PHO702: Week 8 Coursework Responses and Responsibilities

Responses & Responsibilities

Reflection (this paragraph is due to move to the relevant blog post)

With work piling up fast again I’ve pressed ahead this week. At Week 5 I’d finally got organised over the coursework finishing on a Friday rather than the Sunday (or later) and this left time for reading activity. I do need to do more research into Mark Rothko. Attendance at the FFTheLivingImage took 7 days out of my schedule and put me behind again. Week 6 work I’ve only part covered at present. The tactic adopted is the simple one of keeping up to date with the current (live) work and go back to earlier sections of the course and catch-up. The pressure is on with a video due to be made for Peer review in the short term. Not mentioned is Week 7. It was reserved for Tutorials which I engaged with and wrote up but probably need to revisit for some finishing touches including doing more i.e. re-issuing the draft Critical Review.

Week 8 Resources and Responsibilities

A quick read ahead of Benjamin (Benjamin, 1982) has helped to distil something of the theme and intent of this week’s study.

A particular element of my portfolio project continues to be authenticity. Therefore it was with interest I read, “the Revolutionary strength of Dadaism lay in testing art for its authenticity.  [ibid, page 23]. This gives me some comfort as a starting position.

I also take note in nourishing my work in respect of technical progress in reading the claim that, “… intellectual production cannot become politically useful until … competence … has been surmounted.” [ibid, page 24]. A direct interpretation might be of photographic technical competence, but it runs much deeper. As a photographic author it is necessary to understand the production quality of work and be able to do a lot more than simply represent, instead take control and change aspects of the methods of creating imagery and as a means of instructing other authors of the same.

This takes something that runs deep in my work and places it front and centre more in the realm of the political or of propaganda. 

If I take a first stab at this interpretation it would be that in much the same way as our Jewish friends are committed to never letting the memory of the Holocaust die, then the same with my work, the loss of dear ancestors, who remain alive in living family today should not be forgotten. In a way the raw outpourings of the Scottish people and then decades of silence of hidden loss, the gaps I refer to, makes ongoing memory a challenge and so my works effort. My work transmits beyond centenary commemorations of 2014-2018 and lives with descendants just as mitochondrial DNA passes down to them.

Such loss and sacrifice and the brave deeds must be remembered with each new generation and whilst we celebrate our lives, we should not allow world events to take such a turn in the future. As sure as history repeats itself then that is the eternal risk.

Finally from this reference, and I had had not expected such a reading to be so transformative, I quote and reflect upon a referral, “The excellent Lichtenberg said: ‘It is not what a man is convinced of that matters, but what his convictions make of him’”[ibid, page 27]. By such process I need to ensure that my work on this MA Photography course leads me to exercise voice through my transformed photographs as abstract expressionism and in intent through art as an experience. 

We, I in particular should do and create within my sphere of influence and make work that helps to ensure successive generations remember. This is not too dissimilar to how painter Rachel Howard (Howard Rachel, 2018) draws attention to the repetition of mistake from Christ’s crucifixion through to torture at Abu Ghraib supporting the doubt that we will ever learn.


Benjamin, W. (1982) ‘The Author as Producer [IN] Thinking photography’, in Burgin, V. (ed.) Thinking photography. London: Macmillan.

Howard Rachel (2018) Repetition is truth via Dolorosa. Edited by A. C. Beard Jason. London: Other Criteria Books. Available at:

Week 8 What Can Photography Do

Week 8 CRJ Independent Reflection

Week 8 Activity Aesthetic or Anaesthetic

The particular body of work that aims to convey a particular message and that is relevant to my practice has to be:

Rachel Howard Repetition is Truth via Dolrosa, Newport Street Gallery London – exhibition now closed.

The work at first is of Catholic significance, in using the journey of Christ along Dolorosa carrying the cross to the site of crucifixion on the hill at Calvary. 

