture that is used to reflect on the nature of pictures is a metapicture” claim Mitchel, WJT.

Susan Sonntag outline how pictures are “miniatures of reality’ instead of interpretation of events, they take one element of the truth and are therefore based on something real.

We therefore have the presumption that images act as some sort of evidence of reality.

While real people are out there killing themselves or other real people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the image world that bids to outlast us. Photographing is essentially an act of non­intervention.” Sonntag, S.

Therefore my aim is to make my images a series of “self reflective images” or in other words “metapictures.

In addition my method of exhibition will aim to push the restrictions of a normal image by providing more than one layer of the image.

The first layer will be the picture itself; behind it the second layer revealing a “behind the scenes’ look/ Alternative truth to the picture.

This could take form of a life sized advent calendar or puzzle pieces.

This method of exhibition will require a large-scale photo print and will therefore be more like a poster version of the picture.

This will also make it easier to build up the two layers.

In total I am aiming to produce 3 complete images that address three different themes of media context such as environmental concerns, debates about beauty & body size or cultural stereotypes.



Help me I’m trapped in this picture Intensive Production Proposal

Tod Papageorge and the ‘truth’ of photography

January 8, 2010 · by David Campbell · photography

Tod Papergeorge is one of the most insightful photographers around. Interviewed by Mark Durden for foto8 last November (I’m catching up on some reading while snowed in), he offered some interesting views on photography, documentary and truth.

Picture 1 Tod Papageorge and the truth of photography

Photo: Tod Papergeorge, ‘Central Park, 1978′

Durden asked Papageorge if he thought his work was part of what John Szarkowski called the New Documents:

New Documents was an effective title for that exhibition, but none of the photographers included in it—Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, and Lee Friedlander—nor any other photographers I knew at that time, would have used the word “documentary” to describe what they were doing in their work. If nothing else, Robert Frank’s The Americans had taken care of that by defining an aesthetic that depended on poetic transformation, rather than an (apparently) literal fealty to a series of facts.

As for me, my initial introduction to serious photography occurred in 1962, when I discovered a couple of early pictures of Cartier-Bresson’s while taking a college course in basic photography. They convinced me, literally on the spot, to be a photographer—and not because I had an itch to document this or that aspect of the world. I saw these pictures as poetry, Cartier-Bresson as a prodigious poet, and photography as a way to possibly do something roughly in the same camp.

Later in the interview, Durden asked Papageorge to expand on his statement (made in Papageorge’s essay on Gary Winogrand) that while photography pictures the world it does not follow that it has a moral responsibility to it. Was this not contrary to writers like Susan Sontag and other critics, said Durden:

It’s always been puzzling to me that capacious minds like Sontag’s, to say nothing of those of almost every art historian, look at a photograph and see not a picture, but the literal world held in their palm. With that, they’re revealing themselves to be no more sophisticated than the proverbial tribesman who believes that a photograph made of him steals a piece of his soul. There seems to be no cure for this universal form of innocence, or ignorance, but it is, to put it mildly, frustrating to spend years working as a photographer and writer about photography and realise that this misunderstanding is as prevalent today as it was the day I first saw those Cartier-Bresson photographs—and recognised them as picture-poems.

You mention Genet and writing, a good parallel. Let’s say that the young Sontag reads the front page of the Times, and then turns to Our Lady of the Flowers, both experiences generated by black marks on a page, yet utterly different in their intention and, presumably, effect. Is it so difficult for her not to see, then, that the photographs on that front page are similarly different from the Diane Arbus portraits she’s thinking of writing about?

For Papageorge, failing to appreciate the differences between news photographs and those of Arbus, Cartier-Bresson, Winogrand and others was the product of a philosophical error:

…Sontag (and legions of French critics and their progeny) was tarring photography with a tired brush, based on a much older relationship that obtained between pictures and moral lessons, and the unexamined belief that the pictures themselves were in some way at least related to the literal truth.

