Facial Codes, by Kamarul
"The work explores the viewer’s relationship to two‐dimensional (2D) still images reproduced on photographic print medium, with his Facial Codes series. By superimposing circular discs with Quick Response codes – a type of data‐encoded matrix barcode that arose following the advent of technology where one might expect to see faces of people, the artist accentuates a sense of impenetrability in representations of 2D and design. He challenges the extent to which the viewer can make meaning of what he sees, before it is rendered useless. This original use of QR codes that results in faceless images could represent an ironic loss of familiarity and identity, despite us living in the age of modern technology often thought to bridge distances."
I had already began to generate QR Codes for my book when I came across this artist and his work with QR Codes. His links take you to various pages containing quotes, or videos pertaining to the thoughts and views of either him as the artist or the person in the image.
This is an interesting idea, however, once I started to scan the codes, I noticed I was taking less and less notice of the image. I think as a series, this set of images and their QR Codes combined allude to the banal story of life and how we are all running through a similar program of events that lead us into a work place with all primary dreams and hopes secured as fantasy in our minds - Another Brick In The Wall etc etc.
It kind of works and doesn't work for me in the sense that it tells an opinion that many share, but with the novelty of the qr code technology - but it doesnt hold my interest for long. The close set qr codes are difficult to scan, and the destinations are predictable and 'samey'.
"Jim Goldberg has been exhibiting for over 30 years and his innovative use of image and text make him a landmark photographer of our times. He began to explore experimental storytelling and the potentials of combining image and text with Rich and Poor (1977-85), where he juxtaposed the residents of welfare hotel rooms with the upper class and their elegantly furnished homes to investigate the nature of American myths about class, power, and happiness. In Raised by Wolves (1985-95), he worked closely with and documented runaway teenagers in San Francisco and Los Angeles to create a book and exhibition that combined original photographs, text, home movie stills, snapshots, drawings, diary entries as well as single and multi-channel video, sculpture, found objects, light boxes and other 3-D elements.
His book, Open See (2003-2010), tells the story of refugees, immigrants, and trafficked individuals journeying from their countries of origin to their new homes in Europe. Open See remains within Goldberg’s multi-faceted and multimedia practice by using diverse formats to create a thickly interwoven, expressionistic narrative from many points of view.
Goldberg’s current project, Candy (2012-2015), layers archival materials, Super 8 film stills, and text from his childhood in New Haven with new photographs of its urban landscape and residents. The result is a twisting, multilayered exploration of American notions of aspiration and betrayal."
What I Think:
What I like about this work is that combination of image and text - Goldberg uses the words of his subject to give his visual message greater depth and create different and often opposing messages. The discord struck by the contrast of words and image, makes you question the truth of the reality being portrayed - you believe the words written, because they are presented by the subjects themselves, but this being at odds with the narrative of the photograph reminds us how easily fooled we can be by the photographer, our own preconceptions and what we consider to be important semiotics and signs within the structure of the image. The strength of Goldbergs work, is within the questions it raises, not only about the subject and the artist, but indeed of ourselves as the viewer/observer.
Photographer Owens series 'Suburbia' is a collection of photographs looking at middle class and consumerism - how they measure themselves against their various collections of material objects. These photographs are posed and intentional.
I like the play between words and image, I find that the text here compounds the image rather than contradicts, as it does in Goldberg's work. With Owens work i look at the image first and then feel reassured, 'right' by the text that goes with it. In Goldbergs work, I look to the text first so that I read the image without prejudging. I look for visual clues that back up the written word and feel at odds when i dont always find them. In this sense, I feel Goldbergs work is the stronger of the two because it more complicated to digest. In my own work, where I have been building up collections of audio recordings of people describing what they see in my photographs, I feel the contrast between each reading creates a similar sense - albeit in a more humorous way.
Sean O'Hagen interviewed Frank for an article in The Guardian:
"The Americans challenged all the formal rules laid down by Henri Cartier-Bresson
and Walker Evans, whose work Frank admired but saw no reason to emulate. More provocatively, it flew in the face of the wholesome pictorialism and heartfelt photojournalism of American magazines like Life and Time. The Americans was shocking – and enduringly influential – because it simply showed things as they were. “I was tired of romanticism,” Frank told me, “I wanted to present what I saw, pure and simple.”
Frank’s America is a place of shadows, real and metaphorical. His Americans look furtive, lonely, suspicious. He caught what Diane Arbus called the “hollowness” at the heart of many American lives, the chasm between the American dream and the everyday reality. With his handheld camera, Frank embraced movement and tilt and grain. Contemporary critics reacted with a mixture of scorn and outrage, accusing him of being anti-American as well as anti-photography. A review in Practical Photography dismissed the book’s “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness”. The Americans portrayed a place and a people that many Americans just could not, or did not want to see: a sad, hard, divided country that seemed essentially melancholic rather than heroic. As Jack Kerouac put it in his famous introduction, Robert Frank “sucked a sad poem out of America.”
What I Think:
The realism in Franks photography in the series "The Americans" is not shocking to us nowadays as we have become desensitised to such images, such is the fashion to shoot in this anti-aesthetic way now. Indeed, I recognise my own style in the works of Frank - in terms of the style of shooting.
