Geoﬀrey Batchen: guilty pleasures
Geoﬀrey Batchen Geoﬀrey Batchen's worked as a teacher, writer and curator that focuses on the history of photography. He is par=cularly interested in the way that photography mediates every other aspect of modern life, whether we're talking about sex or war, atoms or planets, commerce or art. A lot of Geoﬀ's work addresses the methodological challenge that this study poses for art history.
Jeremy Bentham’s panop=con and the no=on of always being watched as been with photography from the very beginning of photography in 1800. “Photography served to introduce the panop=con into daily life.” hKp://cartome.org/panop=con1.htm
Jeremy Bentham designed the Panop=con. It was considered the model prison as all the prisoners could be seen at one =me but the prison guards were hidden from view causing the constant feeling of always being watched.
Photography from the 1800’s..
William Henry Fox Talbot (the English inventor of photography) oTen led his camera obscura lying about his grounds. His wife referred to such cameras as mousetraps because they secretly caught people in the moment who were unaware. However this could seen as a “poten=ally dangerous capaci=es for capturing things.” –Very controversial but again shows how this style of photography has been around from the very beginning.
Around the =me of 1842 however, people were being asked to pose as if they are unaware that they are being photographed as shown on the image on previous slide. As John Herschel called it, it’s “ac=ng between living persons.” The subjects are ac=ng as if it is all a game, they become a two-‐ dimensional statement as if they belong in a pain=ng rather than in reality. Ul=mately they have been instructed to act unaware and natural. The subjects are provided with a sense of truth and objec=vity as if they can pretend for a moment that these are their perfect lives.
“So at what point, and why, did the ‘unposed’ come to be equated with ‘life.” As =mes changed and the model life became desired “the reality becomes the new ideal.” People could suddenly pretend that they lived the way was seen ﬁt in their socie=es.
Representa=on was no longer transparent to the thing being represented, and neither was the human eye. What was seen depended on who the viewer was, what context in was shown in and the cultural beliefs at the =me. Two possible solu=ons to this; Everything that was being represented was dependent upon the viewer, the work was up for interpreta=on. Is there ever a true answer? The other replace the eye with a reliable mechanical subs=tute (photography), to produce none subjec=ve images that appear to let us see without being seen.
Around 1888 cameras were being designed to look like watches, books, parcels, cravats, buKons, purses, hats, revolvers and even walking s=cks! They could take up the 6 pictures at one =me!
In 1890 Paul Mar=n photographed ordinary Bri=sh people, showing incidents such as carriage accidents or arrests as they happened but also scenes of ordinary people enjoying the beach at Yarmouth or selling goods and services on the street. This was the start of street photography!
• Permits were soon required for photography in public places like parks, with “persons and groups of persons” explicitly excluded as poten=al photographic subjects. At least one photographer was prosecuted. • “It turned out that surveillance was the preroga=ve of the state, not the individual.” • As cameras developed it bought the medium into the hands of the millions and it recorded those things thought to be too common to be worth photographing. E.g the everyday, the banal and the personal.
Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine both dedicated in their diﬀerent ways documenta=on of the living and working condi=ons of working immigrants in New York. ‘Its as if this overt acknowledgment of the camera’s temporary presence in their lives will in some way compensate for its intrusion.”
Lewis Hine’s portraits of immigrants establishes conven=ons of the ‘ethical’ photograph, there is no trickery and no one has been taken unawares or against their consent. “Not tricked or exploited”
“The average person believes implicitly that the photograph cannot falsify. Of course, you and I know that this unbounded faith in the integrity of the photograph is oTen rudely shaken, for, while photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.” Photos have the power to change minds and opinions.
Walker Evans made a large series of pictures which he called true portraiture. He took pictures of the faces sat across from him on public transport, capturing them in a “special state” when “the guard is down and the mask is oﬀ”. One recent observer of these photographs claims that Evans unconsciously recorded the claustrophobia and anxiety of a na=on caught between the depression and World War 2.
In 1946 Evans stood on a street corner with a camera held low against his body, so that passers by remained unaware that he was taking photos of them. This resulted in people being shown in mo=ons from side on and the waist up, some=mes looking directly into the camera.
This style of working can hardly be regarded as an innocent or objec=ve manner in a context where industrial labor was already being constantly photographically monitored and disciplined in the work place. This relates back to the ques=ons about is this morally correct?
The photographer is obsessed by the unique photograph that he wants to obtain, it is a con=nual baKle against prejudice resul=ng from photographers who s=ll work with ﬂashes. Against the administra=on the employers, the police, the security guard, against poor ligh=ng and the enormous problems taking photographs of people in mo=on. The photographer will do anything to get their photo, there is no guilt. They are always ready and must always be pa=ent.
By the 1930’s Salomon tricks his subjects to secretly take their photo without their permission. “We shall be increasingly interested in providing a truthful record of objec=vity determined by fact. No longer concerned with avant-‐garde abstrac=on, he equates ‘truth’ and ‘fact’ with ‘taking rapid shots without being observed’” -‐This is the new truth whether or not it is indeed fact.
This obsession photographers had for ﬁnding the truth meant that they were willing to push boundaries and invade people’s personal lives. “I believed obsessionally that the truth would be revealed only when people were not aware of being photographed. I had to be invisible. There were uncomfortable elements of spying in all this and the press was oTen hos=le. We were called spies, prayers, mass-‐eavesdroppers, nosey, peeping toms, lopers, snoopers, envelop-‐steamers, keyhole ar=sts, sex maniacs, sissies, society playboys.” They found this invisibility hard to achieve, its hard to hide from view.
There was then a mass transforma=on in which this style of photography was then adopted by the state in which spying and constant surveillance become an everyday thing.
Roberts Frank sequence of photographs of him spying on a blind couple cuddling in New York central park. Frank was able to capture the unawareness of the couple. This body of work shows that the images wouldn’t be the same if the couple knew of his presence. Again another example of this style of work. This example con=nues with Frank’s series ‘ The Americans’
Cindy Sherman’s un=tled ﬁlm s=lls of the late 1970’s was again reference the surveillance theory, cas=ng doubt on the very photographic truth values she imitates and exploits. In each of her photos that she plays as the role herself, she is towing with the concepts of the hidden paparazzi. She oTen hides her face as if she does not totally want us to associate with her iden=ty. In her later body of work she is playing the idea of the vulnerable women in which an unseen aKacker is close by and the viewer is suggested as the masculine ﬁgure (as the history of surveillance photography seams to be dominated by the male parishioners) Sherman is both subject and object of the camera, therefore the surveyed is also the surveyor, only truth being revealed is the truth of an elaborate ﬁc=on. IT IRONOC!
Kohei Yoshiyuki hKp://www.ny=mes.com/2007/09/23/arts/ design/23geT.html?pagewanted=all Kohei Yoshiyuki goes out at night and secretly sneaks up on his subjects and watching what they do at night and possibly drunk. Perfect example of surveillance, we want to see what goes on in private even though we shouldn’t. Reminder that we are constantly being watched.
In rela=on to modern day surveillance is all around us it is part of our everyday lives. We can’t live with it yet we can’t live without it. The TV show Big Brother is a prime example of how common surveillance is. For them its about being seen and captured doing everyday things. In this case the everyday surveillance creates a sense of fame! hKp:// www.youtube.com/ watch? v=UBwJbXWY_mg
Alison Jackson uses celebrity look-‐a-‐like to create candid paparazzi style photos to cause commo=on to the public eye and portray those who we deed as respectul in situa=ons that would in real life never occur.