Research/Enquiry- Photography Changes Everything by Marvin Heiferman

This book features a collection of essays from various artists and writers and explores the many factors that photography possesses and how photography can literally change everything in life.  I have chosen a selection of short essays which I found quite intriguing in how photography influences us and the world.

Nostalgia and Familiarity in Images

In the first essay titled ‘Photography changes what we’re willing to reveal about ourselves’ , Tien Nguyen describes a short 1st person story about finding a childhood photograph of himself.  Nguyen describes how he felt betrayed when looking back at the photograph and similarly when looking at another more recent photograph.  Comparing the two, Nguyen highlights a point of how the honesty of a photograph is stronger in older archives than in modern photographs.  This addresses how as we change, the way we present ourselves in photographs change; this may refer to the process of growing up.

Staged or not?

A second essay by Kiku Adatto addresses how political messages are brought across in public media in which Adatto describes how a formal representation of a political subject can appear staged even behind the scenes.  This image of President Barack Obama sets a formal tone for the audience displaying an official acknowledgement of the activity in the room.  I find this image very captivating as it captures a moment from someone with a very high status; the viewer is given behind the scenes access but at the same time, there is a staging quality about this image, even though it does not represent an official and direct message.

Interpretations of realism in Photography

Another essay which I found particularly interesting comes as a short observation by Jos Stam.  In the essay,  Stam compares three different interpretations of the ocean in which one is a painting, one an ordinary photograph and a third as a computer generated image.  All three images represent the same thing, however they all possess a different graphic of representing the real thing.  Stam questions the reality of the images and how we can perceive a visual representation as real but in actuality it might not be.  This is an interesting observation as it highlights how our minds recognise imagery as ‘real’ or not ‘real’ but nevertheless we are blind to the materiality of an image that creates this realism.

Upon reading this book, I have found some of these essays very influential in how they analyse our behaviour and perception towards photographs and the growth of the medium.  The authors bring interesting ideas about photography and these ideas are categorised in who we see, what we see, where we go and how we remember.  As a collective archive, I find this useful towards how I can interpret my own work by considering these ideas within my developing practice.

References

Stam, J. (2012) Photography changes what we’re willing to reveal about ourselves’ In: Heiferman, M. et. al. Photography Changes Everything, New York, Aperture Foundation and Smithsonian Institution, p52-55, p. 136 and p. 150-153

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