Stranger (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jul 29, 2017.

  1. Next up, Phil will be sticking out his tongue and yelling "I'm rubber, you're glue . . ."

    And that won't even make a strange picture. It will seem very familiar.
  2. An exception would be Richard Mosse's INFRA series where he used infrared color film turning the landscape's vegetation into deep pink purple hues to "make the invisible visible" conceptually but also as an aesthetic device to make the viewer connect more with the subject matter.
  3. .............

    For me, the infrared seems to be a way to say, "this is not landscape photography; something is very wrong here." At the bottom of your linked page — which I really enjoyed looking at — he describes the work as war photography. Whatever it is, the off colors do grab my attention and do make the pictures off-kilter enough to make me spend more time looking at them.

    Pink is such a weird color, wherever it's found. Large format pink is ... gorgeous and sick at the same time. It's good work. Thanks.

  4. "I wanted to export this technology to a harder situation, to up-end the generic conventions of calcified mass-media narratives and challenge the way we're allowed to represent this forgotten conflict...I wanted to confront this military reconnaissance technology, to use it reflexively in order to question the ways in which war photography is constructed."

    It's war photography the way Picasso's Guernica is war painting. Art is the main drive here and I think Mosse is right how as a photographer you're only supposed or allowed to depict war and conflict in a certain way.

    The Heatmap series is also interesting.
  5. Some of his landscapes are useful meditations on Romanticism. The spirit of the individual against the backdrop of the grand raw landscape. In others there's a hint of what Martin Parr also points to: the individual reduced to a destructive collective impeding on the natural landscape. There's also the echo of Stephen Shore.
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  6. ........
    faceless 'stranger'

    Masks have already been brought up several times in this thread, but another kind of 'stranger' is the amorphous, unidentified, faceless source of some act. Not even a mask; a presence that's not there, but that is acting on us.

    Unlike the located, face of 'stranger,' this kind of thing, this kind of questioning, is done very often, and sometimes very well and by photography. Pictures that know that "somebody did this" and yet can't say "who did this." Intent, responsibility, is out there, somewhere, but it has no face. For example, W. Eugene Smith's famous picture from his Minamata series:

    Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath

    Who did that?

    Or, look at this picture from Masanhisa Fukase's Slaughter:

    woman lying on the slaughterhouse butchering table

    Why didn't he just take a picture of workers butchering an animal? Because the workers aren't to blame for the slaughter industry. Who is? Who does that? You?
  7. Billions of animals are mechanically murdered each year after having lived in cruel environments. The willfully blind consumer wanting cheap meat is to blame, the consumer thinking they want or need meat to begin with is to blame, lack of empathy and lack of intelligence is to blame, and yes, the workers are definitely also to blame (many of whom grow into being either desensitized or borderline psychotic in such an environment). Meateaters should all be forced to work in slaughterhouses as long as slaughterhouses exist.

    No Strangers
  8. This is far afield from the topic of the thread but as a card carrying omnivore I couldn't resist adding some nonsense. I'll pull my stint inthe slaughterhouse if I get to take a few steaks home at cost once a week. ;)
    Of course I hope in this system that the vegetarians are compelled to work in the fields. :)
    When our nourishment all comes from synthetic materials originating with ores mined on asteroids we can all live (happily??) together, till we find more stuff to disagree about. Enough said, over and out.
  9. Which per citizen will be almost 20 times less the area size than those required for meat and dairy production. The main point is that the majority of meat eaters wouldn't last a week working in a slaughterhouse, the hypocrites that they are. ;)
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2017
  10. Was browsing through this book today in a bookstore. No stranger stands out and yet because of the similarity in look and style the differences of each individual becomes more apparent. It's all a bit mundane.

    People of the 21st Century
  11. This thread makes me think of...
  12. ...............

    "It is the very being of children which we, the aged, have forgotten, or refuse to recall."​

    That's Ashraf Jamal in his essay, 'Giants,' that is in Pieter Hugo's book, 1994, which is pictures of children from Rwanda and South Africa [see Hugo's own text in the OP to the 'Our Beloved No Words ... ' thread].

    From Jamal:

    "It is as if the Arcadia which children occupy is one which the adult world must disavow and shatter, be it out of envy, hate or despair, because of its own exile from that world. Tom Stoppard underscores this perversity by noting the erroneous and dangerous assumption that 'Because children grow up, we think a child's purpose is to grow up.' The root of this error in judgment stems from our inability to imagine a childhood freed from the curse of time and history. And yet, as Stoppard adds: 'A child's purpose is to be a child.'

