Photography Today

Photography as narratives, and how social media is shaping it?

Recently I’ve read some articles that I felt somehow are linked together – one was talking about photography as a narrative medium, what position exactly does it stand? One was about photographs getting censored in IG, and how the platform works is now questionable as technology and the line of ethics blurs, the final one is about how social media shapes our identity.

Why I think they are closely linked because since the development of social media e.g. FB and IG, the use and function of photography has widen and is constantly tied in with our everyday life. Anyone who knows how to use a phone can easily snap a photo to represent something about him/her and post it on social media. Narrating our own stories is easier than ever. It is cheap, fast and skill-less. While this is happening, yes – artists and crafters can easily share works to the world wide public, and art doesn’t have to be something prestige anymore, but some worries about the code of ethics and whether e.g. nude photographs is same as porn. Plus the recent news about images of a murdered victim has been posted on social media, how are we using photography and social media? Should there be some sort of policy? But if one company uses its powers to decree which art can be shown and which art can’t, then art isn’t free. What solutions can there be?

Especially now with teens who are born in the Internet era, they are the cyborgs of constantly documenting their life experiences with images. How are they using photography and social media? How is this culture shaping their identity?

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Photography Reviews

Stranger – Olivia Arthur

 

Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur‘s work “Stranger” is about Dubai, connecting its past and its present days. While she was researching for this project during her artist residency in Dubai, she found out about a shipwreck incident in Dubai in 1961 and lots of people died. One of the families believed that his son never died from the incident and that he is still alive in present days. Using this story as an inspiration, Stranger is about telling the city of Dubai through this imaginative character – what if he’s still alive now, how and what would he see?

Although she was trying to see it from the point of view of this character, the book encapsulated a feeling which is universal for outsiders coming to the place – a sense of isolation and loneliness as well as strangeness to the things that happen and exist in the city. From the book, she also collected quotes and extracts of conversations that she heard. For the final words of the book, she extracted from what she found out from the divers – that people were in their life-vest and pockets full of gold – to use as a metaphor for a city that draws people in with its promises of riches and full of workers on all levels of society, saving something for a life elsewhere.

The design of the book was also carefully thought out to represent “Stranger”. The book was printed entirely on transparent paper creating these new double or sometimes triple compilation images which gives a sense of confusion from the layering of the past with the present. This somehow matches what Olivia imaged the survivor would feel when walking around the city.

image courtesy to Olivia Arthur

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Blog

Scene – Alex Majoli

 

Alex Majoli’s scene is his new work about political demonstrations, humanitarian emergencies, and quiet moments of daily life. It is no ordinary work. What attracts me most at the beginning is the visual drama of the body of work, as if the work was shot in the middle of the night illuminated by the moon or in a staged movie. The theatricality of the work plays an important role for the idea and the concept behind, “we human beings as actors playing our own roles in society, and I set out to discover the best way to photographically and aesthetically represent this.”

For Alex, his idea and concept that, we are all actors and the world is our stage. And literally, he and his assistant took strobe lights to the “scenes of reality” and actively put a stage for the people to perform. What’s most interesting is that when this was happening, people who entered the “stage” automatically felt like they need to perform. Being photographed became an expectation rather than an interruption as David Campany said. Especially since the ever presence of smartphones, surveillance cameras, and the daily deluge of images, the value of photography has changed.

“It’s all about perception,” he says. “The more I documented and lived the lives of others, the more I realised that; what really is real, what really is true. Which is the right way to view reality? And I don’t think that one way’s better than another.”

Jim Casper mentioned in the LensCulture article “But why this mood? Why this visual strategy? Is it a statement about the uncertain and tense dark political days we are living through? The lack of brightness and contrast brings a heaviness to the work, and actually makes it difficult to see and appreciate the rich abundance of details and interactions at play in each image.”

Other than the theatricality, what else do the images want to translate? I’m not sure. What’s certain is that, he has brought the theatre to our reality, our daily lives, and that when this is done so, even us, as just normal human beings, somehow psychologically turned us as into actors and actresses, to perform, to act to dramatise. And by removing the colours and dramatising the lighting in executing these images, all is left are the actions and faces of these “actors” and “actresses”, accentuating the fictionality – as like scenes in movies, playing with the philosophical question of “are we really just actors in the life we staged?”

References:

https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/alex-majoli-scene-theatricality-life/

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/alex-majoli-scene-when-photography-intervenes-in-street-theater-of-the-real

https://www.le-bal.fr/en/2019/01/alex-majoli

https://aperture.org/blog/alex-majoli-david-campany/

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