In what way does the idea of the gaze apply to your photography? What are the implications of this for your practice?
The article states that there are seven (different) types of gaze, namely:
- The photographers gaze (the act of looking through the view finder)
- The magazine gaze (the 'view' of the editor, in terms of selecting or rejecting from a portfolio of images, then further physical manipulation by means of cropping the images or implied relationships between images due to placement within the article)
- The readers gaze
- The non-Westerners subjects gaze
- The explicit looking done by Westerners who are framed together with the locals (subjects) in the picture
- The gaze returned or refracted by the mirrors or cameras (that are shown) in the hands of locals
- The academics gaze (our own gaze).
This article was written in 1991 and took the National Geographic magazine as its particular reference. Times have moved on and views have changed, however, I would speculate that all seven views still apply to and influence photography and photographic practise - not in the way they did, but in a way that fits within our world view currently.
1. I am a photographer and I have a 'view', this view may be directed by me in terms of a personal project or directed by a company in terms of a specific brief; but the result is still my view - my take - on a given set of circumstances. With regards to a specific brief, I also accept that my view today could be very different to my view tomorrow - I am a product of my life experiences and will continue to have new experiences and therefore evolve. I would expect this evolution to be reflected in how I view the world and also in the images I produce.
2. I have no doubt the role of the editor has become more challenging, especially today in the saturated digital arena of mass media; nonetheless the function of the role remains the same - to sell magazines. A fundamental change here being the fact that 'the media' not only scrutinise the newsworthy events and celebrities, they also scrutinise each other.
3. Our world is getting smaller and we have the Internet at our fingertips; it is hardly surprising that our readers are more demanding in terms of immediate access to information; are generally less inclined to believe what they see (or hear) without the requisite proof; at the same time as becoming very fickle in where they get their information. That is not necessarily to say that the reader is any more educated, only that they are generally more aware of their surroundings because of the collective nature of their communication - we are The Borg, you will be assimilated, resistance is futile! (from Star Trek)
4. The gaze of the subject - and we may not want to limit this to 'non-Westerner' - is as troublesome today as it was in 1991. Nat-Geo was originally looking at 3rd world and emerging cultures - anything that was new and original; there is less new and original today because of television, the Internet and the tourist industry. Historically, like it or not, there was a style and a hierarchy to the image and the composition of the image and looking back through these images this cultural discrimination can clearly be observed. I believe, today that the image code is none-existent, the use of the images taken is less controlled and more manipulated for the benefit of the 'story' and the 'gaze' of the individual rarely considered.
5. In this instance I would suggest swap 'Westerners' with 'tourists' and the situation is similar. In this type of image I (would like to) think there is less racial discrimination and more genuine interest in the difference in the cultures and the image taken as purely an aide memoire to a great holiday experience! I would concur that the tourist does not seek a relationship with the 'native', but at the same time is happy to accept them as an individual with an interesting and different ethnicity.
6. Of the seven gazes identified in this article, I believe this is the least relevant in today's society - in this modern era of social networking and camera phones, there is a global obsession with 'selfies'! In the past people may well have been self-unaware and camera shy, today it is basically unacceptable not to take your photograph and communicate your activity with your friends and followers - no matter how inappropriate the situation.
7. I suspect this is the one gaze that has not changed - no matter how much society changes; academics will always be there to analyse and speculate...
Taken slightly out of context from the article, but fitting nonetheless regardless of which gaze applies and how they intersect:
"It would seem to be fact that the seductiveness of pictures both captures and instructs us."