Of course, semiotics teaches us, if we needed the reminder, that a photograph represents a physical trace of the world, and therefore exists in an ontological space quite different from that of any of the non-filmic arts. I don’t buy that argument: ontologically, a photograph is a unique kind of picture, but a picture nonetheless, one that has radically transformed the piece of the world it describes, whether for artistic or journalistic or any other ends, but (obviously) has not transported it out of its picture-state into some nebulous truth-state.

I don’t want to draw any big conclusions at this point, other than to say that we need to think carefully about how Papageorge’s statements impact on the desire for photographs as documents. If work understood as ‘documentary’ is better appreciated as ‘poetic’, what are the implications of this for truth claims based on pictures?

On Photography

Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag is an essayist and novelist. She has studied at Berkeley, Harvard, Ox­ ford, and the Sorbonne and considers herself a writer without specialization. Among her books are several works of criticism, Against Interpretation, On Photography, AIDS and Its Metaphors, as well as a novel, The Volcano, and a play, Alice in Bed.

collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still pho­ tographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumu­ late, store. In Godard’s Les Carabiniers (1963), two sluggish lumpen-peasants are lured into joining the King’s Army by the promise that they will be able to loot, rape, kill, or do what­ ever else they please to the enemy, and get rich. But the suitcase of booty that Michel-Ange and Ulysse triumphantly bring home, years later, to their wives turns out to contain only picture postcards, hundreds of them, of Monuments, Department Stores, Mammals, \X’onders of Na­ ture, Methods of Transport, \X’orks of Art, and other classified treasures from around the globe. Godard’s gag vividly parodies the equivocal magic of the photographic image. Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the ob­ jects that make up, and thicken, the environ­ ment we recognize as modern. Photographs re­ ally are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood.

To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge-and, therefore, like power. A now notorious first fall into alienation, habituating people to abstract the world into printed words, is supposed to have engendered that surplus of Faustian energy and psychic damage needed to build modern, inorganic societies. But print

seems a less treacherous form of leaching out the world, of turning it into a mental object, than photographic images, which now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present. What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual state­ ments, like paintings and drawings. Pho­ tographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, minia­ tures of reality that anyone can make or acquire.

Photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored, tricked out. They age, plagued by the usual ills of paper objects; they disappear; they become valuable, and get bought and sold; they are reproduced. Pho­ tographs, which package the world, seem to in­ vite packaging. They are stuck in albums, framed and set on tables, tacked on walls, pro­ jected as slides. Newspapers and magazines fea­ ture them; cops alphabetize them; museums ex­ hibit them; publishers compile them.

For many decades the book has been the most influential way of arranging (and usually miniaturizing) photographs, thereby guarantee­ ing them longevity, if not immortality-pho­ tographs are fragile objects, easily torn or mis­ laid-and a wider public. The photograph in a book is, obviously, the image of an image. But since it is, to begin with, a printed, smooth ob­ ject, a photograph loses much less of its essential quality when reproduced in a book than a paint­ ing does. Still, the book is not a wholly satisfac

scheme for putting groups of photographs into general circulation. The sequence in which the photographs are to be looked at is proposed by the order of pages, but nothing holds readers to the recommended order or indicates the amount of time to be spent on each photograph. Chris Marker’s film, Si j’avais quatre dro­ madaires (1966), a brilliantly orchestrated medi­ tation on photographs of all sorts and themes, suggests a subtler and more rigorous way of packaging (and enlarging) still photographs. Both the order and the exact time for looking at each photograph are imposed; and there is a gain in visual legibility and emotional impact. But photographs transcribed in a film cease to be collectible objects, as they still are when served up in books.

Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it. In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates. Starting with their use by the Paris police in the murderous roundup of Communards in June 1871, photographs became a useful tool of modern states in the surveillance and control of their increasingly mobile populations. In an­ other version of its utility, the camera record jus­ tifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture. Whatever the limitations (through amateurism) or pretensions (through artistry) of the individual photographer, a pho­ tograph-any photograph-seems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, re­ lation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects. Virtuosi of the noble image like Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, composing mighty, unforgettable photographs decade after decade, still want, first of all, to show something “out there,” just like the Polaroid owner for whom photographs are a handy, fast form of note-tak­ ing, or the shutterbug with a Brownie who takes snapshots as souvenirs of daily life.

