Shelley Sacks

Shelley Sacks is a current professor at Oxford University. She did a project called Exchange Values – Images of Invisible Lives in which she took banana skins and tracked the farmers of ‘free trade’ bananas. She then took the skins of the bananas to their perspective farms and interviewed the farmers talking about their lives and how hard it was to be grow bananas. She then did an installation involving these banana skins and her social art initiative.


I really dig these minimalist sculptures. The black crinkled skins carry a lot of political, cultural, and agricultural weight. They speak of a shriveled economy, an exploitative world that these people live in. And we don’t even think of their lives or their worlds. We, as Eaters, just think of the banana, that doesn’t even grow in the United States. Sacks is right, these invisible lives are important. I love what she did. She showed us, consumers, through her art how our eating habits are effecting people in other countries, and did it in a non didactic, colonial, or oppressive way. She is very objective in a way about the final results.

I really enjoy how she brings the banana skins and has the farmers write on the skins as well as recording their voices and opinions.

This is such a big issue for me and her work is a great inspiration for this kind of activist work and how to engage in the whole process of making informed art while still maintaining the role as artist – not missionary.

Here is the project website:


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David Hilliard

Hilliard is an American photographer who has worked with multi-exposure images since the early 1990s. He tends to keep his subjects relative to his own personal life and experiences, along with the experiences of those around him. He says that he enjoys working with a panoramic view because it allows him to guide his viewers through his story, adding a new perspective with each frame. I personally enjoy his work a lot because of the narratives I find in each of his dipdics, tripdics, etc. Although sometimes his color saturation is a bit too much, it gives his photos a surreal feeling to them.

He works with the idea of relationships between groups of people and also between people and nature. A unique focus of his is establishing the differences between physical and emotional distance between his viewers and his subjects within his images.

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Perception, Lies, and Reality

Jennifer Schlup’s essay discusses some processes of photo manipulation and how photography has been morphing conceptually within the context of contemporary art. In her introduction, she discusses periods photography has gone through, including the Pictorialist movement, and how photography is no longer a “point and shoot” practice due to photoshop and modern technologies that offer such an intense, high degree of control over photographs, making them more like a canvas for a larger idea and multi-layered execution conceptually.

I really liked the definitions that were given straight from the beginning, because it denoted clear vocabulary so her ideas came out clearer and easier to understand. The straightforwardness of this was refreshing compared to some of the other reading we have had. I also found it interesting that she created her own categories for these contemporary works, just as we had done. I was also pleased to see that some of the artists we had discovered and discussed were included.

The approach she used for discussing photo manipulation was not one of disgust or displeasure, but one of careful consideration, exploration, and respect. Too much is photography viewed as a double edged sword that when you take a snapshot, it is too easy with little effort, yet when photos are manipulated, they are frowned upon as not being truthful. Her stance on words such as “truth” and “reality” was great, because it puts the notion that just because something isn’t directly truthful, means that it is, in fact, a lie. This is something that has been brought up many times and it’s nice to see someone share this same belief that I do.

I really liked this reading in particular because it was easy to grasp, and the visuals helped. Although during our last class we had discussed if there was a place for “point and shoot” photography in contemporary art right now, both Sara and I brought up the point that art has ebbs and flows, and right now the point and shoot notion has faded away but is still prevalent, though not at the forefront of artists minds at this moment. It is true that many contemporary photographers are looking at photos as a means of a canvas, as I said earlier. This idea ties in with my category “More Than Paper” and the multi media or layering effects that allow photographs room to breath conceptually and visually.

I’m looking forward to the skype call and discussion tomorrow, as I think this will bring up some great comments!

