Welcome to the Animo Photography Club! Through photography and video, students learn how to express themselves, explore issues of identity, heighten their awareness and perception, discover a voice for change and service within their communities, learn technical skills in shooting and editing, and much much more!!

You can view all of our photos on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/living-histories/

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Slide Lecture: Identity, Community, Aesthetics, Perception and Contemporary Teenage Photographers

The following is a slide lecture, presented to the students, of contemporary photographers who directly or loosely deal with issues of identity and/or community. We also discussed aesthetic styles and perception. The lecture ended with examples of current photographic work by contemporary teenage photographers. The images included in this post are only selected samples of each artist from the full slide lecture.

Catherine Opie

Catherine Opie has used photography to represent or bring into the forefront of public awareness marginalized communities or subcultures, specifically the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) or queer community. Even though the compositions of her photographs resemble traditional portraits, the bright, saturated backgrounds and the subject matter makes the images radical, especially during the early '90s.

Catherine Opie, Chicken, 1991

Catherine Opie, Frankie, 1995

Catherine Opie, Justin Bond, 1993

Opie has also photographed other communities, such as surfers and high school football players. Her practice can generally be divided into two endeavors: portraits and landscapes. With her more recent work, photographing surfers and high school football players, she explores American identity through iconic images. With her landscape photographs, Opie is interested in how identities are shaped and defined by their surrounding architecture/environment.

Catherine Opie, Nick, 2003

Catherine Opie, Untitled #10 (Surfers), 2003

Catherine Opie, Dusty, 2007

Catherine Opie, Football Landscape #9 (Crenshaw vs. Jefferson, Los Angeles, CA), 2007

Cindy Sherman

While Catherine Opie's work can be categorized as documentary photography, Cindy Sherman's work is far from documentary--it is theatrical. Yet both artists explore issues of identity. Sherman's photographs have been described as conceptual portraits. Even though Sherman photographs herself, these images do not represent who she believes she is. They are staged concepts of women as portrayed in the media or other cultural visual forms, such as historical paintings and portraiture photography. Through her work, Sherman raises important questions regarding the role or identity of women in society. Post modern analysis believes there is no intrinsic humanity or identity and that who we are is simply "composites of a lot of myths and narratives written by other people" (Colin Westerbeck, writer).

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #21, 1978

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #13, 1978

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #10, 1978

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #15, 1978

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #92, 1981

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #96, 1981

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #205, 1989

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #223, 1990

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #469, 2008

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #471, 2008

Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin is credited for her influence in affirming the snapshot aesthetic during the late '70s and early '80s. In 2003, Lynne Tillman of the New York Times explained how Goldin "forged a genre, with photography as influential as any in the last twenty years," which became popularized beginning in the early '90s by youth fashion magazines such as, The Face and I-D. Goldin created photographic journeys, like a private journal, documenting subculture communities, such as gay and transsexual communities, post-punk new-wave music scene, and the hard-core drug subculture of the Bowery in New York. Goldin uses available light, which often gives her photographs a gritty look that works to enhance the rawness of the subculture subjects she photographs. As John Szarkowski wrote about Diane Arbus, another prominent American photographer, which can also be applied to Goldin, these photographers strived not "to reform life but to know it." Both Goldin's and Opie's work can be categorized as documentary photography. However, their aesthetics are quite different.

Nan Goldin, "Nan and Brian in Bed," 1983, from the series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

Nan Goldin, "Smoky Car, New Hampshire," 1979, from the series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

Nan Goldin, "Rise and Monty on the Lounge Chair," 1986, from the series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

Nan Goldin, "Cookie," 1983, from the series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

Nan Goldin, from the series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1979-1986

Nan Goldin, "Nan One Month After Being Battered," 1984, from the series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