Street photography, as a genre, is now, of course, flooded with this type of aesthetic - uncomposed, gritty, 'real'
What is important to me, when looking at these iconic images, is that I want to take this reality to the next level of modernity - add the next stage in viewing consumption. I think street photography is the right base point for me because of the notion that we can all find familiarity in street images and that makes us feel comfortable, or it intrigues our interest in an 'us and them' sense. We can look at street photography and make quick assumptions about the sights before us. I think my quest for the real, is exactly that - what are those thoughts and assumptions we make?
Friedlanders photos, I find, are a lot more loaded and suggestive than Franks. Whereas Frank is saying "Look", Friendlander, to me, is saying "What". I really like the tension in is work and the questions that you are left with - this is something I will try to incorporate more with my images by taking more notice of the environment surrounding the people I shoot and trying to position myself so that they work better within it. I want to create provocative images.
What I Think:
Levitts collection of street photographs features an innocuous amount of images depicting the daily life of children; playing, learning, imitating. I like the raw innocence of these images and how recognisable and almost predictable their play is. This makes for a timeless narrative, dated only by the clothing and background elements. I would like to try shooting a number of children for my work, but sadly I feel that I can't because of how our society is today.
Denotation and Connotation
"Everyone who looks at a photograph will literally see the same thing. In the case of image 2.7, everyone will see the same graphic pattern, and most will recognise the creature signified as one classified as 'dog'. This is denotation, the literal meaning of a signifier, and it is the first stage of reading.
However, although we can agree that the animal signified is a dog, how we then interpret the meaning of 'dog' (beyond the classification of a particular sort of mammal) will be subject to a range of variables. Some may be reminded of a loved pet and project their memories and affection onto this representation; those who have been bitten or chased by such a dog may project their dislike or fear onto it; those with expert knowledge will identify the breed and attribute associated characteristics onto the representation. The design of the picture lends itself to anthropomorphic interpretation: we project human characteristics onto the dog - we read its 'expression'
This is connotation - the associated ideas that are suggested by the image, but which are not explicitly denoted. Individual and subjective experience, knowledge, taste and emotion will all contribute to the particular associations. Nevertheless, although we are all individuals, we are reasonable predictable in many respects, and so a skilled writer, artist, copywriter or photographer can encourage or nudge us towards a particular response.
Consider, for example an advertisement for perfume: how do you represent an invisible commodity? Typically, such an advertisement will include a bottle, a person nd a brand name; the person may be a celebrity. These elements are denoted, but the actual commodity, a fragrance, cannot be visually denoted. The visual elements - words, colours, faces, bodies - will be more organised to connote pleasure, glamour and sexiness, which will then be associated with the product."
R Salkeld. (2014). Dennotation and Connotation. In: Reading Photographs. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. 53.
What I Think:
In this text, Salkeld offers an explanation on how we all read an image differently. It is exactly this notion that I am intrigued by. You can show 50 people this image of a dog and 50 people will see an acutely similar compilation of lines shape and form that we all recognise to be a dog, but every one of the 50 people will potentially have a different reading/reaction to it based on their prior experiences.
I'm slightly fascinated by the idea that actually 50 people won't all see the same lines shape and form, because even what we actually see is in some way preconditioned by our experiences, that is to say we are all taught to recognise the basic shape of a dog and therefore recognise this as a dog. But if there were somebody who had never heard of, seen or had any kind of experience or association with the concept of a dog or its recognisable shape; and if that person was shown this picture what would they see? Surely not a dog?
So far I have shown several of my photographs of people doing their daily thing on the streets to several friends, family and colleagues and recorded them 'reading' the narrative or sharing the experience they feel connected to the image. This is proving to be an interesting format in which to test this theory of looking, seeing, reading and experiencing.
The question I keep coming back to now is, should I be using the same image to ask the same question or continue using several images to ask the same question? Obviously using the same image with lots of different voice recordings tests the theory in a more 'scientific' way, however is it more engaging to the viewer and also myself to have the opportunity and listen to people describing many photos and to leave the comparison just between your own thoughts and the thoughts of the recording?
Reading through the book further, I also found recognition of my own thoughts in the further text written by Salkeld;
"Pictures and Text; Pictures As Texts
It is relatively rare to encounter a photograph without some accompanying words, even if it is only a caption. The semiotic approach proposes that we treat photographs as texts; that is, as a collection of signifiers to read and be interpreted. However, given that the word 'text' is more familiarly used to denote the words that might accompany a picture rather than the picture in itself, this can at first seem a little confusing.Nevertheless, the relationship between words and pictures is hugely important.
Because of a photographs iconic nature (its resemblance to what it represents), what the photograph shows often appears as self-evident. Nevertheless, that instant recognition is immediately articulated in terms of names, labels and descriptions. However, what the photograph means remains potentially ambiguous and could spin off in many directions. Roland Barthes termed the photographs capacity for generating multiple meanings 'polysemy'.
In Rhetoric of the Image (1964) Roland Barthes explains how the potential for the meanings of an image to float off in any direction can be 'anchored' by words: captions, advertising copy, accompanying articles, gallery labels – all of these functions to tell the viewer more about what they are looking at. People and places are named, contexts are identified – the viewer is directed towards receiving a specific image.
However, words are signifiers to and do not simply denote what is in the picture, but will connote a further set of associations; words may not just a company a photograph, but they might also be part of the picture, either part of the photograph subject or written onto/scratched into the surface of the photographic print. In the latter case, the effect may be to draw attention to the photograph as a material object, as a sign in its own right."
Photos by Jim Goldberg http://casemorekirkeby.com/artist/jim-goldberg/
Duane Michals http://www.dcmooregallery.com/artists/duane-michals