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Category Archives: Portraiture
Photography and Text by Justina McMinn, Copyright 2018
Susan Sontag: On Photography
Sontag makes many important points in her essays in On Photography. The first essay, however, really connected with me. In Plato’s Cave essentially says photography is a means for capturing reality. She talks about how a photograph is tangible, you can hold it, but you can not hold reality. Although, it is capturing reality, it is not capturing reality for what it is and the reason for capturing this “reality” can vary.
Sontag also argues a point that photography is a sort of false way of relating to the world because pictures can be so flawed and falsely interpreted. Sontag claims that like the Plato’s Cave allegory, when anyone looks at a photograph it is not always entirely true without explanation. She gives an example of the Farm Security Administration photographic project of the late 1930’s where they took dozens of frontal pictures of sharecropper subjects until the were satisfied that they have gotten the right look on film. They wanted a particular emotion provoked from the photo. Problematically, they imposed their own standards onto the subject.
This reminds me of the project we did in class where we had to use portraits to convey various emotions. We all had different standards of what grief, sadness, happiness, etc. look like hence why we all had different photos. I’m sure many of us imposed our standards for what the visual aspect of these emotions should look like and shot until satisfied that it was conveyed.
I think this is an interesting point about people imposing their standards because of people’s various perspectives each photo is interpreted differently and can’t promise the viewer is understanding the photographer’s truth. For example, the picture here for me, conveys sadness. Very often within the black community, we are taught to suppress our emotions and to display negative emotions like sadness, grief, hurt, and disappointment in a particular fashion. Others may view this photo as angry, calm, emotionless, flat. Many cultural norms play into people’s standards and I believe this is what makes art, photography in particular, nuanced.
Another key point Sontag made was that photography is evidence. Photography is a huge component in museums, text books, and scrap books to further prove beyond “he say, she say” that an event took place.
Looking at today’s social norms surrounding technology, I see this idea in fruition. Every vacation people seem to feel the need to take pictures and post them to prove they had fun and that the vacation happened. There is a saying that says, “Pictures or it never happened!” Our society has become so wrapped up in the social aspect of photography. It is used to document protests, social events, personal occasions, and more. However, I would say it is excessive.
I wonder where the line is drawn. People are starting to let photography intrude on intimate events and take away from thoroughly enjoying experiences. For example, more recently, at a funeral I saw someone take a picture of the person in the casket. For me, I think it was inappropriate. However, their thought process was the person finally looked peaceful and they wanted to document it forever. Another example is my recent vacation with friends. They spent more time taking pictures and finding locations with the only motivation to go being to take more pictures. The question for me is, is enjoying the moment in reality and depending on memory less fundamental than capturing the reality and documenting it forever?
About The Author: Justina McMinn is a Freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Justina McMinn, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/justina-mcminn-self/
An ongoing project by Noel Zheng, Copyright 2018
The specifications of this project was based around the idea of “sex sells” and “Erotica”. In response to this, I developed, more or less, a social project on what it means to be sexy and attractive in the 21st century.
The idea behind this project is to explore the interaction between the model and a white button up shirt, and how this article of clothing is used to accentuate or mask the body; this takes the model to the brink of what they are confident with. In any of the cases along the spectrum, the model will thus be confident and comfortable with how much or little they are showing. Therefore, this resonates the idea that skin or no skin can be equally sexy and attractive. At the project’s core, skin is just skin.
I interviewed each model during each photography session both to reap the safest and body positive environment, and to understand their confidence in their own skin. Some of the answers are as follows (responses provided by differing models):
What makes a man/ woman beautiful/ attractive to you?
Confidence, 100%. If someone is confident in themselves and shows this when they are around others, I think it makes them more attractive and more beautiful than any surface appearance.
Follow up question: do you feel beautiful/ attractive?
I think I’m beautiful. I don’t often think of myself as attractive.
When do you feel the proudest of who you are?
When I’m creating-in the kitchen, behind the camera, on a canvas, on paper and then when I’m looking at my finished creation. Also, when I see that I’ve made an impact on someone else, that’s definitely a very proud moment!
What three things do you value the most about your body?
I most value my body for what it is capable of. In terms of aesthetics, I value my abs, my lips and my butt, of course.
What three things do you value the most?
Money, food, and friends. In that order.
About The Author: Noel Zheng is a Sophomore majoring in Architecture, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Noel Zheng, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/noel-zheng-untitled-jolie-laide/
Photography and Text by Elizabeth Beugg, Copyright 2018
THE ART OF INFERENCE
If there is one universal truth in the fashion industry, it’s that sex sells. No matter the product, adding an aspect of sex appeal increases its success exponentially. There is an innate human fascination with sex that pulls a viewer into an erotic photo. That being said, some of the most successful fashion images possess an erotic feel without being overtly erotic or graphic; the art is in the inference.
I recently attended a lecture by Stuart Weitzman, a well known shoe designer, who reaffirmed the importance of sex appeal in selling a product. Inference unified every ad campaign he presented. He showed numerous ad campaigns that dealt with erotic inference, all without any sort of graphic nudity, that all projected sex appeal loud and clear. He also showed ad campaigns that contained a brand inference, like a dalmation with shoe-shaped spots. The key take-away from this is the power of letting a consumer interpret an image; that leaving things to the imagination can be more captivating than spelling it all out.
Knowing this, I aimed to create a shoot that fell into the erotic category, while still leaving things to the viewer’s imagination. I knew that the juxtaposition of sticky, messy food and pristine jewelry would make for a dynamic photo, so I chose to center the shoot around various necklaces and earrings. Though the jewelry was the subject of the shoot, I wouldn’t say it was the focus. I tried to create an image that grabs the attention of a viewer, in this case through drenching models in various foods, so that they take would take the time to look over the photo and, in turn, notice the featured jewelry. It’s a little less direct, but it makes for a more interesting photograph than should the product have been front and center for the entirety of the shoot. In the end, I tried to take cues from Stuart Weitzman and other designers and create a photo that communicates everything it needs to without saying anything at all.
About The Author: Elizabeth Beugg is a Sophomore enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Elizabeth Beugg, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/elizabeth-beugg-party-fashion/