For our debate we were given a topic based on Walker Evans’ quote, “All photography is exploitative and voyeuristic”, our group was for the debate rather than against and we decided that we would give one another different photographic genres to research that is relatable to all photography being exploitative and voyeuristic. Once we had each done our research we met back up as a group and shared what we had found before piecing it together as a presentation and running through who does what slide and prompting ourselves what to say.
First we looked at the dictionary definition of exploitative and voyeuristic to have a better understanding of what they mean and what we should be researching to backup our debate.
We looked at the FSA Scheme, which was a photographic scheme set up to capture post-depression America, for example, probably one of the more well-known photos, ‘Migrant Mother’ by Dorothea Lange. Was ‘the migrant mother’ a symbol of hope, or victim of exploitation? As you can see in the slide there were different photos of the ‘migrant mother’, one close up portrait of the mother and another photo of the whole family. Were these photographs over exaggerated to exploit viewers emotions?
We then looked at Sally Mann’s photography of her naked children, we thought this was exploitative and voyeuristic as the children were too young to understand the repercussions, and although she had her children’s permission to photograph them, the children were underage so shouldn’t be been photographed and then presented in books and exhibitions. Also it’s exploitation of a child’s naivety and harmful for child’s future. She may not be the voyeur as she has her children’s ‘permission’ but we as the viewers are forced to become voyeurs of her and her children’s intimate lives.
After this we looked into one of Richard Billingham’s projects, ‘Ray’s a Laugh’, this project could be considered educational and give social class awareness as it’s showing what happens to people in different parts of life, how they look, how they act, the difference in characteristics, and how it may effect their family, for example, the state the house is in.
“Richard Billingham’s “Ray’s a Laugh”, published in 2000 by Scalo, is a bone jarring chronicle of the parts of life that shouldn’t… the life that tried, but wouldn’t, and dreams that simply couldn’t. It is a chronicle of everything that hurts… a cartoonish-nightmare jaunt through the land of alcohol-living, wet-smelly breath that stinks and simmers, chapped-lips that burn and crack, of space to live that shrinks and crowds further inward, of carpet that rots, of scratched linoleum that looks as if it wants to escape, of paint that wants to peel away and go somewhere else, of childhood dreams that learn to stay in the closet and behave, that learn to stay in my butts, far away, of love and devotion that exists but is trampled on by vice and forcefully dominated by earthly human-short-circuits. It is a photographic vision of magnificence… but, magnificence in poverty and pain, in tragedy, of brilliance in ugliness, an aesthetic tour-de-snapshot-force of voyeurism and realism.” D. Rickard, 2010.
All of this is what other people wouldn’t even realise is going on, so this project helps show awareness, whilst also capturing horrible times that people usually don’t want to show and what people probably wouldn’t want to see. This is exploitive, but for educational purposes. However, is this harmful?
We then looked at advertising and CGI in photography, for example, the advertising for Subway. The tasty looking Subway sandwich looks really appealing and appetizing, obviously so that it would make people want to go to Subway and buy a sandwich, however this advertising isn’t of an actual sandwich, the sandwich being used as advertisement is made of clay. This is as it’s making use of a situation, advertisement, and treating customers unfairly by making them believe that is what their sandwich will be like and they’re doing that in order to gain an advantage and benefit, sales.
We also looked into car advertisement, these photographs or/and video advertisements are mostly all CGI, hardly any of them are actually photographs of the car itself, or some may partly be photographs but then edited beyond photographs and into CGI. “At least 80 to 90% of ads actually contain some CGI, especially car ads.” M, Varley. 2013. This therefore glamorizes the car and making it look better than it is, which is exploitive as again, it’s making the customers think highly of the product by the look of it on advertisements and therefore buying that product, which won’t be as good as the advertisement as the advertisements aren’t the real thing, again, treating them unfairly in order to gain an advantage and benefit. “Computers have been used for years to create fantasy images and improve landscapes in ads, creating generic cityscapes and inserting well-known landmarks into the background. But the question on the consumer’s lips now is “why use trickery”?” M, Varley. 2013.
Another exploitative and voyeuristic part of photography is modelling, models having to be a certain size is for the purpose of sales, which is exploitive. Also, airbrushing the model to remove any imperfections or/and flaws is exploitive as it’s making use of a situation, models possibly having slight imperfections, and editing them in Photoshop, which is treating them unfairly so that they can benefit from it by making more sales. This is harmful as it’s creating examples for how people think they should look, which causes self doubt and lack of confidence and these models would be influential women for younger people who would do extreme things to themselves to look like those models do.
We then looked into landscape photography and found a photographer called Michael Wolf, who photographs people through the windows of their homes or/and workplace. This is voyeuristic and exploitive of peoples privacy and situations, watching people and making use of the fact that they won’t know it’s happening, exploiting them for the benefit of his photography. We also looked at Doug Rickard’s project, A New American Picture, this project is taking images of different streets in America from Google Maps street view and editing them to make a project out of. These images are of misery and bad weather conditions, showing misfortune. “All of the images are appropriated from Google Street View; over a period of two years, Rickard took advantage of the technology platform’s comprehensive image archive to virtually drive the unseen and overlooked roads of America, bleak places that are forgotten, economically devastated, and often abandoned.” (unknown source – taken from google books description). This is exploitive as again, the people don’t know they’re being used as part of project, which is invading their privacy and is harmful because those people may not want to be seen in those conditions or publicly in a exhibition.
Finally, we looked at commercial landscape photography. Commercial landscape photography is exploitive of viewers as they are usually for selling a place, editing is used to glamourize the place and make the place look perfect, creating images that are enticing. This is exploitive as the location that is photographed may not look anything like it should after being glamourized.
http://anewkindofmarketing.utalkmarketing.com/tag/car/ – M, Varley. 2013
http://www.americansuburbx.com/2010/07/richard-billingham-rays-laugh.html – D, Rickard. 2010.