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Perception, Lies, and Reality Response

In Jennifer Schlup’s writing, she attempts to walk us through the various common techniques that have brought photography into the modern age – or, in other words: manipulation of photographs. In her introductory paragraph, she talks about expectations of the photograph as they used to be and how they have evolved into what we take them to be. Mainly, this involves the notion that photographs were once thought of to be a reflection of the truth; an image of an exact moment in time where the subject was something which was real and legitimate. Now, however, we due to various experiments, styles, and most recently Adobe Photoshop, we can no longer take what we see as truth, and instead look at photography as a tool and understand that we are only seeing what is visible within the frame. This not only adds a layer of conceptual depth to the photograph as a medium, but also reminds us that there is an artist’s hand behind a process which (digitally) may seem very automatic and void of human contact.

Her six body paragraphs go through her six themes of manipulation (which can be accomplished with both photoshop and in the process of exposing the photograph): multiple exposure, time and the process of drawing with light, fragmented temporality, scale, constructed reality, and illusion. What I found interesting about most of these themes is that the reality vs fanciful feeling that one experiences comes from the dissonance which arrives the moment the viewer realizes that the photograph is not an authentic representation of reality. Especially in multiple exposure, constructed reality, and illusion, the point of confusion comes from the smallest details of the images suddenly not adding up with the expectation of what should be seen. As viewers, our socially embedded idea that photographs are all that can be seen about a specific moment suddenly shatters; leaving use to try and reconstruct our schemas about what we are looking at. All at once, a photo that seems innocent and straightforward becomes a puzzle which we find ourselves racing to put back together.

I enjoyed this reading because of how Schlup talks about her admiration for the manipulated photograph. Indeed, I too, hold respect for those photographers who can catch us off guard and question our understanding of what we see. I liked her approach as well: being far from the processes of photoshop and focusing more on the abstract ideas of fooling our senses and inflicting confusion onto others. I suppose my only questions for this response would be “what other themes can be found which use manipulation of a familiar image?” and “how does confusion bring a new layer to a photograph, and what can we (as viewers) gain from second guessing our thoughts about an image?

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Manipulation Is The Rule And A So Called Truth The Exception.

What a good read! I can’t believe that this is a master’s thesis. It’s very professional and contemporary and brings up a lot of good points. Schlup is a very eloquent writer, but I guess my comment is that I think I’ve heard this all before. I’m not really sure I was told any new concepts by reading this paper. However, the examples of artists were so creative and inspiring and it’s always nice to read a well written essay.

I will start my short response to her paper with her closing statement: In short: manipulation is the rule and a so called truth the exception.

Schlup discredits photography as truth and explores several different categories of how contemporary artists are using photography in a way that does not progress this ‘truth’ thought any further. She really targets Henri-Cartier Bresson and the Decisive Moment in her essay, saying that that way of thinking is basically outdated and many contemporary artists are working as an antithesis to Bresson’s concept. I don’t really know how I feel about this. I started learning about photography with Cartier Bresson and I adore his work. I don’t think he was trying to give us an absolute truth with his photography but just as the other photographers, show us captured moments that he experienced in his own reality. I don’t think the Decisive Moment is wrong in any way, but I think it is just another perception of reality and there is nothing wrong with that. His images are interesting and do not scream with the amount of truth that blocks the viewer from pursuing their own imagination in the work.
Pheww.. That’s my beef with her beef with Henri-Cartier Bresson. I understand her point in trying to say that there is no true representation of reality, but she could have done this perhaps more effectively for me if not targeting the Decisive Moment.

Going from the lows to the highs, her section on time and drawing with light reaffirmed my fascination with photograms and my planned project for this entire semester. She says that it is the reinstitution of the medium as a medium with processes rather than the final result, the image. Schlup spoke of the perception of phenomena that happens when one draws with light. I think long exposures are beautiful because they capture not only more than one point in time, but an infinite amount of points and frames, because each movement has an endless amount of micro movements. It is this movement captured in a permanent format that I am interested.

