Gazing at Photographs

The forum this week required us to contextualise our own practice:

  • Where is your gaze?
  • How do you look at and understand the world?
  • How does photography contribute to this (both positively and negatively)?
  • Are you a voyeur in your practice?

My gaze is an inquisitive one, and I hope viewers of my work will be inquisitive too. My practice is rarely literal, but metaphorical, with narratives that are suggested or hinted at.

I have this approach when trying to make sense of the world,  particularly in the behaviours of those around me, which my fascination with psychology has only broadened.

The quote from Angier (2007, p.61) in the presentation talks about voyeurism, in that it is:

“…a particular point of view, based on a longing to possess that which one knows one cannot (and ultimately does not want to) have.”

The narratives that I attempt to suggest involve characters whose own contextual stories are built on thoughts, feelings, and circumstances. It is these hidden stories that I want to discover, both pictorially and in ‘real life’ – so for me that is the knowledge that I cannot possess, only imagine.

Secondly, we were required to read  Bright (1985) ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men in Exposure Vol.23, No.1, (Winter 1985) and comment on an advertisement we have seen in which the gaze is particularly important. 




This advertisement is currently framed on the inside of female toilet doors in motorway service stations:




Bright (1985) states

” If we are to make photographs that raise questions or make statements about what is in and around the picture, we must first become more conscious of the ideological assumptions that structure our approaches…We need to examine the restrictive terms of the art museum and gallery…and ask ourselves whether we need to seek out other markets and audiences for our work.”

This advert is clearly made for the female gaze, hence its location. However instead of being led to the issue in question, I found myself gazing at the girl, and considering the ethics of the photograph, wondering who ‘Katiatu’ is, and whether she gave permission for her photograph to be used in this way. I also wonder how the male gaze would respond to it if it were placed within their field of vision.

Sontag (1977, p14) said that

“to photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, having knowledge of them they can never have, it turns people into objects that can by symbolically possessed.”

Whether or not the girl in the picture is actually ‘Katiatu’, or whether she’s a fictional character used to illustrate the advertisement; the gaze that we afford this girl seems to me to be an invasion of her privacy, and at odds with the message, which is a request for donations to help her save her embarrassment.