Thursday, July 1, 2010

5. EXPOSED@The Tate Modern discussion with fellow OCA students

After seeing the exhibition, Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera, at the Tate Modern, a group of us shared a cup of tea and discussed our reactions with Gareth Dent. There was a variety of people, not all doing the photography course with some also involved in other disciplines such as writing; it included Dave B who is apparently well known on the OCA forums. In fact, there was some discussion about the OCA forums since Gareth often has to moderate these particularly when discussions become arguments and people can get angry or just plain silly.

Something I learnt almost immediately from the discussion is that the photograph of the Queen and her corgi's seen in the exhibition is not actually of the Queen but uses models. This photographer had fooled me completely and left me wondering what the significance of the image in this context was. One might devote a whole exhibition to the forms of subterfuge that photography uses!

Nan Goldin's "Ballad of Sexual Dependency" was discussed and there was the suggestion that this was a sensationalist exhibit. I could not agree as the themes she is dealing with of which violence plays a big part (one photo is of her own bruised face) have been around for a long time and will no doubt continue to be. She is one of the few photographers who has been able to capture sexual abuse intelligently.

The question of whether one should ask before photographing came up. There were different views since this is something that is likely to vary from situation to situation. What about photographing people sleeping on pavements?

Should people be seen smiling as they often do when being photographed, a response that gives a rather predictable feel to an image. There was an interesting insight from Kate Eshete who lives in Ethiopia. When photographing people for sponsorship, she had to tell them not to smile to make them look more unhappy and hence more likely to attract sponsors. This brought up the issue of photographers making images with a pre-conditioned mindset on what to show and reveal and hence possibly missing what is there.

Someone pointed out that many photojournalists are not motivated by a desire to record events but by a wish to become rich and famous, to aspire to a certain kind of lifestyle. I presume this is so but the photojournalists I have met do not seem to fall into this category; they really do seem to care about what they are doing.

We went on to discuss the effects some of the violent events that photographers have witnessed might be on their own psyches and those of others.

Simon Norfolk's photography was mentioned. He photographs the sidelines of war rather than the action.

We discussed Susan Sontag's viewpoint that although violent images tend to desensitise us they also help to make us more aware of what is going on.

I found myself wondering what the exhibition was really about. A particular genre of photography or merely violence? I have another visit planned and purchasing the book of the exhibition may further help to understand the exhibition as a whole.

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