Tag Archives: French

The Burden of Representaion, Essays on Photographies Histories by John Tagg

burden-of-representation

I have just finished reading this book that I began in November!

Tagg looks at how photography has been influenced and how it has influenced history in Europe and North America by examining historical records in the UK and Europe and USA.  Taking examples of photographs taken in the 19th century for recording likeness’ of prisoners, photos of slums such as in Leeds that were used to push to challenge the Local Authorities and fight for improved living conditions for the poor.  Images taken in the early part of the 20th century to document the results of economic rescission in the rural community of the USA.  Tagg analyses both images and back the ground events to produce a strong argument for his book and often makes reference to a French philosopher, Michel Foucault, that who I should perhaps find more about and how his ideas may help in my creativity.

An interesting book, a little heavy and have your dictionary to hand but worth studying as his method of research is good and his idea that arguments that are not fully tested with good background research are weak and likely to be biased.  I think Tagg alludes to this when referring to John Berger and Susan Sontag.

 

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The Essential Kafka, published by Wordsworth Classics

the-essential-kafka

As part of my preparation for my final assignment, I decided to read the works of Franz Kafka in order to try and find some visual ideas for an image that was rich in metaphor.

Much of Kafka’s work was never published in his lifetime and thanks to his friend who saved his work from destruction against Kafka’s dying wishes we are able to read these stories today.

The Trial

Joseph K is a Senior Bank-Clark who one day awakens to find two men in his room to arrest him.  He does not discover for what crime he is accused of; but that his crime is serious and his guilt is assumed.  However, he is freed and informed that his case is under investigation and that he can continue to go about his normal business but he must present himself when required and he must build a defense.   Throughout the book we never discover what the crime he is accused of is, nor who accuses him or why.  He discovers that the Courts are all hidden in attics and all the Court personnel are only identified by a gold button sown to their jackets.

The whole story implies a form of neurosis of the mind.  Is K really a victim of a secret Justice system  or is he having some-kind of nervous-breakdown?  This story is full of metaphors.  I believe Leni to represent K’s idea of Justice, she is flirtatious, she is attracted to all of the Advocates clients; but she wants to help and she wants to be wanted.  The Advocate is K’s idea of a typical lawyer who does his best to string out the work as far as he can for profit.  I suspect that K meets the Judge in the Cathedral, he is the Priest and he gives K advise in the form of a story of a man who waits in vein to be admitted to the law only to discover on his death that the door he had waited at for so long was exclusively his.

I have been reading this novel as a result of my research for this course.  I learned of this novel through a essay written by Walter Benjamin and I am considering a couple of passages from this story to use as an idea to inspire an image for my last assignment.

The ideas are:

From the book The Essential Kafka, published by Wordsworth Classics.

The Trial:

First idea:  A portrait of a man sitting in a chair looking important, distinguished, implying authority, implying a Judge.  He is posed to suggest that at any-moment he is about to leap from his chair.  One hand grips the arm-rest the other holds a paper marker ‘Petition’ .  Behind his a blind-folded, pretty woman stands holding scales in her left hand and a sword in her right.  The idea is that she represents Justice; but her pose must also suggest the Greek female Goddess of hunting.  She should be dressed classically one breast exposed like that from the famous French revolutionary picture of Liberty charging forward.  (Chapter 6, The Uncle – Leni, page 81, lines 23-35 and page 109, Chapter 7, The Advocate – the Manufacturer – the Painter, line 32 to page 110 to line 11).

Second idea:  An open door, above the door is a sign that reads ‘THE LAW’ on the door a smaller sign reads ‘Restricted’.  A Doorman stands guard by the door and a Country Gentleman sits on stool looking dejected.  Behind the Doorman light appears to be streaming out from the doorway.  The Doorman must appear to look like he is on guard but is not appearing to be attempting to bar access.  (Chapter 9, In The Cathedral, page 161 – 162).

The Castle,

The hero of this story is just known as ‘K’ and is a Surveyor who arrives at the village below the castle looking for lodgings before reporting to the castle to begin work.  He discovers that he is not expected and is treated as an undesirable outsider by the villagers.  The Castle then confirms that he has been appointed and advises that he must wait for further instructions.  The castle appears to be inaccessible without permission and he is unable to find anyone who can grant him an audience with anyone in the castle.  This story is a nightmare vision of bureaucracy gone mad with tear upon tear of management that makes anything practically impossible to get done and all the servants that are the management of the castle are aloof from the villagers can only be communicated through unreliable messengers.  I believe that Kafka is describing metaphorically difficulties he had with his father and perhaps difficulties that he may have experienced as a Jew in post Austrian Hungarian Europe.  The story ends in mid-sentence as Kafka never finished the novel.

Metamorphosis – The Transformation of Gregor Samsa

Was this the dark foresight of a German speaking Czech Jew of the 1920’s?   Gregor Samsa awakens one morning to find that he has become an giant beetle, he can no longer be understood by his family and his new physique repulses them and he is forced to live imprisoned in his bedroom with only his younger sister brave enough to show enough compassion to feed him and clean his room.  Kafka uses a dark sense of humor in his writing and provides no happy ending but suggests that as one thing comes to an end there is always the beauty of a brighter tomorrow.

The judgement

We are first told that the hero of this story is a successful business man living and working in partnership with his father and is writing to his friend in St. Peters-burg about his impending marriage.  These facts are all thrown in to doubt when he discusses his letter and engagement with his ailing father.

