PHO702:Week 5 Coursework Gazing at Photographs

Gazing at Photographs

Resources: Gazing at Photographs

Week 5 Webinar: Seeing Through Photographs

Week 5 CRJ: Independent Reflection

Week 5 Activity: Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men

First to list these Landscape photography female role models:

Astrid McGechan, Cheryl Hamer, Marianthi Lainas, Margaret Soraya, Susan Brown, Fre Hocking and Morag (Mog) Paterson an Intentional Camera Movement ICM specialist from Castle Douglas in Southern Scotland who I met briefly back in November !

Resonance (or otherwise)

Ideas from the above resource that resonate. Rather than resonate actually,  some of the content I found to be quite shocking. Here are some examples:

The nexus of the following: the major museums, art history, the art market and the loop of acceptance by photographers combine to deliberately cut out representation by women,  formally stylise landscape work when there are detractors, and they exercise power to push aside photographers for political reasons.

The way the landscape marks former inhuman actions such as through a monument to miners, gunned down by the Colorado State militia intent on squashing a strike. 

The way capital is made of the land has created a major force whether that is with regards energy or making of places such as Disneyland for the tourist trade.

I’m not sure how disingenuous the argument of viewing the landscape as a dynamic environment people use the land rather than the land being a primeval site. Planning of land use for feminist purpose and the reconsidering of land for women to use other than simply for going shopping was another example.

Female reproduction leading to perspectives of women as nature does seem dated. 

Some of the language categories were interesting in terms of power: Public | Private | State | Government and in terms of aesthetic: Noble | Picturesque |Sublime | Mundane

Select an image:

I’ve selected the following image from Adbusters #142 The Metameme Insurrection from from within the Advertising Subject Guide. I hold no personal opinions about the subject of the campaign, the image being selected for the loud visual language that is readily apparent. Along with the text it makes a very tough point.

Meme image from Adbusters #142 The Metameme Insurrection

Activism is about as far removed from my ways as it is possible to get. This meme however right or wrong in intent, certainly does jar.

The whole thing looks highly political, and is full of the macho thing we read about in the resource above. Whereas that discussion related back to the 1920s Western Cowboy films and occupation of the land and male control over the landscape since, here we have a modern reference of counter-hegemony.

Week 5 Presentation 2: Just Giving?

This topic is about other and likely to cause debate for the simple reason that in society we are biased towards people like ourselves. We feel safer, more secure and confident (less stressed). We tend to be simply more at ease in the company of those like us:

  • same race,
  • same belief system,
  • same gender,
  • same intellect,
  • same politics,
  • same profession,
  • same wealth,
  • same power, and so the list goes on.

Enlightenment can lead to richer relationships, understanding and cohesion, but maybe this requires effort. One of the factors that defines human intelligence is laziness. We are driven to find easier ways that require less effort. Part of how we evolved.

It is being naturally human then to opt for an easier / lazy outlook and fall into feeling more comfortable with like people. This may have its dangers as without counter-hegemony groups can go on accepting leadership towards the mass polarised movement and the events we see unfold on the world stage.


When basing societies on the principle of fairness, then some individuals are stronger than others, and should help the weak, some are richer than others and so should help the poor e.g. through taxes.

Given this is how society is organised then institutions are formed to provide this balance, but in doing so there is the so called transaction cost. Whilst I see this an overhead for example in monetary term, there are also the inefficiencies faced those in need of finding the help required.

Charity Organisation- as actor

At this point, my thought turns to the parties discussed in the presentation. The charities are institutions in their own right, and so introduce further transaction cost. To me this indicates inefficiency of the state institutions as far as the weak and poor finding the support that is needed and indicates a degree of lack of measurement and lack of planning. 

This argument is saying that high transaction cost in the state provisioning and is met by charity by introducing further transaction cost. This next point as example is a bit different as legal powers are involved but serves to emphasise a point. If the police forces upon whom we depend for public safety were not able to execute their remit, then it would not be tolerated if vigilante groups set themselves up to take policing into their own hands. I’m not too happy with that connection, but hope the point translates. Even so, we learn of examples where vigilante groups operate or operated.