    "... It is curious therefore that, while societies worldwide uniformly abuse the rights and freedoms of children, it is children, or rather the idea of childhood, that emerges as the ultimate fetish and fantasy of liberation for the aged. If 'youth' is routinely abused, it is as routinely exalted and enshrined. Emblematic of that most avidly sought-after elixir — the 'lost horizon' of eternal youth — children are reminders of our lost past, our supposed innocence, which is why they are despised all the more, and why we, the aged despisers of the free will of children, inaccurately declare that 'youth is wasted on the young.' "​

    I think that almost all photography of children, including (especially) of adolescents, is of the idea of childhood, our idea of childhood; not of children. Obviously, I interact with children all the time, but I don't think they have the vaguest clue of where I'm at, and I don't really have any idea of where they're at. I never even think about it. Children are always around; I take my relationship with them, lovingly instinctively, whatever it is, for granted. But now that I stop and think about it, I find that they are 'stranger' to me, and I think that I am 'stranger' to them. More from Jamal:

    "... as if willing the very inverse of a culture that seeks to abbreviate, foreshorten, and empty the moment of exchange between the viewer and the viewed, Hugo sought to open up and aerate the moment of insight."

    "... Precocity pervades every one of Hugo's photographs. This precocity or self-knowing is not the upshot of the adage that 'one is wiser than one's years.' Indeed, the last thing that Hugo is interested in entertaining is our perverse relationship with youth, our desire to either destroy or idealize it. Despite the fact that he has composed, designed, lit his subjects, they are not fetish objects or glibanthems to beauty. Rather each subject pulses, fixes our eye, disturbs our composure. That they do so without aggression, without placing some moral demand upon us, without triggering our guilt, reveals the power of Hugo's image — they are all-importantly extra-moral, occupying a space outside the grim circuitry of the exploitative economy of youth."​

    Returning to Stoppard's comment that it is our mistake that "we think a child's purpose is to grow up," I agree with that. My own experience as a child was so massively present, so totally 'now' that there was no room for 'the future' whatever that was. My eldest sibling, seven years older than myself, was seen as a remote, unknowable 'grown-up' though she was herself not an 'adult.'

    You can see some of Hugo's 1994 pictures here.

    I'm going to do two more posts today, on two other photographers who have photographed children: Rineke Dijkstra and Hellen van Meene. Stay tuned ...
  13. .............
    Rineke Dijkstra

    I'm not a fan of her work. I know that many people love her, so I won't belabor my opinion. What I'm interested in is what I think is her very typical 'take' on what she's doing with her pictures of adolescents. I think she is a good example of someone who is showing us the idea of childhood as sort of an apprenticeship to adulthood: kind of mini-adults or baby adults. This is what Jamal, in my previous post, has argued against.

    She talks about her breakthrough moment in 1986 when working as an editorial photographer:

    "People being photographed on commission, and definitely for a magazine, are highly aware of how they present themselves. Especially when it comes to businesspeople who want to convey confidence, they adopt a role according to set codes. That made the work tedious. I kept looking for the specific nature of every person I was photographing — "What makes him different from all the others?" — and never got that to come out. Only when, during a shoot, I'd be putting in a new roll of film and then look up for a second, that's when I'd suddenly see it: "Ah, that's the real him." "​

    That's pretty orthodox, unsurprising, modern portrait approach, I think. She believes she can find (connect with; understand) the 'real him.' In describing her interactions with children, she always talks about when/where she recognizes them as becoming adults. And her subjects know it. Here is what one of her 'beach' girls said:

    "When I met Rineke at the beach, it was very windy. I kept thinking, Oh god, my hair, it's not going to look right. But I don't remember it being difficult at all. I fumbled around, trying to give what I thought I was supposed to be giving."​

    While I'm not a fan of Dijkstra's work, I don't fault her for her attitude. There's nothing 'wrong' with it. I use it as an example of how adults typically photograph children.
  14. ..............
    Hellen van Meene

    She's more interesting than Dijkstra (not necessarily 'better'). I think she is aware that she doesn't know what children 'are,' but at the same time, she's not really noticing that children are (possibly) out of reach or 'stranger.' One of the better essays (by Kate Bush, 2004) about van Meene begins with a quote from van Meene:

    " 'The photographs are not meant to be portraits, which is why they have no titles. It is not my intention to give expression to their personality or state of mind. Nor do I want to sketch a sociological image of contemporary youth or girls at the moment of puberty. ... As a matter of fact, I treat my models as objects that you can direct and guide. They are simply material for me.' "​

    " ... Van Meene's windows are opaque rather than transparent, not thresholds to elsewhere, but barriers or reflecting surfaces that emphasize the isolation of the figure locked within its own psychic space.