The visual language of the paintings immediately resonated with images I’d abstracted from Photographs and had posted online and part included in my submission to Falmouth University for this MA Photography course. In showing my images to Olympia who worked there, she was amazed by the similarities of paintings and abstracts. Conversation continued about belief in God, attempts by a dark force to frustrate work and how this work was my life’s mission. Very heavy indeed. An interesting diversion over an ongoing series of coincidences. Coincidences which threatened my engagement and continuation in photography continued into my first two modules of this course.

The paintings of Howard are intended to influence the audience and those in political power. The work addresses repetition of inhumanity first directed towards Christ and then towards prisoners of the US tortured at Abu Ghraib. 

The work in exhibition was successful in its metaphor for the twelve stages of the cross as the viewer is required to walk from one large scale painting  to another traversing rooms as if retracing Christ’s footsteps. This may become more apparent afterwards if b=not at the time. The reference to Abu Ghraib is through the vertical lines on the paintings sometimes descending to a painted area representing the box used in torture.Those tortured were required to stand on the box, wear a hood and had electrodes attached to sensitive areas of the body.

The paintings are light and airy and have a sense of the impending. You imagine the artist doubts whether humankind will ever learn from mistakes through repetition of cruel behaviour as if part if human nature and human history.

With the backing of Damien Hirst (they both attended Goldsmiths College University of London), Howard’s  work takes on additional significance given the installation work Hirst is known for: including cutting mother and calf from nose to tail for one exhibit at the Tate Modern and doing roughly the same with a shark in a tank. This theme of butchery resonates strangely with Howard’s work. 

It was possible to walk into the gallery and leave without effect, but for me, as soon as the enquiring mind engaged and the communication began the work transmitted. Then my own work was cast in the shadow of Howard’s intent and so much so that I wrote to the gallery afterwards. More follows.

Week 8 Presentation The Environment and the Eye

Week 8 Independent Reading Good Intentions

[A] The main ideas/points/arguments you think Sischy makes about Salgado’s work?

[B] Whether you agree or disagree with this view and why?

[C] Any issues raised that apply to your own practice?

[A] There is a blatant dislike that serves to sour our appreciation of Salgado. [B] As we learned elsewhere, the Galleries and Curatorial system self serves in its selection of work that drives artists/photographers to make work that they would publish. There is nothing said by Salgrado that one can take in and decide upon independently. It is the mission of Sischy to taint Salgado with the choices that the Gallery system has decided upon. In allowing his work to be managed by the Gslleries Salgado has put his trust in their discernment. It seems clear that his trust may have been mistaken.

[A] There is a theme in Sischy’s argument that a Brazilian photographer has no or limited right to represent other nationals. [B] That is an opinion I could agree or disagree with independently, case by case.

[A] There is an undermining of Salgado’s work as being restricted to the type of magazine that no longer has any appreciable sway in the modern world in which television prevails. With such reduced demand it would seem that Salgado is ideally positioned to swamp the market.

[A] The beauty that the photograph is often referred to as creating and is present in Salgado’s work is deemed to create anesthetisation leads to anaesthetisation of feeling. [B]Well this of course is the exact thing that television has been found to do. Through passive engagement, and lightness of touch on thought processes television which has taken over paralyses the viewer who simply stares back at the screen.

[A] Biblical themes are seen to enter Salgado’s work. [B] This is no more than the photograph being a window on the photographers soul. Why should Salgado be less immune to this than any other?

[A] There is a challenge that depicting suffering can be read in the light of God’s will, implying and so it shall be that people shall suffer.

[A] Salgado is criticised for being a symbolist rather than portraitist. [B] We have not been shown visual examples of Salgado’s work for this to become apparent. I can accept it as true and yet keep an open mind. 

[A] / [B] Salgado’s work is self-directed, and how wonderful and liberating that can be. It is then judged as anesthetisation as opposed to reportage, If it were to be reportage then for this level of work surely there would be a sponsor, a commissioning editor and a picture editor. By which definition reportage is manipulated and controlled by others in return for a payment. IT is hard to blame the photographer for the direction their personal projects take.