The presentation narrows the discussion to people of disability and probably does so as the topic is likely to generate a range of emotional responses alongside informed argument. 

As a strategy it may be valid to decompose societal inequality down by case. 

Advertising Agency – as actor

As for the ad agencies, they demonstrate how clever they are at their practice. Across the strategies they use we see an evolution of strategy and style. It is interesting to see how the minimalistic form has become more prevalent. In the case study, they are just agents of the Charities and so again area main contributor to the transaction cost. No matter how good they are we are talking about wastage.

Moral Dilemma (and excuses?)

Do I turn my back on those in need, certainly not. I’d begin with creating a strong environment for family to thrive in. In a sense this is one step towards alleviating the wider problem. Would I turn to those nearby, the elderly and recognise when they have times of need if I could make lives easier by offering some assistance from time to time? Yes. Do I gamble? No, but occasionally I will contribute by paying for a lottery ticket. Again though there is a transaction cost, of the Lottery Fund. My preference is to fund centrally like this as an additional level of tax, rather than evaluate individual charitable requests. As charitable causes go, much bad press is printed these days, over exploitation of power or misuse of funds.

Established Research in Giving

There was some post-doc research done at the University of Southampton to that analyse different social media strategies based on individuals as network nodes. Research was designed to optimise charitable campaigns/increase revenue. After receiving an online presentation on this work I did get to visit the University for further presentation and exhibition of the work. Southampton pride themselves on having on their staff, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Worldwide web. Their motivation for conducting social media research becomes clear.

Maybe, there is a sense of moral idealism in the above response. Also, as a lifelong advertisement rejectionist (as far as that is possible), I’ve only recently become open to advertising, Will I change and start lashing out donations left, right and centre. Hmm, let’s see. Sadly, for now I’m in the advertising space out of self interest to learn how to make my practice sing. Maybe influence will become unavoidable.

Week 5 Presentation 1: The Body and the Land

In passing, I register having seen one of the Course Leader’s published Husbandry photographs that use the foil of viewer seeing back of person looking into a rural landscape. So now that much is explained in the presentation. What remains is a question about the presence of fabric draped across a. wall in the middle distance. If I were to use imagination, one reading might be about the landscape dressed as female attired to match the man who is gazing. Is that it?

Learning of the work of Helen Chadwick and nature images created from swabs of intimate body parts then I hold out a bit more comfort towards the acceptability of my own images of trauma and healing of the body.

Do we continue to imagine the land as a female “other”?

In a source below there is an assertion of frequent lapses into cliched and obsolete discourses of landscape, gender and identity

Can you find examples of this, or find exceptions?

As asserted below there is a tendency towards gendered expression of land amongst American-Irish film producers. In trying to find exceptions, I’d look towards history and earlier times in Scotland where a clan chief might well be a woman, or in early England where for example Boudicca ruled. This highlights a different era with different power base giving hope of finding exception. Amazon warrior women once ran their society, so again potentially different perspectives on gendered landscape. Interestingly these examples bind race into the discussion and are somewhat historical in context.


Whilst I’ve been mostly unaware and automatically accepting of the norn regarding gender descriptions of landscape, it is clear from independent research that there is a history to the topic even going back to ancient times. Also, there are feminist issues at play. I find from my research that there is widespread coverage in conferences and through many publications. From this sea of references it is sufficient at the moment to pull out some example phrases and the name of a conference or practitioner


Some thoughts on the topic:

… frequently lapses into cliched and obsolete discourses of landscape, gender and identity and is redolent of American-Irish …

Thoughts on landscape and  gender, expressed through romanticism and poetry. Written about alongside race and identity. There are texts on gender and power in the landscape.

