P&P Week One Reflections

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Exhilarated. Really excited to be part of an academically strong, creatively challenging program – great faculty, and very talented students.

One of my goals in joining the MA program was to really stretch my understanding of photography in all of its aspects. I have studied the history of photography, even taught a bit on the subject – but I want to move beyond the facts to the feeling of it all.

Really enjoying digging deeper on landscape and the philosophy of the beautiful and the sublime, and (re) reading Kant. Didn’t expect that! In working on the ‘Global Image‘, went back to include some material I had used with PhotoBath to discuss ‘Iconic Images’, as I feel that the concepts are connected. And I had fun re-making of a global image, by reverse engineering it.

Challenged. The other students are really talented. Can I keep up?

Determined. I have always been an avid learner, yet also for a large part of my life, a teacher. I am determined to stay true to both, yet clearly in this context I am a student.

Can I bring something to this, for others? And I am a little concerned that I might become ‘just’ a receiver.

Clear. This week has reinforced my desire to re-visit, re-visualise and re-conceptualise our Cambodia story. It’s also exciting that I just heard that Sarath wants to be a partner in this journey. Now, need to make plans to get to Cambodia, define the project, start taking images – and get it done in this first block.

Confused. The first webinar was fun, and great to see such interesting and diverse views and work from my fellow students. But still, confused. It seemed I wasn’t articulating my thoughts well. Gary seemed perplexed by my thought process, and maybe thought me too ‘closed’ in my approach and ideas?

Nothing could be further from the truth for anyone that knows me. Note to self: try harder to both present and listen.

A Question. Really enjoyed setting up and writing the CRJ. I realise it is early days, and I probably overdid it with so many posts. But does anyone read it?

Qs week 1 – 3rd presentation – “Global Image: Unity and Change”

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Q: Do you think the power and influence of the photograph is overstated?  

‘Still’ photography is just one of many media that impact social discourse, especially in an era of video and social media, where we are all continuously ‘bombarded’ with imagery in huge quantities (and variable quality).

In many ways, CNN’s coverage of the First Gulf War was the first ”video war”. Who can forget waiting for Scud missiles to attack Israel with poison gas, in real time – even though it didn’t actually happen? The coverage reinforced the public sense of dread, and underpinned the claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, the cause célèbre for the war.

On the other hand, just because a photograph is well-shot still and (temporarily) newsworthy, doesn’t make it an ‘iconic image’ with the power to globally impact public perception or personal emotion. So, what is an iconic image?

I don’t think there is any one fixed description, though it could be.

  • a single, famous, well-established and well known image (Steve McCurryAfghan Girl’, 1984
  • an image representing an artist’s style (Henri Cartier-BressonBehind the Gare St Lazare’, 1932)
  • a famous, well-established series (Don McCullin ‘Biafra’ 1969’)
  • a newsworthy event (Jeff Widener ‘Tank Man’, 1989)
  • an infamous image or event (Sam Shere ‘Hindenburg Disaster’, 1936)
  • a famous (or infamous) subject (Alberto CordaGuerillo Heroico‘, 1960)
  • an image that stands the test of history (Roger FentonValley of the Shadow of Death’, 1855)
  • a weapon to carry a message (Heinrich HoffmanHitler at a Nazi Party Rally’, 1934)

Q: If so, does this devalue the true extent of the role of the photography in bringing about change?

No. A great image is a great image. The examples quoted above all made a global impact, for good or bad. And brining things right up to date, Nilüfer Demir picture of the dead boy on the beach of the Greek island of Kos (‘Aylan Kurdi’, 2015) had arguably more impact on public perception of the refugee crisis than the many videos. The impact of a single, dead child was quite profound.

Interestingly, there is something rather visceral and serendipitous about many of these globally impacting, iconic images. Many come from seeking the news – and they are not always intentional, in the sense of a series, book or a film. Occasionally however they can be extremely well planned. Tom Mangelson’s ‘Brown Bear (with jumping Salmon)’ (1988) comes to mind.>

Q: Is the power of photography as advocacy in fact understated? <

I don’t think it’s either over or understated. Ideas drive change, and images can help bring ideas alive.

Q: What photographs or bodies of work come to mind when you think of those that have inspired unity and change?

The imagery from Vietnam and the associated social protests –  amongst others, Malcolm Browne ‘Burning Monk‘ (1963), Don McCullin (’Shell Shocked Marine’, 1968), Nick Ut (’Terror of War’/’Napalm Girl’, 1972), Eddie AdamsSaigon execution‘ (1968) – as well as those documenting the news in the United States, John FiloKent State Shooting‘ (1970) – all had a major impact on US public opinion of the Vietnam War, as well as started to form a new social order.

As noted in the presentation, images such as William AndersEarthrise’ (1968) bolstered the Environmental movement, alongside other media, research, books, and films.

Image © Malcolm Browne (1963) used for research and teaching purposes only