I really enjoyed this one; the content was really interesting, mainly because it had a fair amount of figuring out photographs, which inspired a lot of questions. The main topic is basically photography and how we relate to it.
First, the lecturer, Mark, asked us what we thought was happening in an image of a group of people looking upwards. Of course they were all looking at something, and it was correct! It was the launch of Apollo 11. Then we looked at the first photograph and camera created. During this, the question of “what is a photo” came up, and someone replied “a photograph is just a photograph”. I can agree and disagree with this.
Then looking at how photographs were done in the Victorian era, although we didn’t know it. He asked us what the image below is:
If you’re unaware, it’s a device to hold people still while having their photo taken as it took a while, so they were propped upright in order to have a non-creepy blurred image. Which is also why no one is smiling since holding a smile would be hard to hold and kill your face. Then we got into creepy territory. The pictures people took of their children when they had died, held them up right and opened their eyes post mortem. This way, they’re able to have a picture of their child since they wouldn’t move, but it’s a memory of them. People were thinking about why they did this, it does have weird vibes but that was the norm back then. If they had easy photographing systems, they wouldn’t do it. It’s the only way they can remember how they looked.
After this, we were asked to do a one minute portrait challenge. I felt too awkward for it, and if we were using the camera obscura, I would be very blurred. I didn’t like the feeling of someone looking at me for a full minute as I stayed still; I mean that’s just very unnatural.
Now for the selfies:
We were shown this image of Obama taking a selfie with two others. Didn’t think much of it, just thought they were having some fun, no biggie.
Now the next photo had Michelle Obama in frame, clearly doesn’t look happy. I felt confused since she’s generally a fun person and does amusing things (look at her on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon), so why wasn’t she joining in? Some people thought she was jealous as he was taking a picture with another woman.
people thought she was jealous as he was taking a picture with another woman.
This third picture reinforced that last idea, but then we learned of the context. David Cameron, Helle Thorning Schmidt and Barak Obama were taking a selfie during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. Learning that, I completely understood why she looked annoyed and sat in between them and Obama. It just reminds me of the selfies people take and post on Twitter on how good they look at a funeral, or even taking a selfie with their deceased relative in their coffin. It’s incredibly disrespectful and it boggles my mind that 3 grown adults fundamentally do the same thing.
Looking more into selfies, we looked at the first ever one done which was by Robert Cornelius. It’s called a self-portrait in this case, and on the back was written “the first light picture ever taken”. Mark asked what the difference between a selfie and a self-portrait is. They’re both controlled in the sense that they portray a certain thing about us within it, but for me: self-portraits are more personal, and more than a picture taken with a phone with the right lighting and filter. But then I wonder if a collection of selfies could be a self-portrait? I mean if each one represents a certain thing about you and you throughout the years to show growth. It would be more accurate than one image of you.
Finally we were asked to take a series of pictures of ourselves. The first one was an un-posed self-portrait, that’s hard to do since being “un-posed” is a pose. Then to take a picture of ourselves when not aware, again hard to do since even if you set up a timer and such, after forgetting about it your subconscious could still remember. So you would act differently than usual. Now, had to take the most posed selfie, people did duck faces or looking at the camera at an angle, so on. Then to take a picture of someone taking a picture of themselves, one posed and another un-posed. It was getting really meta. After thinking about these tasks, the difficulty level of actually achieving it. Then we saw a collection of photographs.
Then learned the context to them, Dicorcia took these images of people in New York with each person unaware of it happening. He achieved an un-posed series of photos. I really like and dislike this since it’s a violation of privacy, having a picture of a stranger in this way, I understand that he couldn’t have told them beforehand but surely debriefing them wouldn’t make the photos lose meaning.
It’s a pretty broad topic since you can delve into it in different aspects e.g. psychological, anthropological, etc. Which makes it all the more interesting; photography has a really huge impact on life which people can take for granted sometimes. The whole lecture has made me think about photographs and selfies in a very different way.