While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective inter­ pretation, a photograph can be treated as a nar­ rowly selective transparency. But despite the presumption of veracity that gives all pho­ tographs authority, interest, seductiveness, the work that photographers do is no generic excep­ tion to the usually shady commerce between art and truth. Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and con­ science. The immensely gifted members of the Farm Security Administration photographic project of the late 1930s (among them Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee) would take dozens of frontal pictures of one of their sharecropper subjects until satisfied that they had gotten just the right look on film-the precise expression on the subject’s face that sup­ ported their own notions about poverty, light, dignity, texture, exploitation, and geometry. In deciding how a picture should look, in prefer­ ring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Al­ though there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, pho­ tographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are. Those oc­ casions when the taking of photographs is rela­ tively undiscriminating, promiscuous, or self­ effacing do not lessen the didacticism of the whole enterprise. This very passivity-and ubiq­ uity-of the photographic record is photogra­ phy’s “message,” its aggression.

Images which idealize (like most fashion and animal photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of the bleaker sort, and mug shots). There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera. This is as evident in the 1840s and 1850s, photography’s glorious first two decades, as in all the succeeding decades, during which technology made possible an ever increasing spread of that mentality which looks at the world as a set of potential

otographs. Even for such early masters as David Octavius Hill and Julia Margaret Cameron who used the camera as a means of getting painterly images, the point of taking photographs was a vast departure from the aims of painters. From its start, photography implied the capture of the largest possible number of subjects. Painting never had so imperial a scope. The subsequent industrialization of camera tech­ nology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democ­ ratize all experiences by translating them into images.

That age when taking photographs required a cumbersome and expensive contraption-the toy of ‘the clever, the wealthy, and the ob­ sessed-seems remote indeed from the era of sleek pocket cameras that invite anyone to take pictures. The first cameras, made in France and England in the early 1840s, had only inventors and buffs to operate them. Since there were then no professional photographers, there could not be amateurs either, and taking photographs had no clear social use; it was a gratuitous, that is, an artistic activity, though with few pretensions to being an art. It was only with its industrializa­ tion that photography came into its own as art. As industrialization provided social uses for the operations of the photographer, so the reaction against these uses reinforced the self-conscious­ ness of photography-as-art.

Recently, photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing-which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most peo­ ple as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.

Memorializing the achievements of individ­ uals considered as members of families (as well as of other groups) is the earliest popular use of photography. For at least a century, the wedding photograph has been as much a part of the cere­ mony as the prescribed verbal formulas. Cam­ eras go with family life. According to a sociolog­ ical study done in France, most households have


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The Kodak. Early efforts to popularize the camera used the instructional forms in magazine and news­ paper advertising. National Archives of Canada.

a camera, but a household with children is twice as likely to have at least one camera as a house­ hold in which there are no children. Not to take pictures of one’s children, particularly when they are small, is a sign of parental indifference, just as not turning up for one’s graduation pic­ ture is a gesture of adolescent rebellion.

Through photographs, each family con­ structs a portrait-chronicle of itself-a portable kit of images that bears witness to its connected­ ness. It hardly matters what activities are pho­ tographed so long as photographs get taken an

cherished. Photography becomes a rite of family life just when, in the industrializing coun­ tries of Europe and America, the very institution of the family starts undergoing radical surgery. As that claustrophobic unit, the nuclear family, was being carved out of a much larger family aggregate, photography came along to memori­ alize, to restate symbolically, the imperiled con­ tinuity and vanishing extendedness of family life. Those ghostly traces, photographs, supply the token presence of the dispersed relatives. A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family-and, often, is all that re­ mains of it.

As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure. Thus, photography develops in tandem with one of the most characteristic of modern activities: tourism. For the first time in history, large numbers of people regularly travel out of their habitual environments for short pe­ riods of time. It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along. Photographs will offer indisputable evi­ dence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had. Photographs document sequences of consumption carried on outside the view of family, friends, neighbors. But dependence on the camera, as the device that makes real what one is experiencing, doesn’t fade when people travel more. Taking photographs fills the same need for the cos­ mopolitans accumulating photograph-trophies of their boat trip up the Albert Nile or their fourteen days in China as it does for lower-mid­ dle-class vacationers taking snapshots of the Eif­ fel Tower or Niagara Falls.