From Unframed Landscapes: Nature in Contemporary Art | NeMe

“Feminism in general, and ecofeminism in particular, have brought a new understanding of how gender has shaped the ways in which we see the environment. This has involved drawing attention to the ubiquitous binary coupling of women with nature and men with culture. Landscape art is deconstructed as mastery over nature that is evident in the rules of perspective and the stress on viewpoints for representing nature. Eco-feminists aspire to move beyond dualistic thinking and to establish relationships based not on hierarchy and domination, but on caring, respect, and awareness of interconnection.”


“The contemporary understanding of landscape includes the sense of it as ‘an ideological tool shaping the way in which we envision and construct the natural world.’ This aspect of landscape can be traced in the areas of gender, class, national identity and the exercise of colonial power.”

Historic connections between the landscape and women are studied by Dr Helen Damico.  Damico has made important contributions to the study of women in Old English and Old Norse literature. 

The topic has been addressed by a conference organised by the research project “Representing and Sensing Nature, Landscape and Gender” (Academy of Finland). (Gender, Nature and Culture (May 20-22, 2010, Helsinki, Finland), 2010)

Catherine Harper creates art connecting landscape and gender


Gender, Nature and Culture (May 20-22, 2010, Helsinki, Finland)(2010). Available at: (Accessed: 25 February 2019).

Week 5: Module Leader Sessions

Week 5 Forum: Fascinating Looks

Gazes in visual culture might be explained as being derivative of: an infant gaze of survival; adult gaze of reproduction. 

Within my practice it is difficult to pinpoint how the gaze fits in, as the processes of the digital darkroom obscure the original photographic content of which trace is present in colour, shape or form. This is perhaps an example of a veiled gaze. In this image the gaze is out into a form of landscape. This image is based on impressions, the body as “photogram”, in which the physical world is imprinted.


Other gazes are cognitive and priming: reading emotion into words, seeing through by reading between the lines, looking into the soul in empathising, or reading ahead of thought process. Some of these have a visual element? Perhaps there are many other gazes when committing to memory or when casting back to living memory and so on. These “gazes” relate to the viewer making an interpretation of my practice. There are intentional hidden levels of meaning which with contextualisation may become apparent to the viewer.

So, my photographic work is based on metaphorical representations. Gaze is related to making meaning whilst exploring the images.

I wrote a bit more explanation about this within a section of the CRJ titled “Week 4 Module Leader / Group Tutorial” at this link

Week 5 Introduction: Gazing at Photographs

Alpern in her so called anthropological study, and despite her openness with the viewer (and critically not with the subjects), is actually spying on folk in their partial attire, recording elicit behaviours and in one image kissing with a client who is possibly recognisable.

You do wonder if all this doesn’t whet the desire in Alpern, creating excitement over what she might discover. Given her vantage point and frequency of visits to her hidden location, was she being opportunistic? What if she recognised a client as a relative or as a public figure? There was a game of chance unfolding and an excitement – it could all suddenly go beyond her ability to control. 

As for the posed question over the inquisitive stare, this could be tricky. The photograph is a still so any stare within the scene will linger for always. The evidence of rudeness might be the reaction of the person being viewed and any shift that occurred in body language or posture. There is the role of the photographer present in the scene taking the picture whilst mediating and exercising a controlling influence. 

As for the viewer of the photograph they can look at a still for as long as they wish and nothing will change unless they are engaged in detailed analysis and make a series of observations. What may happen is the viewer may undergo a physiological reaction over whatever is depicted in the still.

In life, a stare that lingers may be deemed rude if the slowing down to look results in a fast startled reaction. There may be a sudden transition from slow to startled response of the person gazing. By now both parties become fully aware of the situation and a consequent reaction will no doubt play out.

And regards when representation becomes fetishization, this may be a different matter. Hall in Representation (Hall, 2013, 258)discusses the fetish in terms of cover, or of both looking and not looking. I’d previously understood the subject in terms of applying special properties or powers to a representation that really did not exist.

If we take the former definition from Hall, then you could argue that Alpern was engaged in both looking and not looking and so was exhibiting fetishization.


Hall, S. (2013) ‘The Spectacle of the Other’, in Hall, S., Evens, J., and Sean, N. (eds) Representation. 2nd edn. London, [England], p. 258.

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