Symposium

I had the great opportunity of going along and listening to the Third years Symposium, where they discussed a range of topics to do with the photographic field and practise.

Some points especially stood out to me and I found some very interesting.

On a talk about tourist photography, I picked up on some key points, and then was able to link and expand on these points using my own knowledge and previous research I had done:

  • The introduction of Kodak cameras made photography more accessible and easy for more people. Meaning that tourists could then go out and take their own photographs. This allowed more people to communicate visually, using photography to show experiences and connect people, especially when look at tourist photography.
  • The idea of photography becoming more accessible then made me think about this idea of photography as an art form. When studying Ansel Adams at the end of last year, the debate that surrounded him and other practitioners at that time was whether photography could be seen as a true art form if anyone could pick up a camera and take a photograph.
  • I can see how people could argue that anyone could be a classed as a photographer, and produce beautiful images, all showing creativity. The idea of the growth and use of tourist photography is shown in the work of Corinne Vionnet, Photo Opportunities, in which she uses a combination of tourists’ photographs taken of a certain well known place, such as the Eiffel Tower, and overlays them all to create one photograph. Her photographs are unusual and different in terms of photography; she is trying to show these iconic places in a different artistic way. She shows how similar all the tourists’ photographs are, due to the comparable framing and positioning by each person, by overlaying all the photographs; the fact that it is still clear what the building is shows all the photographs are similar. Everyone who takes a photo could be considered as a photographer, and the mass amount of photographs that are available now is ever growing. It is this growth and wide range of ‘photographers’ that Vionnet is trying to demonstrate.
  • Leading on from this idea, is the idea that cameras have now become an everyday thing, and part of our life. However there is the argument that there are stereotype photographs, especially in tourism photography. There are stereotype photographs, such as what Corinne Vionnet is trying to demonstrate, everyone taking a similar photograph of an iconic location. I wonder if people would be taking virtually exactly the same photographs if it were not for the influence of one photograph that started it off and then everyone wanted to take ‘their own iconic photograph’?
  • Another debate I found interesting is the idea that is the experience and culture of these tourist locations being lost. The photographs allow people to view these places without having to actually visit; the photographic records destroy the actual need and viewing of these places. I understand that the photographs show a true representation of the place visually, but it is only a representation, you cannot experience a place fully by just staring at an image, I feel people are losing the idea of culture to an extent and the experience of going somewhere new and seeing, smelling, touching and having a whole experience.
  • This leads on to the idea of how digital photography allows and offers more, people can view photographs pretty much everywhere, they don’t need to visit these places. Furthermore, the use of camera phones has allowed more people to take these tourist shots, as well as view and see photographs easier, for example through the use of social media such as Instagram and Facebook. But are these true representations, people often select the best photographs to put up, making the viewing and understanding of a place not exact and only as the publisher wants you to view it.

Another topic that interested me was the idea of power and relationships through portraiture in photography:

  • Before photography existed, people used to have paintings done of themselves or their family. These processes were much longer, meaning that artists had to engage and build a relationship with their participants. This engagement and communication would allow a balance in the ‘power’ and make the participant feel more part of the final outcome.
  • However now there has been a change in the relationship, there can often be seen to be less engagement, now people can just take quick snap shots without having to get to know someone if they do not want to. But how much of this is true? Surely you could talk to a subject you are taking a photograph of, out of politeness and interest?
  • One example of a photographer who I previously looked at is Anthony Luvera; he wanted a relationship between himself and his subjects, and so created self-assisted portraits. These where portraits where the subject would position and present themselves how they want and then used the extended shutter release to take the photograph of themselves. This would’ve made the subject feel more involved, however does giving them the shutter release give them the power? Luvera thought of the concept and set up all the lighting, even selected the subjects. I feel that this is a combination of power and a joint body of work, Luvera does consider his subjects more thoroughly than some other photographs would.
  • Kent Klich took a series of photographs over time, this shows long term engagement and devotion to that subject.
  • I personally feel that building relationships with subjects is important as a photographer can then photograph them as true as possible, trying to show their personality where they can. Photography can allow people to express feelings or emotions that they would not always be able to express normally. It can be seen as a new form of communication, linking to the idea of the relationship between the viewer and the photographer; the photographer or their subject is letting the viewer into their private world and their own vision.

The whole symposium was a great experience and I was glad I was able to go along and listen to the third years talk about their research into different areas of the photographic field. It gave me a lot of food for thought and made me consider things that I wouldn’t have thought of before.

symposium-poster

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