A way of certifying experience, taking pho­ tographs is also a way of refusing it-by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. The very activity of taking pic­ tures is soothing, and assuages general feelings

of disorientation that are likely to be exacer­ bated by travel. Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and what­ ever is remarkable that they encounter. Unsure of other responses, they take a picture. This gives shape to experience: stop, take a photo­ graph, and move on. The method especially ap­ peals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic-Germans, Japanese, and Americans. Us­ ing a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they ­ are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.

People robbed of their past seem to make the most fervent picture takers, at home and abroad. Everyone who lives in an industrialized society is obliged gradually to give up the past, but in certain countries, such as the United States and Japan, the break with the past has been particularly traumatic. In the early 1970s, the fable of the brash American tourist of the 1950s and 1960s, rich with dollars and Babbit­ try, was replaced by the mystery of the group­ minded Japanese tourist, newly released from his island prison by the miracle of overvalued yen, who is generally armed with two cameras, one on each hip.

Photography has become one of the princi­ pal devices for experiencing something, for giv­ ing an appearance of participation. One full­ page ad shows a small group of people standing pressed together, peering out of the photograph, all but one looking stunned, excited, upset. The one who wears a different expression holds a camera to his eye; he seems self-possessed, is al­ most smiling. While the others are passive, clearly alarmed spectators, having a camera has transformed one person into something active, a voyeur: only he has mastered the situation. What do these people see? We don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. It is an Event: something worth seeing-and therefore worth photograph­ ing. The ad copy, white letters across the dark lower third of the photograph like news com

over a teletype machine, consists of just six words: “… Prague … Woodstock … Vietnam … Sapporo … Londonderry .. . LEICA.” Crushed hopes, youth antics, colonial wars, and winter sports are alike-are equalized by the camera. Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events.

A photograph is not just the result of an en­ counter between an event and a photographer; picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights-to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on. Our very sense of situation is now articulated by the camera’s interventions. The omnipresence of cameras persuasively suggests that time consists of interesting events, events worth photograph­ ing. This, in turn, makes it easy to feel that any event, once underway, and whatever its moral character, should be allowed to complete itself­ so that something else can be brought into the world, the photograph. After the event has ended, the picture will still exist, conferring on the event a kind of immortality (and importance) it would never otherwise have enjoyed. While real people are out there killing themselves or other real peo­ ple, the photographer stays behind his or her camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the image-world that bids to outlast us aU.

Photographing is essentially an act of non­ intervention. Part of the horror of such memo­ rable coups of contemporary photojournalism as the pictures of a Vietnamese bonze reaching for the gasoline can, of a Bengali guerrilla in the

act of bayoneting a trussed-up collaborator, comes from the awareness of how plausible it has become, in situations where the photogra­ pher has the choice between a photograph and a life, to choose the photograph. The person who intervenes cannot record; the person who is recording cannot intervene. Dziga V ertov’s great film, Man with a Movie Camera (1’929), gives the ideal image of the photographer as someone in perpetual movement, someone movmg through a panorama of disparate events with such agility and speed that any intervention is out of the question. Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) gives the complementary image: the pho­ tographer played by James Stewart has an inten­ sified relation to one event, through his camera, precisely because he has a broken leg and is con­ fined to a wheelchair; being temporarily immo­

bilized prevents him from acting on what he sees, and makes it even more important to take pictures. Even if incompatible with intervention in a physical sense, using a camera is still a form of participation. Although the camera is an ob­ servation station, the act of photographing is more than passive observing. Like sexual voyeurism, it is a way of at least tacitly, often ex­ plicitly, encouraging whatever is going on to keep on happening. To take a picture is to have an interest in things as they are, in the status quo remaining unchanged (at least for as long as it takes to get a “good” picture), to be in complic­ ity with whatever makes a subject interesting, worth photographing-including, when that is the interest, another person’s pain or misfortun


Ulrich Keller

Ulrich Keller is a professor in the department ofart history at the Univesity of Califor­ nia at Santa Barbara and an adjunct curator of photography at the University of Cali­ fornia at Santa Barbara Art Museum.

