For this Tuesday’s class, we engaged in two readings to further our understanding of photography (and the notion of looking or seeing). These two readings have many overlapping points of view, as they discuss the multiple dynamics of a painting and/or photograph.
Lutz and Collins, in “The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes”, focus on seven specific types of “looking”, of which they refer to as “gazes”, which vary depending on who is viewing the photograph. Although each one of these “gazes” represents something different, similar questions can be raised after reading the descriptions for each “gaze”. For example, do we look at photographs of others simply because we “desire to control or denigrate”? Do we look at photographs of others because we want to distance ourselves from the subject in the photograph? Or, do we look at a photograph to draw comparisons between the subject and ourselves (whether it makes us feel better or worse about ourselves and our current situation)? In other words, are we always looking at a photograph to draw comparisons between the subject and ourselves?
Lutz and Collins also suggest that history has allowed some people to look at photographs because they are “supposed to”, whereas others look “illicitly”. I find this point fascinating, as it seems to follow history over time. These authors might suggest that the Colonial white male has always been expected to look and gaze. On the other hand, minorities such as women or people of color have been the subjects of the photographs. If they intend to look, they must do so illicitly. In summation, Lutz and Collins seem to suggest that photographs maintain power relations and reflect the hierarchy that exists during the time of the photograph. Do you agree with this understanding? Do you believe that photographs maintain or perpetuate a cycle of repression?
John Berger, in his piece titled “Ways of Seeing”, depicts the possibilities of how one sees nude women throughout decades of art. He constructs the idea that the social presence of a woman is quite different from that of a man, and therefore a photograph of a nude man suggests power and what he’s capable of, whereas a photograph of a nude woman suggests weakness and the acceptance of what can and cannot be done to her. For a nude woman, this is portrayed in her facial expression, the pose of her body, or props incorporated into the photograph (such as a mirror). “Men act and women appear”. A photograph is for a man to look at it, and a woman to watch her being looked at. Berger’s understanding of photography, specifically the relation between men and women, seems rather critical of both subjects involved in the “looking” or “gazing” process. In a simplistic view, women are choosing to be exploited and men are choosing to exploit them. I think this point is interesting, and I think that as a class we can dive into this point a bit deeper. Due to the fact that we have grown up in a world of photography, and have been photographed our entire lives, do you think that you fit this mold? Why do you take a photograph, and why are you the subject of a photograph? What do you think photographs represent in the 21st century?