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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Behind the photograph

Can A Photograph Really Capture whats inside? 

When you look a photograph, what do you see? What's really there? Unless you were physically involved in the process of the image can you tell? Annie Leibovitz was doing a shoot with Johnny Depp in a hotel room in New York in 1994, when his then current girlfriend Kate Moss was asked if she would pose with Johnny. The image portrays the true love of a high status couple 
I think it's true that a lot of photos true meaning is hidden, or the message is mis-interpreted. It's difficult to convey true emotion as photographs are often staged. However I feel when a photograph is candid, or at least candid in a similar sense to Leibovitz's, true emotion can be conveyed. This photograph to me captures a beautiful moment of serenity, and love. 
On the other hand you could say that it is pretty easy to remark upon the emotion when the context is known. As, if it was unknown the two were a couple at the time, perhaps this real emotion would not have been communicated. Knowing the context, history, or story have some grounding in the truth relating to the image will immediately change how we respond to and interpret what we are seeing, what is 'supposed' to be deciphered, rather than what is actually attained.

Sam Taylor Wood's series Crying Men - male celebrities all pictured in a deep state of emotion provokes the question is this real or is it orchestrated? These are people who have their photo taken every single day, wether it be paparazzi or a shoot, it is anothers days work; faking emotion. 
The images still provoke an emotional reaction despite there being the barrier of whether its real or not. Actors seen crying outside the realm of Hollywood, outside of the Hollywood context breaks down the barrier of film and reality. Someone of such status still experiencing human emotion. 
None of the men in the series however are pulling a face, grimacing like you see your neighbour, or best friend do if they were upset. So does this suggest then that the images are false, that as actors they are told to cry on command and thats merely all thats shown in the photograph? In which case the emotion provoked from Wood's photographs are the same we experience in a film, it feels real to us as we become involved with the atmosphere, but the camera does not show all the lighting, staging, and the time it's taken to get the right shot. 
Documentary photography however is different, the famous image of Kim Phuc by Nick Ut running naked down the streets of Trang Bang, Vietnam captures the raw fear and distress of the village at that time. It did not take hours to get a shot, there is no lighting rigs, or script, completely in the moment, nothing but a distressing reality is involved.

How can text help convey meaning or emotion?

As i said earlier understanding the context of an image will automatically change your interpretation. So by adding copy write, does this change it again, provide a fresh outlook or add to what we already know?

(The text reads: "In 12 minutes, a napalm bomb will unexpectedly explode 400 feet from here. Children will run in despair; one entirely naked, screaming in fear and pain. The soldier will do nothing, while a photographer captures this moment, forever immortalising it. Great Photos come without a brief.")

I think this image is amazing unbeknownst to me whether the photo was taken 12 minutes before the explosion, it still triggers thought into how an image known all over the world was taken by chance. A journalist or photographer in the area, a tourist exploring vietnam? Sheer luck or did Nick Ut have some inkling as to what was going on with this area? Either way the copy-write that covers this image really adds to the raw emotion of the original. You start to picture this little girl running towards you "screaming in fear and pain" It has been "forever immortalised." No-one will ever forget Kim Phuc. Nick Ut unveiled the horror of war to people ignorant of its reality, and this copy-writed image emphasises and conveys the unimaginable pain, putting history into perspective as if we were there.


(In order of appearance)

3)When The Stars Weep, Nochlin.L, Steidl, 2004

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