Susan Sonntag

To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still pho­ tographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumu­ late, store. In Godard’s Les Carabiniers (1963), two sluggish lumpen-peasants are lured into joining the King’s Army by the promise that they will be able to loot, rape, kill, or do what­ ever else they please to the enemy, and get rich. But the suitcase of booty that Michel-Ange and Ulysse triumphantly bring home, years later, to their wives turns out to contain only picture postcards, hundreds of them, of Monuments, Department Stores, Mammals, \X’onders of Na­ ture, Methods of Transport, \X’orks of Art, and other classified treasures from around the globe. Godard’s gag vividly parodies the equivocal magic of the photographic image. Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the ob­ jects that make up, and thicken, the environ­ ment we recognize as modern. Photographs re­ ally are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood.

To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge-and, therefore, like power. A now notorious first fall into alienation, habituating people to abstract the world into printed words, is supposed to have engendered that surplus of Faustian energy and psychic damage needed to build modern, inorganic societies. But print

seems a less treacherous form of leaching out the world, of turning it into a mental object, than photographic images, which now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present. What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual state­ ments, like paintings and drawings. Pho­ tographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, minia­ tures of reality that anyone can make or acquire.

Photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored, tricked out. They age, plagued by the usual ills of paper objects; they disappear; they become valuable, and get bought and sold; they are reproduced. Pho­ tographs, which package the world, seem to in­ vite packaging. They are stuck in albums, framed and set on tables, tacked on walls, pro­ jected as slides. Newspapers and magazines fea­ ture them; cops alphabetize them; museums ex­ hibit them; publishers compile them.

The Truth in Photography

Errol Morris Looks for the Truth in Photography

Sharif Karim/Reuters
By KATHRYN SCHULZ Published: September 1, 201

One of the first things we learn in “Believing Is Seeing” is that its author, the filmmaker Errol Morris, has limited sight in one eye and lacks normal stereoscopic vision — “My fault,” he writes, for refusing to wear an eye patch after being treated for strabismus in childhood. It’s hard to think of another writer who so neatly embodies the theme of his own book. “Believing Is Seeing” is about the limitations of vision, and about the inevitable idiosyncrasies and distortions involved in the act of looking — in particular, looking at photographs.


Observations on the Mysteries of Photography

By Errol Morris

The filmmaker’s columns about the mysteries of visual imagery.

Enlarge This Image

Roger Fenton/Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

Crimea, 1855: Which is “true?” A road with cannonballs, or without?

Or anyway, it’s sort of about that. Reading it, I thought of Morris’s first film, “Gates of Heaven,” which is ostensibly about pet cemeteries and includes more material on pet cemeteries than any other movie ever made (including “Pet Sematary”) but is, nonetheless, not really about pet cemeteries at all. Likewise, “Believing Is Seeing,” though perceptive about photography, is fundamentally concerned with something very different: epistemology. Morris is chiefly interested in the nature of knowledge, in figuring out where the truth — in both senses — lies.

As that suggests, Morris believes in objective truth, and believes that people can grasp it — “even though,” as he has written elsewhere, “the world is unutterably insane.” The question then becomes how to coax an insane world into yielding up its truths, and “Believing Is Seeing” amounts to a provisional, ­pastiche-y, deeply interesting attempt at an answer. Each of its six chapters originally appeared, in different form, in the Opinionator blog of The New York Times, and each centers on a photo or photo set: two slightly different pictures taken by Roger Fenton during the Crimean War; the infamous Abu Ghraib images, over two chapters; Depression-era photographs by Walker Evans and Arthur Rothstein; pictures of children’s toys lying in the rubble after Israeli airstrikes on southern Lebanon in 2006; and an ambrotype of three young children that was found clutched in the hand of a dead Union soldier at Gettysburg in 1863.