[A] Salgado’s work of people is likened to the language of Landscape photography of the picturesque rather than portraiture. [B] There is one equality in photography and that is light and the use of light. If used incorrectly a poor image may be created of little consequence. A good light is beautiful wherever it falls in this world. And so to make a photograph that communicates a god 9beautiful light is a necessary thing.

[A] Comparison is made with other photographers, smith and Hine. It appears that some reservation is retained over Smith’s work and Hine is applauded for the outcome of Child Labor Law changes.[b] There is by metamorphosis an implication that Hine was responsible for the change, yet how true is that really?

[A] Sentimentalism is said to be apparent In Salgado’s work. [B] Surely that is something resolved between the photographer and the viewer and not to be tainted by the critic? 

[C] My work could be deemed as naïve if it wanted to change the world especially as there is no track record of experience in such weighty matters. What started out as a dedication to family and has the possibility to pass down generations including those yet to come may have some credence.

[C] My work could be deemed to contain items of revulsion, as after all that is a part of my punctum, in making the work worthwhile. There is a delicate balance within pieces of my imagery. Largely the photograph containing revulsion is highly disguised and distracts and may be seen as introducing beauty. However, there is trace and so the mind can focus on the mixture rather than pure anesthetisation. 

[C] Biblical themes did begin to enter my work and in particular the sign of the Christian cross was often apparent. I realise now that I had been open to viewing such images and in the subconscious and using intuition the cross did start to appear in my photographs. A case of seeing what you want to see. I feel this is now tempered and a level of self-awareness has since developed that counters an increase in iconography.

[C] Whether my work is iconographic or not, I can’t say. It is certainly metaphorical but I’m not sure that is at all the same thing.

[C] My own work may have a sentimentalism, but such is the nature of remembering, communication of lost messages across the decades and the family as audience. Perhaps others may view such in the light of their own family experiences.

Week 8 Module Leader Sessions

These sessions have expanded beyond their original remit to include reviews of the work in the current week, crits, practice session and special lectures e.g. the series to date has include The Gaze Part I and Landscape photography.

This has to be one of the greatest value adds of the two year MA Photography course Informing Contexts module. Not all students attend maybe concentrating hard on work and family commitments or doing individual research.

Week 8 Forum An Agent of Change

Photography in concert with other forms of communication including video, military recordings and media conferences, interviews and reports brought the US to a ceasefire after the Highway of Death destruction and killing in the retreat of Iraqi forces from Kuwait occupation.

Whilst shocking subject material should be censored, we have become so accustomed by exposure and it is increasingly more difficult to shock. I’m remined of the extremes of creating shock in which Marina Abramovic stood naked before a table of implements at a gallery in Belgrade and invited the audience to do whatever they wished to her.. She walked away dripping with blood and tears. On another occasion she carved a communist star into her abdomen. We are so immune to shock it takes such extremes of Performance Art to induce shock in an audience.

Week 8 Introduction Responses and Responsibilities

[A] What images provoke a sense of responsibility for you?

[B] How do they achieve this?

[C] Are they merely propaganda?

Another difficult reading with an accompanying barrage of questions. Here are answer to the headline ones.

[A] Not an image but a series of factual reports for me are what caused the nation to reject Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government as dangerous incompetents and thus they were voted out of power. Perhaps the exercise of restraint after the Highways of Death (Highway 80 and Highway 8) killing of a retreating column of military said more than actual raw images of horror.

[B] Having proven the power to destroy a military force then afterwards holding back on killing showed a greater humanity.

[C] Whilst many images are propaganda as discrete soundbites, they do fail to shock as hinted at constantly throughout the video lecture. Many younger members of society are probably immune to destructive forces by exposure to war video games. Players get to experience the excitement and feeling of power, and of camaraderie when in opposition to an enemy. They “die” using up one of their lives. Older generations may remain silent. In other words, different demographics have different values and responses. 

Returning to the question: propaganda or not? I couldn’t say. Media profit yes. Filling that eternally emptying broadcast bandwidth with something new, yes. I’m reminded of the phrase “Drop the Dead Donkey”. 

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