Framing The World Through My Photographs

Changes after the final practice

After my practice run I gathered my thoughts and began to make the changes suggested.

A.D Coleman – I booked out Light readings on recommendation by Anthony. Looking for his definition of the snapshot aesthetic. It was suggested that  I read his essay Directorial mode, however whilst reading the essay I couldn’t make sense of it in terms of the snapshot aesthetic, turning to the index of the book there are a few essays that discuss the snapshot.

In the essay Emmet Gowin – page 163 – 164

Coleman discusses how many photographers have involved themselves in the culture of the snapshot. Bellow are a few notes that I pulled out:

  • Coleman says that snapshot is predominately  a form of vernacular photography.
  • The snapshot seems to be particularly a western custom.
  • “The art of the snapshot is an interruption of the flow of events and of time, an interruption who’s purpose is to preserve rather than observe.” (Coleman 1979:163)
  • “The snapshot is not just a memento but a monument.”(Coleman 1979:163)
  • “Coleman states that most snapshot are made by people without a formalised structured understanding of visual communication.” (Coleman 1979:163)
  • And what they transmit is largely taken by accident.
  • Such images convey little about the subject or event, the information they pass on to anyone outside of the family circle concerns the need of the snap-shooter to immortalise a significant moment in his/her life.

page 98-99

A.D Coleman was asked what he thought of as the snapshot aesthetic , he said he would direct people to Bernadette Mayers, work memory. But he said this doesn’t define the aesthetic of the snapshot. I wasn’t familiar with mayer and went in search of her work but drew up a blank.

After reading this scource I re worded a paragraph I had already written, find below.

A.D Coleman refers to the snapshot as a form of vernacular photography. However, the use of the snapshot aesthetic by photographers emerged out of the 1980s with photographers such as Martin Parr capturing everyday life. Stephen bull and Graham king in their books Photography & Say cheese, discuss the characteristics of the snapshot,(SLIDE) some of which include blurring of the subject and unconventional framing. Similarities in aesthetic can be seen in how Billingham captures particular decisive moments of his family life. The images in this series are a “ photographic vision of… poverty, pain [and] tragedy” (Rickard: 2010)(SLIDE) Doug Rickard in his article for American Suburb X said there is “brilliance in [the] ugliness. Rickard goes onto say that Billingham has achieved an impressive piece of voyeuristic work, which displays a sense of realism, a sense of everyday life.

Photography:  a middle brow art – Notes below

  • The family album expresses social memory  (social memory the personal and public memorisation)
  • The family album searches for lost time, than those displays of family photographs with their commentaries
  • Family photographs show integration between family members.
  • The group photographs show family unity, bringing family together.
  • Nowadays society focuses on photographing the children, where as it used to be the other way round the focus on the adults.

Below I summarised what I had read in relation to what was in my draft,

Although it seems the focus in family photography today is the children, this was not always the case as Pierre Bourdieu states in Photography: A middle brow art. Before the 1940s, “photographs were taken predominately of adults, secondarily of family groups bringing together parents and children, and only exceptionally of children on their own. Today the hierarchy is reversed. With society placing more importance on the children of the family.” (Bourdieu 1990: 22)

Conclusion – After reading a few more sources I made the changed to my conclusion which I am very pleased in the outcome and feel it is far more stronger than my original as in my original I had stated my introduction again and come to a halt far to quickly , my new conclusion I feel is far more summaritive.

Old conclusion

For as long as documenting the family has existed, there has been concern over how the family is represented. Throughout the centuries documenting family has developed from painting from artist such as Thomas Gainsborough, to the stiff studio bound images of the 19th century. Before the early 1900s photography wasn’t accessible to the masses, due to the expense, in the early 1900s the arrival of affordable film and cameras, the ways in which the family were documented dramatically shifted. The custom of photography opened up to the masses, which saw the beginning of family photography that we know of today. Writers such as Val Williams have discussed the codification within family photography. The curator of the album works to these unwritten rules, to ensure the family is represented in the most idyllic way. Both Billingham and Carucci have pushed the boundaries on the usual representation of family photography through the use of their own families. Both Carucci and Billingham have presented the viewer with an introspective view into their family life. It is not to say that what the amateur presents in their family albums is a false representation on family life, rather a more considered documentation of the ideal family image.

New conclusion

Family documentation has played an important role within the family, especially in terms of the representation of past generations.

The family album in particular expresses social memory which is a blend between public and personal memorisation. The display of a family album shows the integration between different family members.

However, writers such as Val Williams, discuss how the curators of the family album present their families in the most idyllic way, by depicting them at their happiest, usually partaking in family events. Family photographs, particularly the group photographs formalise the climatic moments of social lives, reaffirming the family’s unity.

The amateur sets out to present their family in the best possible way, however, both photographers I have examined have pushed the viewers expectations of what family photography should be, or show. Both Billingham and Carucci have provided the viewer with an introspective view into their own family lives, showing everyday struggle. Therefore presenting the viewer with what could be said as a more truthful representation into family life. It is not to say that what the amateur presents in their family albums is a false representation of family life, rather, it can be considered the documentation of the ideal family image.


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This entry was posted on February 20, 2014 by in 350MC - photography in context.
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