The first of these chapters, on Roger Fenton, is a template, stylistically and thematically, for everything that follows. Taken in 1855, the two Fenton photographs show an empty stretch of road in a heavily shelled valley near Sebastopol. In one, cannonballs are scattered in ditches beside the road; in the other, they are also strewn along the road itself. Morris’s interest in these images was piqued by Susan Sontag, herself the author of two books on photography. According to Morris, Sontag claims that Fenton moved the cannonballs onto the road to create a more dramatic image. He is puzzled by this allegation (How does she know that Fenton staged the second photograph? How does she even know in what order the photographs were taken?), and irked by her opprobrium. “Even if Sontag is right, namely, that Fenton moved the cannonballs to telegraph the horrors of war, what’s so bad about that?” he asks. “Why does moralizing about ‘posing’ take precedence . . . over moralizing about the carnage of war?”

Morris himself has paid a price for “posing.” In 1989, he was passed over for an Oscar nomination for “The Thin Blue Line” (1988), reportedly because his use of staged re-­creations violated the Academy’s standards for documentary films. (In 2004, he finally won his Oscar, for “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara.” Lesson 7: “Belief and Seeing Are Both Often Wrong.”) Morris not only defends the use of such staging techniques, but also suggests that we can never wholly avoid them. An elephant might have been standing on that road in Crimea, he points out, and Fenton could have waited until it passed out of the frame to take his pictures. In that case, Morris writes, “he posed the photograph by excluding something. . . . But how would you know? . . . Isn’t there always a possible elephant lurking just at the edge of the frame?”

Morris eventually solves the mystery of which Fenton photograph came first — and, as with all satisfying mysteries, the solution is beautifully obvious once you know it. The road to that solution, by contrast, is so subtle, elliptical and exhaustive that it lies just to the pleasurable side of tedium. Morris is one of the few prose writers to whom the adjective “repetitive” can be applied non-pejoratively. His repetition — and there is a lot of it — is procedural: he is testing, falsifying, eliminating possibilities. Like the music of Philip Glass(who scored several Morris films) and the murder scene in “The Thin Blue Line” (which is re-enacted over and over with minute changes), the essays in “Believing Is Seeing” are structured as a kind of theme-and-variation.

We first encounter this approach during Morris’s tortuous voyage through Crimea. But when he moves on to Abu Ghraib, it suddenly makes a different kind of sense. It turns out that Morris has been instructing us in a method: getting us accustomed, on the benign turf of the past, to “thinking about some of the most vexing issues in photography — about posing, about the intentions of the photographer, about the nature of photographic evidence — about the relationship between photographs and reality.”

When you ask these questions in the context of Abu Ghraib, both their stakes and their complexity become immediately apparent. Unlike the Crimea mystery, this one will not culminate in an airtight and satisfying solution; indeed, we will not encounter any more such solutions in this book. Instead, “Believing Is Seeing” reveals itself as really (albeit implicitly) about how it feels to sustain the search for truth in an infinitely complicated world. It is, itself, a kind of staged re-creation: of the battle between the Errol Morris who believes in irrefutable conclusions (and in the ethics and efficacy of his own particular means of arriving at them), and the Errol Morris who possesses a deeply personal understanding that the truth very often evades us.

It is impossible to read “Believing Is Seeing” without the word “obsessive” coming to mind. Happily, this thematic narrowness is counterbalanced by a stylistic tendency in the opposite direction — namely, toward the tangential and panoptic. The combined effect is weird and mesmerizing, like a blizzard falling on a single house. We are talking about a book that includes, among other things, maps, letters, timelines, family trees, old advertisements, military flowcharts and excerpts from interviews, all intercut with Morris’s own writing. (This last shows moments of flair, as when he compares Gorbachev’s estate to “a metastatic International House of Pancakes.” Mostly, though, Morris is plainspoken, and that style serves him well: he is matter-of-fact about matters of fact.)

And, of course, “Believing Is Seeing” includes photographs, many of which relate only obliquely to the text. In this respect, Morris’s book feels less like traditional photography criticism than like the novels of W. G. Sebald, which are similarly obsessed with truth, memory and war. We get odd, absorbing pictures of Mayan ruins, of Picasso and his mistress, of the high heels worn by Morris’s tour guide in Crimea: shanks, shoes, a shadow (presumably the photographer’s) falling across the once boot-trodden road. Like extra problem sets in a textbook, these photos offer us additional opportunities to practice the art of looking, while simultaneously multiplying the scale of, as Morris’s subtitle puts it, “the mysteries of photography.”

