‘Taking’ a picture gives the photographer some degree of power or ownership over the subject being photographed….an age old issue with the photographic medium dating back to the ‘collective’ era of the Victorians.
Also true of corporations who gather rights to & control over images (Getty images etc)
Photographers responsibility to ethically ‘take’ photographs to ensure no-one is hurt, but may become the scapegoat when they did not necessarily have control over how their imagery was used.
How responsible is photography for producing the false desires of the 20/21st century? Body image & greed for the next new things.
Very act of photographing something/one declares they are worthy of photographing therefore they are special and automatically condemns what is not photographed as unworthy.
Power and Responsibility
Moral triangle exists behind every image – Subject – Viewer – Author
Context is relevant – naked children may be acceptable as family snapshots, but may be considered unacceptable to display as part of an exhibition (consider the furore around the man who posted on social media a picture of himself naked in the shower with his sick child..acceptable for a woman to have portrayed this, but not a man..why?)
PR machine carefully manipulates photography for celebrities / politicians etc
but are we really fooled by this emotional manipulation…has it not just created a more cynical society?
Subjects use photography to create their own mythologies.
Is it the photographers responsibility to tow-the-line and condone this PR manipulation or should they expose it for the falsehood it may appear to be?
Subject may not be a person…may be an object, building, landscape or something less tangible, such as a culture or minority (disabled group). Author must be wary of cultural misappropriation.
Viewer / Audience:-
Who is looking & where are they looking from (their viewpoint)?
Often no two viewers will see the same image the same way, but this is liable to be exacerbated when the viewers may be from different cultures who’s shared experiences may be vastly different.
Women in art / photography / cinema are created for a male audience (the male gaze) – but there are a multiplicity of gazes.
Context again comes in to play here…as we chose the context to ‘publish’ our images in order to appeal to the viewer we consider will appreciate or read it best.
Authors (Image makers):-
These are not necessarily the ones with ultimate control over an image (powerful organisations & institutions – think Google / Google street view / Getty / CCTV operators / Health service providers etc
Photography places an object into a frame and that frame declares the subject has been taken out of it’s context & deemed ‘worthy’…it has been an object & therefore objectified
“To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.” (Susan Sontag; On Photography. Harpenden: Penguin. 1979, p.14)
Ultimately we photographers decide what is worthy of objectification.
Iconic image of 3yr old Syrian boy’s drowned body & it’s impact in bringing the desperate attempts of refugees to reach Europe.
1st version is possibly most heart-wrenching as it shows his body face down at the edge of the surf “some have remarked of quiet dignity of the shot”. Physical distance between his body & that of the Turkish Policeman can be read as a simile of the gulf between western & Arab cultures & Policeman’s stance (writing on a clipboard?) could be read as suggestion of Kurdi as merely a statistic.
Other version shows a more compassionate side as Policeman carries his body away. This was considered a more tasteful image & more widely used in headlines as opposed to the more striking 1st version and carries the possibility of hope that he may yet be brought back to life.
Images accelerated the debate and potentially brought about a more humanising attitude by the public & politicians towards the victims of the crisis. Could it be argued this image is also potentially accelerating our ‘compassion fatigue’ (Susan Sontag). Another response accused people of veiled narcissism in broadcasting their outrage they are flaunting their compassionate ego.
Image re-appropriated as memes in a damning indictment on our reaction to the crisis & also re-enacted by Ai Weiwei as an act of solidarity.
Spectatorship Power & Knowledge (in Practices of Looking)
“We can have intense relationships with images precisely because of the power they have to both give us please and to allow us to articulate our desires through looking” p.72
Scopophilia (Pleasure in looking at)
Exhibitionism (Pleasure in being looked at)
Voyeurism (Pleasure in looking, while not being seen) and carries more negative connotations
Camera as mechanism for Voyeurism
“Since the owner of a painting was understood to be male its spectator was also defined as such “ p.79
“Their returning looks are accorded no peer in the image “ p.80
“Men are increasingly subject to many of the codes of appearance management that were once considered to be exclusively female.” p.83
“Spectator was always perceived to have more power than the object of the gaze” p88 this is changing
“The photograph is an essential tool in establishing difference” p.103 (The Gaze & The Exotic) and difference gives the impressions of a power balance with one side of the difference always being seen as stronger than the other.