Book Summary: Visual Methodologies by G Rose

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Chapter 1 starts with a brief survey of researching with visual materials.
The 1970’s showed a change in our understanding of social life. Culture was seen as a process. Production and exchange of meanings. We are reminded that we are surrounded by visual technologies. There are different views of the world, but people’s interpretations may vary. WWe see before we speak, so this is how we come to know the world.
It is assumed that in pre-modern society visual images were not especially important. Barbara Maria Stafford (1991) is a historian of science images, construction of scientific knowledges – the world has become more based on image rather than written texts.
Travel photography – people see images and want to visit those places. There may be link between images and language. There are so many types of images – satellite, manipulated, MRI etc. Pervasiveness of images – linked to amounts of digital storage and communication devices.
There are differences between analogue and digital images. Analogue – better correspondence for what they show. Conversions in digital can change images.
David Rodowick (2007) said that digital images should not be called photos. This raises an issue regarding reality, but we know that film images could also be unreal in some ways. There is a difference in signals between analogue and digital TV. Family photos taken digitally are similar in composition, but there are different ways to take and share them.
In anthropology and human geography – images are used as research tools. There was discussion about an interest in how images can make you feel something.
p12 Effects of visual images.
Images – social. Power relations can be shown, such as in war (loc. 626). How we see different races etc. How do we look at images? Are we the surveyor or surveyed? (loc 652).
Social differences, culture, social relations and social power can be depicted.
How different audiences see work. Display etc.
p15 – It is very unusual that we encounter work without any text – we usually have at least some information, for example in a gallery. This can make a difference to how we see it.
p16 – A critical approach to visual culture:
Takes images seriously
thinks about the social conditions and effects of visual objects
considers your own way of looking at images
p17 Visual imagery is never innocent. It is always constructed through various practices, technologies and knowledges.
p20 When we think about and look at images from the past – we need to consider what was available at the time. By 1948 cameras were light and film faster so people did not have to stand still for long periods. Snapshots were now possible.
p23 Documentary photography originally tended to picture poor, oppressed or marginalised individuals, often as part of reformist projects, to show the horror of their lives and thus inspire change. The aim was to be as objective and accurate as possible in these depictions. However, since the apparent horror was being shown to audiences who had the power to pressure for change, documentary photography usually pictures the relatively powerless to the relatively powerful. It has thus been accused of voyeurism and worse.
p38 Social practices of looking of spectating – look at images and creating other versions of them. Social identities of the spectators.
p48 has good information about how to use images for research.
p51 We need to take images seriously, look at them very carefully. Effects of the image – power.
p63 Paintings have different effects depending on perspective.
p77 Compositional interpretation – ways of describing content, colour, spatial organisation, mise-en—scene, montage, light and expressive. Content of various kinds of still and moving images.
p88-89 Content analysis – how to select images – random/stratified/systematic/cluster depending on results.
p101 Content analysis is a clear method for engaging systematically with large numbers of images.
p105 Semiology (semiotics). How images make meanings head on.
p108 Semiology assumes that these constructions of social difference are articulated through the working of signs of images themselves. Many studies concentrate on the image itself as the most important site of its meaning.
p109 These studies require extensive knowledge of the type of image the case studies will examine.
p149 Psychoanalysis and visuality. Freud suggests scopophilia – pea sure in looking – was one of the basic drives with which all (sighted) children are born, and the visual is especially important in the work of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.
p150 Different psychoanalytic concepts brought to bear on the same image can produce very different interpretations of the same image.
p151 The power of images – the relationship people have with images. Why are we drawn to certain images?
p152 We are reminded that psychoanalysis deals with subjectivity, sexuality and the unconscious. Emotional reactions to images may be unconscious.
p190 Discourse – refers to groups of statements that structure the way a thing is thought, and the way we act on the basis of that thinking.
p193 Foucalt was concerned with how power works in institutions.
p230 Describes the Panopticon – this was invented by Jeremy Bentham in 1787. How to view people.
p261 How TV audiences make meaning from what they watched. People watched TV together and chatted with people the next day. Now we have more TV’s and the internet, changing our viewing habits.
p267 Describes the impact of media messages on the audience – things like violence. Fan bases – culture.
p293 Are images seen the same way on different screens, ipad vs large screen TV.
p297 Describes images made as part of a research project. Used actively – evidence. Photo-documentation, photo-elicitation, photo-essays. Doc – planned series of photos to document and analyse a particular visual phenomenon. Elicitation – participants take photos and discuss in an interview. Photo essay – a series of photos and possibly text to interpret a situation.
p301 Photo documentary assumes that photos are an accurate method. Systematic taking of photos – not used much.
p304 Elicitation – widely used. Photo Voice etc. There are lots of links to my own studies here, I completed some participatory projects in the past for my MA and for a project with a boys shelter in Vietnam. Time consuming.
p317 Photo essay – a combination of writing and photos. Could both be done by one person or 2 people, one doing the writing and one the photos. Evokes the senses. Analytical and evocative. Relationship between photos and text.
p334 Discusses ethics of both found and new photos. Consent. Using google street view. This made me think of Mishka Henner’s project using street view to show prostitutes. Copyright.