Nan Goldin, Kathe in the Tub, West Berlin, 1984

Nan Goldin, Shiobhan in my Mirror, Berlin, 1992

Nan Goldin, Joana avec Valérie et Reine dans le Miroir, 1999

Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger also deals with issues of identity, but in a much different way than any of the three artists above. Kruger's work has a very distinct aesthetic: found black and white photographs overlaid with white-on-red text. The text phrases are often pithy and aggressive, which are meant to persuade the viewer to question their relationship to feminism, consumerism, power, and individual autonomy and desire. The contrast comes from overlaying these declarative captions over images that represent the very thing she is attempting to dispute. Kruger's practice can be largely categorized as appropriation art: the artistic practice of using found, existing, well-known images and then making it one's own by reworking it to mash up and alter original meaning in order to create new ones. The phrases Kruger uses in her work often include the pronouns "you," "your," "I," "we," and "they." This focuses the work back onto issues of identity and community. As Kruger once said,
"I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are and who we aren’t."
Similar to Cindy Sherman who adopts media portrayals of women, Kruger acknowledges the post modern idea of who we are, our identity, has been created and sold to us through the media.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (I shop, therefore I am), 1987

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your comfort is my silence), 1981

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (We don't need another hero), 1987

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (When I hear the word culture, I take out my checkbook), 1985

Barbara Kruger, exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery, 1991

Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons is a well-known artist not generally known for his photographs. He is mostly associated with his large-scale sculptures. However, his photographs (as well as his sculptures) are examples of two closely related aesthetics known as camp and kitsch. The difference between camp and kitsch is located in its critical analysis and lack of critical analysis, respectively. They are often confused because they can appear similar in their excessiveness. Susan Sontag distinguishes key elements of camp in her essay, Notes on 'Camp,' which are artifice, frivolity, naive middle-class pretentiousness, and shocking excess. And these elements can be found in kitsch as well. The difference is that camp uses these elements as a humorous vehicle for critical analysis of the status quo to reveal the hypocrisy of the dominant culture. While kitsch IS only those elements and nothing more--it contains no critical analysis of itself. Camp contains an inherit ironic attitude of itself (it is willing to make a joke out of itself to prove a point) while kitsch can sometimes be appreciated in an ironic or knowing way (examples are garden gnomes and other lawn ornaments). Kitsch is considered derogatory and inferior in its tasteless imitation of the surface appearance of art and is created primarily for commercial purposes and mass production. Koons work has been described as both camp and kitsch. Are the photographs below a humorous, critical analysis of the dominant culture of straight, white males or are they simply reinforcing that identity?

Jeff Koons, Advertisement in Flash Art International, December 1988, 1988

Jeff Koons, Art Magazine Ads, 1988/89

Jeff Koons, Art Magazine Ads, 1988/89

Jeff Koons, Art Magazine Ads (Artforum), 1988

Florian Maier-Aichen

Florian Maier-Aichen utilizes computer manipulation to introduce painterly touches that detach his photographs from reality, bringing them closer to the realm of drawing. He states, "Illustration is just another level of abstracting. It lifts you to another layer that is not necessarily linked to realism and it opens up your own world or your own myth-making." Through digital manipulation, Maier-Aichen reveals much about the flexibility of the medium (photography) and the nature of perception. The subject of much of Maier-Aichen's photographic illustrations are clichéd scenes, referencing the work of masters such as Carleton Watkins or Ansel Adams, yet he does something strange with them giving it a feeling of both familiarity and uncanniness, which then brings into question our sense of perception.

Florian Maier-Aichen, The Best General View, 2007

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled, 2007

Florian Maier-Aichen, Chamonix-Rue Nationale et le Mont Blanc, 2007

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled (Malibu South), 2004

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled, 2009

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled, 2005

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled, 2005

Contemporary Teenage Photographers

Below are examples of three up and coming, teenage photographers. They are examples of how young people today are utilizing the medium of photography, in terms of subject matter, aesthetics, technical approaches, etc. Chrissy White offers a 16 year-old's odd perspective on life, from the confines of her bedroom and with an element of fantasy. Eleanor Hardwick is a 15 year-old photographer whose work has a haunting quality to them, capturing surreal concepts, literary references and everyday life. As Hardwick states, "I love photography, because you can use the world that you have to create another world." Olivia Bee is also 15 years-old and explores the diary-style aesthetic in her photographs. "Bee's pictures are a raw and honest description of her life, showing herself and friends going through the sometimes hazy, uncomfortable and occasionally, almost delirious, experience of teengage life."

Chrissy White

Chrissy White

Chrissy White

Chrissy White

Eleanor Hardwick

Eleanor Hardwick

Eleanor Hardwick

Olivia Bee

Olivia Bee

Olivia Bee

Olivia Bee

Olivia Bee

Olivia Bee

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