    "Their gaze never meets ours. They exist in a state of peculiar self-absorption, their eyes shut or averted or simply void (as in the empty, dark apertures of the young Japanese girl with flying hair, or the girl who has painted fake pupils on her eyelids). In refusing to glance toward the viewer and thus share their conscious sense of themselves, the models seem to assert the autonomy of 'their picture' and protect its self-enclosed space from our probing eyes. This self-containment could in itself be recognized as a feature of childhood or early adolescence — no one has such a capacity to be consumed by his or her own interests as a child — but in pictorial terms, it could also explain why painting is so often invoked in relation to van Meene's photographs."​

    It's interesting to note that while almost all of van Meene's pictures do not have eye contact, when I did a Google image search, almost all of the pictures that came up were the few that do have eye contact. People are picking them out and featuring them.

    And yet ... Van Meene's conflicted approach can be shown if I expand the lead quote from her at the start of the Bush essay, above. If I look in one of her earlier books, I find a fuller version of it, talking about her child models:

    "I can relate to them. I understand them better. I see in them what I once was. Their attitude is stillness; they are not really committed yet, they are still playful and open-minded; they still have this touching susceptibility, they are still themselves."​

    That comes immediately preceding the quote already given above:

    "'The photographs are not meant to be portraits, which is why they have no titles. It is not my intention to give expression to their personality or state of mind. Nor do I want to sketch a sociological image of contemporary youth or girls at the moment of puberty. ... As a matter of fact, I treat my models as objects that you can direct and guide. They are simply material for me."​

    The added quote seems to directly contradict its next paragraph, yet they are written together. I leave it to you to figure it out.

    Here are samples of her work:

    from The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits (her most recent work)
    more from Rabbits
    from earlier work
    another earlier

    Three photographers, three different approaches to the strangeness of children.
  15. ^ These examples seem to me to be a bit too self consciously contrived. Children aren't strange, but childhood is and adults are. Look at Helen Levitt's pictures from In the Street and the chalk drawings made by the playing children interacting with their environment. Apparently it was at a time when there was no air-conditioning so in the summer everyone in NYC went outside including all the children. What a bustling nest of activity that must have been, a street photographer's dream.

    Example 1

    Example 2

    Example 3

    Example 4

    Example 5

    Example 6

    I too remember drawing with chalks on the street like that in the summertime. Scratched knees and elbows could somehow feel like the best things in the world. Now most children are glued to tablets. Which brings me to the following series from an artist named Mintio (featured in the Photography Today book by Phaidon though I can only find a Flickr page and one other obscure page of her work online). These are double exposure portraits of teenagers addicted to computer games and the virtual world they are interacting in. It shows how the same technology can be both connecting and alienating, and not only to children or teenagers of course.

    T.H.O.H.Y (aka The Hall of Hyperdelic Youths)
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2017
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  16. If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves. - Carl Jung

    The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, a characteristic also of the child, and as such it appears inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable. It is therefore short-sighted to treat fantasy, on account of its risky or unacceptable nature, as a thing of little worth. - Carl Jung
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  17. I agree with Phil above. Van Meene's photographs seem very contrived and after a couple, for me lose interest. The hair hiding the face, no matter how symbolic and the realms of different meanings that can convey, gets over used and I'm not sure the settings add anything. And it seems all her photos have the quality of contrived lifelessness. I can understand that she is creating an ultimate objectification of children or whomever her models are, that of null feeling. But it doesn't read as stranger to me, it reads as artificial and fake. That kind of pseudo-strange can't come anywhere close to the strangeness value of the ultimate objectification of humans done by I hate to bring him up again, but Peter Witkin. I look at that stuff and everything inside me just flips out.

    That's not to say that Van Meene isn't a fine photographer, she really is a beautiful photographer and I can appreciate the craft of her images and her exploration. Still, though, her stuff is too stiff.
  18. ..............

    Pieter Hugo has another project called 'The Journey' that is described here and which you can see some of here:

    The Journey 1
    The Journey 2

    Some commentators have compared these Hugo pictures to those taken by Walker Evans with a hidden camera on the subway, but I think that's not right. Evans's pictures are of people wearing their 'public face.' Hugo's aren't.

    This also harks back to my much earlier post #30 from Roland Barthes:


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