Rose, G. (2012). Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials. (3rd ed). Sage. [ebook]

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Book Summary: The Photograph by Graham Clarke (1997)

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The book starts with a chapter named “What is a photograph?” which is a debate about the history of photography and how photos are seen. There is a quote from Barthes that all photos are history as they are something that no longer exists. There is also some debate about images that exist on paper such as photograms, where do they fit? The size an image is displayed can also affect how we see it,
The second chapter is about how we read photos, and talks about how the meaning of photos can be complex- there may be a literal meaning but there may also be a connotative meaning. There are so many levels – is it a real insight into the world?
My own photography developed as I lived in New Zealand, so far from my family. I wanted to show them New Zealand, but what was I leaving out? What was the story behind the images I chose?Telling the story in an image. There was debate about photos making statements (Friedlander, p38/39).
The next chapter deals with photography in the 19th century. It describes how photography tried to emulate painting in some ways, like combination prints by Gustave Rejlander (p43). There is an element of selectivity – for example London may be shown as individual buildings or as sprawling chaos. p50 describes the start of travel photography, where people were able to record new cultures, but also impose their own cultural view on scenes. On p53 there is a quote, ‘To photograph ‘is to give evidence to facts.”’ This goes along with many other views we have seen on the course so far, that documentary is the pure form of this, showing the real world. It is a pure form.
The next Chapter (4) deals with a sense of scale (p60), where people wanted to show just how vast the landscape actually is, with some kind of reference. Overseas photos appeared idyllic to some – certainly something I have wanted to see on more than one occasion, leading sometimes to disappointment. p65 described imaging an ideal land, untouched by humans. Brits like Martin Parr and Chris Killip rather documented the social side of landscapes, unemployment and poverty for example. A Westerner’s perspective of overseas can be seen.
Chapter 5 is about the city in photography. Robert Barker took 360 degree views. In the 1790’s there were panoramic exhibits of the world’s main cities. They depicted cultural icons, and showed a view from above. They showed urban poverty. Weegge, mentioned on p85, took photos of the ‘dark side’ showing murders and other such events. On p87, they mentioned Walker Evans who in 1938 used a concealed camera to photograph people on the subway etc, appearing alone. Night photographers showed the other side of the cities.
Chapter 6 was about Portraits. These express our inner being. p101 talks about social identity. There are lots of staged events, construction. p106 mentioned carts de visit which were fashionable in 19th century Paris as a mark of identity and social significance.
Portraits were often taken with someone’s social environment. There were self-portraits, of photographers, such as Edward Steichen in 1908 – he took a photo of himself holding a paintbrush.
Some photographers explored identity, such as Mapplethorpe who explored homosexuality. He took his own self-portraits, some of which were very provocative. Sherman’s series, Untitled Film Stills offers an alternative to reality. In some cases, the size images are displayed can have an impact. I saw an exhibition of hers in London, where there were only about 5 or 6 images, printed larger than life size.
The next chapter, 7, talks about the body. This includes depiction of the nudity and sexual acts. It was mentioned how women can be posed to appear passive/submissive, but this can also be the reverse. p129 Muybridge studied human motion in the 1870’s, with a series of photos of people moving. An image by Sherman mentioned on p130 (Untitled, 1992) talks about male power, a constructed image.
Jo Spence is famous for her documentation of the effects of breast cancer on her body.
Chapter 8 discusses documentary photography, which dominated the photographic history of the 20th century. On p145, the say that document means evidence – truth. Events may be approached in different ways by different photographers. p147 mentions a project by Jacob Riis in 1890 called How the other half lives. This is visual and written accounts of living conditions in New York’s lower east side. It showed appalling conditions and deprivation. There is some discussion about exploiting subjects on p148. On p149, Margaret Bourke-White’s Sharecroppers 1937 project is discussed, telling a story through framing – poverty, injustice of the political system. p153 discusses the famous image of the migrant mother taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936, and later Robert Frank’s The American’s is discussed as showing traditional American icons. Having seen the exhibition of this at Pingyao in China in 2007, and found it quite an insight into America and fulfilled some cultural stereotypes. p158 discusses images by George Rodger in 1945 of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. There was one image of a boy walking past dead bodies, and looking away. Lots of war images.
Chapter 9 is titled ‘The Photograph as Fine Art. This is an ongoing debate, about whether landscapes can be seen as art. P169 talks about a photo by Stieglitz of people, describing them as shapes rather than items. An image by Ansel Adams, Picket Fence, taken in 1936, has a sense of uniformity and form. Transforming ordinary objects into something unique. Some people put an emphasis on form. There is a notion that art photographers work in studios. An image taken by Eliot Porter in 1953 (p178) called Pool in a brook looks like a painting.
Chapter 10 – The photograph manipulated. This talks about the period from 1900 onward, abstraction etc. Constructivism, p189, is mentioned. Some images are a mix of photography and painting, and there is also a mention of photograms and montages.
Chapter 11, the cabinet of infinite curiosities mentions the decisive moment, and documentary, the meaning of images. Art in images is discussed, along with the pattern found which may be a form of symbolism. Images can be put together in a certain way.

Graham Clarke: The Photograph (1997) New York: Oxford University Press.