Notes from lessons

Reading images

In today’s lesson, we looked at how we are surrounded by visual culture and how to analyse an image in detail

Image analysis allows us to understand how we perceive the world around us. The object of image analysis is to understand the meaning of a work of art/design.

Questions to answer when analysing an image:

  • Who or what do you see?
  •  When was this photograph taken?
  •  What is happening in the photograph?
  •  Where was this photograph taken?
  • Why did the photographer select these particular elements to include in the photograph?
  • What don’t you see?
  • Why did the photographer emphasise certain elements and not others?
  • What’s in focus? Is only one person or element in focus, or are many elements in focus?
  • Why did the photographer take the picture at this moment?
  • What happened before or after this picture was taken?
  • Why did the photographer take the picture from this angle?We also looked at the photographers William Eggleston, Larry Clark, Tom Hunter, Martin Parr, Nan Goldin, Annie Leibovitz, Kevin Carter, Steven Meisel.

Introduction to Portraiture

In today’s lesson, we looked at portraiture. How important the portrait was in the 19th Century was and it was a reflection of economic growth driven by the Industrial revolution. We looked at the renowned portrait photographer Felix Nadar. To have your portrait taken at the time meant you were in a high social class. The more affordable form of portrait photography was the Carte de Visite, a small photograph mounted on card 2.5 x 4 inches in size which was distributed among family members and were also used as business cards. In the same century, the practice of photographing a deceased loved one started evolving. This was a way of remembering them.

We looked at the work of Julia Margeret Cameron, Man Ray, Edward Steichen who stated: “A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.”

I also loved the quote by Yousurf Karsh: “Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer, it is my task to reveal it if I can. The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world”. Which says how can a portrait reveal something about a person. We looked at many other portrait photographers but the last two that stand out to me were Richard Avedon who states: “My photographs don’t go below the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues” and Rankin who photographed the queen in a very simple way, different from how photographers shot her in the past years.

Annie Leibovitz also photographed her but in a very different way, showing more her royalty and environment where she is, whereas Rankin just placed the flag at the back which just represents what the queen is standing.

Environment portraiture

An environmental portrait is a portrait, which does not only focus on the subject but the environment also has to say something about the subject so the picture could be taken at the person’s home or workplace. It has to show subject’s life and surroundings.

Photographers we looked at Yousuf Karsh, Georgia O’keaffe, Dennis Stock.

“The act of portraying, depicting, symbolising or presenting the likeness of something. Language, the visual arts… and media such as photography, television and film, are systems of representation that function to depict and symbolise aspects of the real world.

Representation is distinct from simulation, in that a representation declares itself to be representing some aspect of the real, whereas a simulation has no referent in the real”

Sturken & Cartwright, 2001

We also looked at Robert Frank, Diane Arbus’ work and Mary Ellen-Mark. These photographers took many environmental portraits between the years 1950’s and 70’s documenting different personalities in America. editorial-street documentary shows the pro and cons of Vietnam war.

We also looked at the environmental portrait in: – music photography Anton Corbijn. -Fashion editorials Anthony Kurtz.

(Photo stories: Charlie Clift, Seamus Ryan, Jon Enoch etc)


The language of advertising

In this lesson we looked at

  • Capitalism: which is based on an ideology of free trade, open markets and individuality.
  • Commodity culture: which are goods marketed to consumers in a commodity culture
  • Consumer society: which emergerd in the late 19th century
  • Advertising:  One of the primary ways in which the exchange of goods is promoted in commodity culture/consumer society

“The essence of advertising photography is to turn something mundane into an exciting and arresting image. The advertising photographer is selling dreams and aspirations. Commercial photography of this nature means painstakingly creating an elaborate yet intimate image that invites the viewer to almost imagine a story rather than just see the objects in the shot”

This quote talks about how advertising photography takes pictures of products in a way which would attract the audience to buy this products, they elaborate images to make them look perfect.

Adverstising has a very big influence on how we see the world today and everything made in this field has to look perfectly good for a reason and the reason is to sell and make money.

We also examinded The hierarchy of needs- basic needs, safety needs, belongingness, love needs, esteem needs, self actualisation


Image result for The hierarchy of needs-

Advertising uses a lot of ways to attract viewrs attantion. These are many of themes they use: They catch the audience attention by visually staging products to appeal, Brand familiarity/ loyalty, Positive association/ connotation, The use of shared culture values, Humour, Shock Tactics, Visual references to art/history, Metaphor, Metonym, Stereotypes, Celebrity endorsement, Romance, Sex, they address the consumer, they use difference and individuality, which are unique but also seen a lot of times. They want the audience to envy and desire a certain product. They used interesting and emotional narrative.

You will noticed that all these characteristics I’ve mention come to six important aims:

  • To attract attention
  • To spark intrest
  • To explain ideas
  • To trigger Emotion
  • To create desire
  • To initiate action

Semiotics: A sign must have both a signifier and a signified. A sign is a recognizable combination of a signifier with a particular signified.

Representation in advertising + the media

In this lesson we discussed about

  • how people are represented in the media,
  • how it rappresents gender
  • it portrays  women and men in different ways, it makes women inferior to men.
  • The extreme use of photoshop on women, to slim them down way too much.
  • Women’s bodies are represented in fe*shized body parts
  • Glamour is always central theme
  • a woman interprets these advertising photos in a different way from how a man would interpret it.

The evolution of fashion photography

In this lesson we considered how fashion has changed, initially and mostly now fashion is about the clothing and selling it. We looked at 6 key areas in the fashion industry which are:

  • Culture
  • Class
  • Communication
  • The body+ identity
  • Sex
  • Aesthetics+ art

Photographers : Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, David Bailey, Edward Steinchen, Horst P Horst, Richard Avedon, Guy Bourdi, Terry Richards etc.

Fashion photography started in France, influenced came from royalty and aristocracy and moved to the States during war time and moved back to London in the 60’s. Swinging london of the 60’s, the Trio photographers: David Bailey, Duffy and Donovan (fashion, twiggy, mini skirts}. Now the fashion capitals are Paris, Milan, New York and London. Coco Chanel 1883-1971 one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. This industry isn’t diverse as it has a majority of european roots many models are white and there’s a minority of models of color and other backgrounds like Asians.

Theorising fashion photography (Part 2)

In this lesson we talked about Body and identity, sex aesthetics and art.

Holly McGlyn’s work.

  • Body techniques: they are the product of specific discourses interacting on different levels of power and knowledge and in different realms, such as social, political, aesthetic and psychological forms of knowledge
  • Body language.


We looked at how do you pose your model, fashion gender, women models are the majority. Femininity and masculinity, for women create certain looks with their bodies and it authomatially becaomes an object for a male gaze whereas man body communicate power and authority

Photographers: Helman Newton and Guy bordin portrayed women as objects and that’s from a male point of view on the other side Emma Summerton portrayed women in a different way, I think with more respect.



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