And “mystery” is the operative word. Before his filmmaking career took off, Morris had a day job as a detective, and he urges us, here, to read his essays “as a collection of mystery stories.” That’s easy advice to follow. As the de facto protagonist of his own book, Morris reminds me of no one so much as Sherlock Holmes, for whom private investigation was a form of practical epistemology. Like ­Holmes, Morris believes that truth can be revealed by impartially attending to details overlooked or misinterpreted by others. Like Holmes, he is patient, compulsive and unafraid of legwork. Of the Fenton photographs, he writes: “My hunch was that the lighting and shadows on the cannonballs might be the key to ordering” the images. “I wanted to experiment with lighting the cannonballs from various directions, replicating the directions of the sun and time of day. But first I needed an 1850s cannonball.” Off he goes to find one.

But if “Believing Is Seeing” is a collection of detective stories, there is even more mystery at hand than Morris lets on. Take, for instance, his showdown with Sontag. As it happens, she never claimed that Fenton “moved the cannonballs to telegraph the horrors of war.” On the contrary: in “Regarding the Pain of Others” (2004), she disparages Fenton as a stooge of the British government, sent to Crimea “to give another, more positive impression of the increasingly unpopular war.” Indeed, of all Fenton’s pictures, Sontag likes the ones of the road to Sebastopol best; in these, she says, he finally “reaches beyond benign documentation.” She does note that Fenton moved the cannonballs onto the road (a claim Morris’s investigation confirms) — but she is neither more outraged nor less thoughtful about this than Morris. The technologies and conventions of the time all but mandated such staging, and anyway, “with time, many staged photographs turn back into historical evidence, albeit of an impure kind.”

Morris’s mistaken claim about Sontag would be little more than a fact-checker’s quibble, except that it illuminates a central fault line in his work. Fact-checking is, after all, what Morris champions here. To unearth the truth, he argues, we must avoid making psychological inferences and taking ideological stands; only facts should command our attention. But no one other than the fictional Holmes possesses such a dispassionate (not to say impoverished) perspective on life, and very few people believe, these days, that facts can be plucked so cleanly from the human context. Certainly “Believing Is Seeing” is far from ideologically neutral. Its implicit commitments are suggested by the standoff with Sontag, and also by the fact — unacknowledged by Morris — that all of its central photographs are profoundly political. Indeed, with one exception, they are all wartime images. There’s a reason this book contains little or no discussion of commercial photography, fashion photography, photography as art, soon-to-be-regretted yearbook photos or iPhone snapshots. Given Morris’s real (if unstated) interests, these are elephants outside the frame.

Here, then, is a mystery of a different order. Call it “Observations on the Mysteries of Errol Morris.” Whatever else he is doing, Morris is working out his own relationship to the documentary project, including to its other practitioners and critics. Reportedly, his next two books will look at the philosopher Thomas Kuhn, whose skepticism for scientific truth Morris abhors, and Janet Malcolm, for years the photography critic at The New Yorker and later the author of “The Journalist and the Murderer,” a book about the factually, ethically and legally troubled relationship between a reporter and a convicted killer.

Knowing this, I can’t help wondering if “Believing Is Seeing” is the first installment in a three-volume attempt to make sense of the relationship between the documentarian, the documented and the truth. I hope so. For Morris, the truth is (as they say) out there; the question is how to pick our way in its direction. There is no mechanical means of doing so, he argues; the camera is never wholly obscura or lucida. Perhaps this is why Morris’s book feels so human. It combines the hubris of his ends — the desire, shared by approximately all of us, to lay claim to the truth — with the humility of his means. In “Believing Is Seeing,” Morris explores and refines our most basic way of understanding the world, which is also a plea for attention, an invitation to communal experience, an expression of urgency, an exclamation of wonder and one of our first, most important and most enduring requests of each other: Look!

Kathryn Schulz is the author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.”