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Maker & Viewer. Making history. Contradictions. Perspective. Photography : Impact & Change. Remediation. Reality. Economical. Social. Political. Reality.

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  1. Maker & Viewer Making history Contradictions Perspective Photography: Impact & Change Remediation Reality Economical Social Political

  2. Reality Throughout history, people have attempted to capture ‘reality’ in different ways, but it wasn’t until the invention of photography that it was felt reality could truly be captured and frozen. Though reality can not be held, it can be carried in the form of a photograph (Sontag, 1977). People can ‘experience’ the past and in a way live different experiences in the present by interacting with photographs. People experience reality after it has taken place, but a ‘recycled reality’ (Sontag, 1977). However, photography or rather the photographer sometimes alters reality, for good (The Economist, 2010), or bad. In addition, photographs only shows part of reality, fragments of history and events, reducing these to collected anecdotes. [Sontag, 1977) HOME

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  4. “A photograph, while recording what is seen, always and by its nature refers to what is not seen. It isolates, preserves and presents a moment taken from a continuum.”(Berger, 1980: 293) “Everything that is visible hides something that is invisible.”(René Magritte, cited in Photoquotes.com) BACK

  5. Perspective The invention of the camera and with it photography, changed the way things were viewed; in other words perspective as it was known (Berger, 1972a) . Painting would never be the same. Unlike painting that was restricted to time, space and composition, photography was not (Berger, 1980,2001). It changed people’s “Ways of seeing” (Berger, 1972a/b). HOME

  6. Maker/Viewer Early photographers saw the camera as a copying machine and themselves as “non-interfering observers”. However, people soon discovered this was not the case; no two people ever take the same photograph (Sontag, 1977). A new way of seeing came about: “photographic seeing” (Sontag, 1977); practiced as much by the image - maker and the reader – viewer (Berger, 1972b) . A photograph is an account of how the image- maker views the world, and its meaning depends on how the reader- viewer interprets it. The notion that photographs provided an objective view was abandoned. We see what the photographer wants us to see; what is captured is done out of choice and with a purpose. HOME

  7. Making history Photography changed people’s perception of the world, human nature and suffering, by exposing them to scenes never before captured, and by circulating them around the world. A photograph brings to life things that those who are “privileged” or feel “safe” would often rather ignore (Sontag, 2003). But what happens when suffering is viewed third hand and so often, especially given the over saturation of images, and the distance between object, subject, observer and victim? Though there are some who chose to ignore these images, the majority are seized by them and find them ‘arresting’; they provoke despair and indignation (Berger, 2001). “Despair takes on some of the others’ suffering to no purpose. Indignation demands action” (Berger, 2001). This is why some photographs have not only made history they have changed it .What is more. sometimes, “[P]hotographs do more than document history – they make it”(Ted.com, 2010). HOME

  8. Contradictions “Photography is essentially an act of non-intervention…The person who intervenes cannot record; the person who is recording cannot intervene” (Sontag, 1977:36). Also, often the very newspapers that publish these photographs, politically support the policies responsible for the violence (Berger, 2001). War photographs, for example, do not always awaken concern because they reflect a discontinuous moment, whose “moral and emotional weight depends on where it is inserted (Sontag, 1977:201). HOME

  9. Remediation Had Thamus been alive when the camera was invented, he probably would not have approved. The use of the camera and photography certainly redefined what was meant by memory. Before the invention of the camera the image of an event was fixed in memory, unless one had the money and time to pay an artist to paint it. Photographs became not so much instruments of memory, but replacements of it (Proust, cited in Berger, 2001). That is why Postman (1992:18) believes that technological change “is neither additive nor subtractive” but “ecological” and “generates total change”. “Remediation involves both homage and rivalry, for the new medium imitates some features of the older medium, but also makes an implicit or explicit claim to improve on the older one” (Bolter, 2001:23). Unlike paintings, photographs were light, cheap and easy to collect. In addition, it could be argued that photography not only remediated painting, but prose as well; ‘a picture tells a thousand words’. Words describe events, while images present a ‘visual statement’ (Sontag, 1977). It is not the same to ‘read’ a verbal text than to ‘read/view’ a self-contained image (Bolter, 2001:63). HOME

  10. Economical Remediation also takes place at an economic level, the new medium, as well as what is being remediated, has to find its economic place (Bolter & Grusin, 1996:24). With industrialization, cameras became cheaper and photographs ubiquitous; this would change how art was perceived, valued and even used (Berger, 1972a). Photographs may not achieve the same market value as some famous works of art, but they have become potent weapons in advertising and today’s consumer society. HOME

  11. Social New technologies alter “the nature of community”, and the “character of our symbols” (Potsman, 1992:20). For example, prior to the invention of the camera and the existence of photographs, images formed a part of the building they were designed for; this has changed (Berger, 1972a). Industrialization also brought about change in family structure. “Photography becomes a rite in family life” and a way to remember the extended family that was no more (Sontag, 1977: 17). Unlike public photographs, most private photographs are not void of context; the image – maker and the viewer can usually remember the event surrounding the moment captured. The camera captures the event and immortalizes it. HOME


  13. Political Photography has also served as a surveillance tool for modern states: using photographs, for military purposes, identification and control of its population, not to mention political propaganda amongst other things. The impact and change the camera has and continues to have, is immense. Its influence in social, political and economical change should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, great emphasis is placed on ‘verbal text’ reading literacies; however, visual literacy is rarely taught. This is definitely an area that merits our attention. HOME

  14. References Berger, J. (1972a). “Ways of seeing –episode 1”. BBC. Retrieved September 30th, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnfB-pUm3eI Berger, J. (1972b). “Ways of seeing”. England: BBC and Penguin Books. Berger, J. (1980). “Understanding a photograph”Classic Essays on Photography ed. by Alan Trachtenberg. New Haven: Leete’s Island Books (291-294). Retrieved September 25th, 2012, from http://www.lawforlife.org.uk/data/files/understanding-a-photograph-by-john-berger-383.pdf Berger, J. (2001). “Selected Essays” USA: Vintage Books, Random House [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com. Bolter, J.D. & Grusin, R. (1996). “Remediation”. Configurations 4.3, 311-358. Retrieved October 18th, 2012 from http://lmc.gatech.edu/~objork3/1101/fall07/remediation.pdf Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Magritte, R. (nd). Photoquotes.com. Retrieved October 20th, 2012, from http://www.photoquotes.com No author (nd). Hitler with German Youth. Charles Overstreet Collection, Flora Public library. Retrieved October 5th, 2012, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/imlsdcc/4295579767/ No author (nd). Geronimo – detail showing photographer reflected in his eye. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Retrieved October 5th, 2012, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/5890980020/ Reneé, V. (). My family. Retrieved October 5th, 2012, from, http://www.flickr.com/photos/valerierenee/125931897/ Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books. Sontag, S. (1977). “On Photography”. USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com. Sontag, S. (2003). “Regarding the Pain of Others”. USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The Economist Magazine(February 12, 2010). At War: photographer Don McCullin. Retrieved October 5th, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVZe4rQKcls.

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