An interesting and challenging start to the course. I’ve never previously considered, in any detail, the idea of photography in a truly global context. Once the thought is introduced however, it’s difficult not to be somewhat intimated by the potential breadth of the argument and its implications. Photography is an incredibly pervasive practice, that everyone save for those in the most isolated cultures interacts with multiple times per day, often subliminally. The influence of imagery is undoubted, yet how much of the imagery we consume is done so willingly? And how much do we consider the unseen agendas that have selected and presented these images for our attention? If we were privy to these agendas would we be more discerning about what we allowed ourselves to see? Would we try and take a more mindful role in guiding the images that ourselves, and others, create?
The internet is a powerful pathway by which images can quickly reach billions of retinas worldwide. It’s not possible to imagine that an image may not have global reach once uploaded. So, is there a responsibility to consider the impact and meaning the image carries when it arrives somewhere you may never see and is read by people whose perspective you may never understand? If so, how much responsibility? There’s no universally acceptable image that appeals to everyone and offends no-one, no image can be truly universal, so is this an unfair expectation of the photographer (or any maker of images)? And surely we have to retain the right to freedom of expression even if this offends? A thorny issue for sure, with previously tragic consequences (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30708237) for those who have crossed a line drawn by others.
This week I’ve been challenged to consider the homegenisation of images that occurs as a result of corporate and political imperatives, and the threat this poses to expression and recognition of individuals and cultures that fall outside of the approved categories. As Bate wrote with regard to stock photography:
‘the more a global stock image-world becomes a homogenous image-bank, the less easy it is to acknowledge or accept different views of the world.’
Photography: The Key Concepts. 2nd ed. David Bate, p. 207
The awareness of this increasing homegenisation of images makes me more determined to remain open to as many sources as possible, and to seek them out if possible. It also challenges me to seek out common image tropes in my own work so that I can actively decide if they belong there, and remove them if they don’t.
This week also introduced me to the idea of photography as a window and mirror. Not an entirely novel idea I suppose, but it’s been interesting to consider whether my work is more mirror or window. I think it’s been more a reflection of internal states and conflicts so far. Gazing into my mirror has certainly allowed me to examine certain things about myself in more detail, even if it’s kinda foggy sometimes!
Falmouth university ma photography critical research journal