I learned about Flechtner and his long expoures of him walking through landscapes. I found this very inspiring and a great idea. I like mapping movement with chemicals and light. His images are very abstract and it is not clear that there really ever was someone walking through the landscape upon first glance. It is about the action and the process than the final result for him as it is for me as well. When working within the photographic medium it is refreshing to challenge those results of the pretty final matted image and have the image be a representation of a thought, an experience.

Constructed reality is definitely a hot topic in contemporary photography. I like the background history we were given about early photographers constructing their own reality. However, times are different now: there is PhotoShop. It is readily available and being used by the proletariat as well as professionals. This is clearly what Schlup was interested in the most, and I can see why. She said that she constructed realities because it was impossible to find in reality what she envisioned in her head. Constructed photography is imagination, and involves a multifaceted skill set. I did not respond too much to her first set of work with the miniatures. I thought that they were strange, too dark, and too mundane to really hit me. The ideas she was speaking of were all present in this work, but I think it wasn’t new enough for me. The images didn’t make me think very much.
I liked her second body a lot better, though they were CLEARLY Robert Smithson inspired – no way they weren’t – and there really was no mention of him. Smithson I feel did what she did but with less color and in a gallery setting instead of a photographic one. Either way it was certainly interesting to see the manipulation of nature with a little smoke and mirrors, I took it as a reflection (pun!) of our contemporary society’s mentality towards ephemerality, advertisement, and the manipulation and displacement of natural objects.
I like her point about how it is hard to start distrusting photographs now because they have been trusted for so long. I understand this, but I don’t think that it is true. I think it will keep getting easier and easier to realize that photographs are never realities, but capturing moments of a certain reality. With social media and an increase in technology, soon photographs will not be misconstrued and the public will become enlightened from the burden of the illusion of truth in photographic images, I am hopeful.

Questions: Do you think that there are still photographers on the quest for truth? Why do they want to do this?

Is constructed/ altered photography going to be the new norm of photography? Why or why not? The trend seems to be heading that way.

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Emmet Gowin and Moths Collaborate

Emmet Gowin became popular in the 1970’s for taking images of his breathtaking wife, Edith. The intimacy that the two shared together is quite universally beautiful, free spirit, and reflective of the 1970’s. Later in his photographic career, Emmet started photographing Edith with their children and his depictions of family life are really sweet and magical. I have always loved that Edith was Gowin’s muse. His photographs made us feel as strongly for her and for them possibly as he did. His work makes me feel a deep inner happiness and optimism for love and for family.

But along another tangent… Gowin has recently been taking long exposures of Edith with nocturnal moths. His images range from her face with moths flying around her with a strong light, to Edith’s silhouette behind a curtain with moths attracted to it. Gowin even admitted to bringing a cut out silhouette of her to his exotic tropical locations when she cannot come along on the trip.

I like the use of his collaboration with the moths to create a unique composition and add dynamism to his photographs. I appreciate his exploitation of the moths’ yearning for light in order to capture them like this. It brings up feelings of domesticity, like when moths cling on screen doors in the summer time. I also like his focus, as always, on Edith in these. He never loses sight of her as his icon and life partner and the photographs are quite fantastical too! Check it out.

edith edith 2

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Marten Lange

al-56 anomalies-07 machina-05

A Swedish artist who works strictly with black and white film, Lange is primarily invested in nature and how he can interact with it. He often photographs that which he can find simply by being an observer, and thinking about his camera as a tool which can see all yet understand nothing which is going on. I believe that he sees himself a little bit in that statement as well, yet takes in his surrounding for all that he can.

Some of Lange’s photos are confusing for me because I can’t tell whether or not I like them. Many of his photos seem to be overexposed, and that bothers me, yet from what I’ve seen, he is not criticized for it. Perhaps my eye is not trained well enough yet. I also have a hard time as I scroll through his works: there is something unknown that draws me to them, and yet their aesthetic also repulses me. I think mostly, his blacks and whites are too intense for my liking, and yet his subject matter is intriguing. I especially enjoy his two series: Anomalies and Machina.

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