Context And Audience

Position and Practice Week 8 and 9

My most Controversial Photograph on the Course so far!

“I am” -Model taking a selfie at the Photography and Film experience at Kyalami Midrand.

During Webinar Week 9. Thursday 1st August. 2019. 1600-1730hrs BST (GMT+1) I presented my peers and our tutor this photograph with the assumption that they understood where I was coming from. Wrong….

Generally I did not understand my audience and I they did not understand the context of my photograph. Part of it may be due to a discussion that took place before I joined, where abuse by two dominant males was discussed and secondly not all have seen my presentation.

It was interesting how what I saw differed from what people see when they view this photograph. And yes, it is about context and audience. How you prepare your audience and share the photographs does influence the way they experience it. But you may have a photograph that cannot be contained within its original context… This is a good example of that.

Lets first explain the context within which I took this photograph. As a person, I am predominately driven by western modernity. That means I am influenced by that philosophy. This photograph intended to show how the Cartesian Cogito, ergo Sum negatively influenced western philosophy. Making the individual the centre of all truth.

As part of that project I want to change my gaze to see other philosophies interacting on my world. In my world both philosophies exist and influence the economy, art and politics and even individuals.

I attended a Film and Photography Experience expo where, apart from the workshops and expo areas, various practical shooting areas was set-up for photographers to use or try out various camera equipment. When I passed through this particular area I took one photograph of a young model posing next to a car merely as a composition and colour exercise when the above photograph happened. A photographer was done shooting the model and car and as she relaxed, the model took out her cellphone, kneeled down and started taking a selphy of herself. I realized that I am seeing a very self absorbed moment where the model was focusing on herself in front of the car which in my mind represented the abuse of modern/post modern use of the “I am”. I can never be sure what of her actual thought or motivations.

However, I had four people viewing the photograph. My tutor at first saw the photograph as the model angrily photographing the photographer and it brought up that the photograph brought up many topics – using sex to sell? which side tracked my intent.

One of my fellow students and passionate champion for feminine and children rights raised that in her mind it presented the exploitation of the model. And I must admit my response was typically that of a male photographer, so I won’t venture into that. She saw something that was way off from what I saw.

Another student with whom I have been engaging reviewed my oral presentation and could reflect immediately on what I saw.

It does speak to how we see the world. Our photographic gaze!

When I showed the second set, we aligned a bit more and we started to discuss what I was intending with my project. I had the feeling that even Paul had a problem understanding where I was coming from but we did reach a touch point when he suggested I read.

When I showed the second set, we aligned a bit more and we started to discuss what I was intending with my project. I had the feeling that even Paul had a problem understanding where I was coming from but we did reach a touch point when he suggested I read Pëtr Kropotkin Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution.

Just to reflect on something important regarding Ubuntu. The western concept of aid means the great I am…. help others. Ubuntu is bigger than that. Your humanness is defined by the way you treat those that require your support. Pëtr Kropotkin uses two terms Mutual aid and Mutual support. I believe the “mutual” part is more in line with the Philosophy of Ubuntu.

Nelson Mandela stated: it takes a village to raise a kid. Those of us in happy families knows that being able to support a happy family does raise your self steam and sense of being, especially if you do it because you are a human being not because you feel obligated to do so. The well known Jewish Rabbi, Jeshua, promoted this oneness, the love driven support to all our neighbors. As in the case of the the Hawain Ho’oponopono, and the Jewish Mensch, it promotes that the person that support others is the also a beneficiary or gets the healing. The become complete and balanced individuals or get healed. The Hindu faith and Budism embeds this connectedness. We forget that modernity raised multiple ideologies which either reject these philosophies or supports it. e.g. Socialism and capitalism.

In conclussion

It was recommended that I don’t use this photograph as part of my submission as it distracts people from my intent.

After thinking about it a bit more I decided I will use it. The reactions reflected a paternal post modernist view in it’s own. I however altered it to try and eliminate the alternative readings.

In my opinion, it is also a worthy picture to use in my teachings in the future without any comment to illustrate the principles of interpretation of a photograph.

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