Letter To My Father

This is a letter that Kafka wrote to his father but never gave to him.  Addressing his feeling towards his father and venting his frustrations and anger to a man he has grown up to fear and resent.  In this letter we learn a little of what has influenced Kafka’s writings and imagination.  There is a very useful visual metaphor in this text.  Page 590, line 26.

The idea

To the left a man stands facing a sheer cliff-face that he is trying to climb; to his right a flight of stairs is being climbed by another.  there is a barrier between the two men; so preventing the man on the left from using the same path to ascend.

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Camera_Lucida

I have just finished reading this book ‘Camera Lucida’ by Roland Barthes.  I found this book a lot easier to read than ‘Mythologies’ but didn’t find it very interesting or useful in terms of ideas or methods of thought.  To be honest, I personally would categorize this book along with the wardrobe of the Emperors new clothes.  All about nothing, intellectually trendy twaddle or how to fill a book about absolutely nothing.  Not a book that I would recommend.

The one thing that I got but didn’t fully realize until now is his idea of studium and punctum that I first understood but then half forgot it after reading on and it then got buried under all the theory that he lays on top of it.  I spent so much time trying to decipher what he was saying I lost the thread.  Fortunately, a fellow student had just posted a link to a good video explaining this theory from Barthes book which has brought the idea back from the depths of my confusion.  https://phlearn.com/punctum-better-image

Maybe I am just an ignorant retch in the eyes of a true academic but why oh why say so much with so much unnecessary thesaurus fuelled language when it could be much more easily explained and summed up?   I found I needed a dictionary for practically every paragraph of this book for words I have never seen before and it even defeated by Oxford dictionary from time to time!  Maybe I needed Latin, Ancient Greek and French.

 

Truffaut Hitchcock

Truffaut Hitchcock

Truffaut Hitchcock, by Francois Truffaut, published by Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

This Easter weekend, I indulged in a little guilty pleasure.  Taking a break from my photography studies, I read a great book by Francois Truffaut, a famous French film Director and film critic.  He got to know and became friends with Alfred Hitchcock and spent a couple of weeks with Hitchcock in Hollywood interviewing the great man, which he published in this fascinating book.

I blog this in to my Context and Narrative working-log as I believe that as a photographer there is a lot that can be learned from Hitchcock.  For example, as a young British film-maker in the 1920’s, he noticed how the Americans always back-lit their actors; so that they appeared separate from the back ground, this was not practiced by other British film-makers at that time.  He understood the power of composition and had ‘the way of seeing’ as a photographer.  Some of his tricks can be replicated with a still-camera and therefor makes his creativity interesting to me, as I may be able to apply some of it from time to time in my own work.

Still photographer or movie-maker this is a good book to read, for a movie-maker I would suggest an important book to read.  Tomorrow, I am going to see a film about this interview between Truffaut and Hitchcock and I have found this extract of Truffaut’s recorded interview with Hitchcock as they discuss the making of Psycho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV6NwhGp7VU on YouTube.

Research point – Sophie Calle’s, Take Care of Yourself

take_carePhoto by Sophie Calle.

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sophie+calle+take+care+of+yourself&view=detailv2&qpvt=sophie+calle+take+care+of+yourself&id=146C84BEE2771A29D7531289D3A155D79E5A8818&selectedindex=10&ccid=fgwGNZo8&simid=608002889935160216&thid=OIP.M7e0c06359a3c5e83367c18fc2bed29afo0&mode=overlay&first=1

Sophie Calle is a French photographer living and working in Paris.  Her project ‘Take Care of Yourself’ was inspired by a text message from her boyfriend who was dumping her by text.  The idea for the title was from how he signed off his text, “Prenez soins de vois” (Take care of yourself).  Calle writes that the idea came to her just a couple of days later after she had shown the message to friends and asked for there comments, she maintains that her agenda was never for revenge but was simply an inspired idea for an artistic project.  She makes no mention of the ex-lovers name and although she knows he was unhappy with the project, he decided (perhaps sensibly) not to interfere.

Once she decided to use her text as the subject for her project she spent two years showing around her text to a 107 professional women, photographed them reading it and invited them to analyse it according to their job: The text’s grammar and syntax was torn apart by a copy editor, his manners rubbished by an etiquette consultant, his lines pored over by a Talmudic scholar, his text re-ordered by a crossword setter, evaluated by a Judge, shot up by a markswomen, second guessed by a chess player, performed by actress, Jeanne Moreau, a psychiatrist called the author of the text “A twisted manipulator”  Taken from an interview with The Guardian, ‘He loves me not’ and a Guardian article about her exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery also see Review to the Whitechapel Art Gallery exhibition.

I found this to be a very funny, cleaver and entertaining idea of addressing a very personal and upsetting experience.  On one level in is a way she is getting even, on another level she is rising above it and by turning it on it’s head she is making art out of it.  On yet another level she is empowering other people who perhaps have experienced something very similar in their own lives.  I like the way she has creatively produced different images of the text, a ballet dancer reading it as she conducts stretching exercises on the bar, a lady reading the text with the text overlaid on the whole image, another turned in to a greeting card for example.

This project is a very interesting example of postmodern work it makes us consider our modern life styles and methods of communication and how this impacts on us as individuals and as human beings.  This insider position is also a reflection of modern women and their growing empowerment.