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Discussion in 'Discussing a ****** Photograph' started by bjorke, Aug 18, 2006.
(just start with the pic)
Seems to be a reportage picture, could well have been taken to go with an article on infant beauty pageants. If the object was to show how these little children are used to playing to the camera, this picture does this to a certain extent but it would have been possible to emphasize this much more. In short, this is a picture which I feel does not stand up particularly well on its own but needs to be seen in what I imagine to be its context of a picture series together with text.
Well I've been hearing in these threads that if a picture needs context, there's something crippled about it. So I guess this is just no damned good, huh.
A pretty wild overstatement! Assuming that this image is from "Girl Culture" by Lauren Greenfield, it was undoubtedly shot with the intention of being used in a sequence (photo essay), which means an intention right from the start of making a statement through a number of juxtaposed images and thus automatically also means an intention NOT to try and say everything possible in a single image. This is more or less the diametrical opposite of an advertising picture (or for that matter a camera club competition picture), where the aim is for explosive instantaneous impact and where a picture will be deemed a failure if it does not acheive this impact literally within half a second.
I'll keep feeding you the straight lines David, you supply the punchlines
IMO no photo exists without context.
In my opinion, this picture needs no context. It easily stands alone.
I would argue that it is a little girl playing dress up. The mothers shoes give that impression.
Although after being inundated with the JonBenet Ramsey pictures and "expose" of child beauty pageants it sort of makes me cringe, but the fact that they are not her shoes but her mother's suggests that this is not the case. (I could be wrong)
But the body position and the strike a pose "voguing" gives it a sort of charm.
This is true, of course. As I've seen it, the discussion has been around how far the context needs particular 'spelling out' in order for the picture to be understood?....
It stands very well on it's own with no context at all. The girl is dressing up. she is looking in a mirror and assessing. Is there a greater message. I think so. Why is she doing this? One might assume she is entering a stage of self conciousness looking to see how she looks in the adult shoes and princess outfit. (I do not have daughters so I will assume it is a princess outfit). I suppose someone could assign a more social/gender role type of interpretation to the image. From an educator stand point one could draw several connections to Piaget and his theory that play is the work of the child.
If you wanted to make the point that a picture needs context to make it work, there were many others in that photo essay that, in no way, could stand on their own without context. But, in the context of the Essay, "Girl Culture", work fantastically.
What would Zeus say? Perhaps, "A really charming photo of a young lady reacting in a young ladylike manner to the situation in which she is involved."
Ditto that. Even if it was taken as part of a series, it easily stands alone. No context is necessary.
Taking the context issue aside, I'll say that the composition is quite eassy, the photographer didn't take risks. Good use of the diagonal to balance but, the red garment disturbs me. Maybe another shot living this red thing out of the girls hand could make it better, IMHO.
This is a good example of how the experience of the viewer determines how the photograph is read. I have two daughters, 10 and 6 (6 about the age of this girl I would say). This is pretty simple modeling behaivor, little girl emulating mom or what she might see on TV or in a movie. She appears to have her finger nails painted, maybe as a prelude to being dressed up for a real event or just for play. Actually looks to me like she may be getting ready to be part of an event such as flower girl at a wedding. Trying big girl shoes just a whim of fancy while they are there.
For me the best part of this is the very intense look on her face. That tells me she is not just playing dress up but is trying hard to imitate a specific moment or circumstance she has seen.
Then again the face and pose could be nothing more then a reaction to not being able to keep her balance in the high heel shoes.
Okay, now it's time for the second part of the experiment.
For more on the context look here (ignore the D word)
Do you respond to the picture in the same way?
I wasn't familiar with this photo project before viewing this picture, but my take on the photo before seeing the commentary was the same as after. I don't think her premise or findings were at all surprising or revealing, but that could partly be because I photograph so very, very many children. Girls start this behavior early on, and there's no question that they're largely reflecting the values and norms of their society. On the other hand, children are sensual (please don't confuse with "sexual") and exhibitionist by nature; society and experience only make it more pronounced.
It should come as a shock to no one that girls and women judge each other, have body insecurities, and say hurtful things about each other's appearances. LOL.
I think every thinking human being in western culture understands the dichotomy that women are subjected to and also subject themselves and their female peers to.
To me the video is no great revelation about anything, and the picture still stands alone and has not changed in my eyes.
I photograph lots of little girls. I've had 3 year olds slip the shoulder of their shirt off their shoulder and give me a Brittney Spears cheeky look. I've had very young girls flirt with me in very inappropriate ways.
But little girls have always tried on their moms clothes and posed and fantasied about being "older". Human beings are sexual beings and even at a very young age exhibit signs of what their little minds are thinking.
I am curious. You called this an experiment. What was your point? Were you trying to see if our minds changed in light of the context of the photograph.
(kidding kidding kidding!!!!)
I have no real desire to be disparaging, but (and bear in mind this is a European perspective) ultimately I feel Greenfield ends up stating the obvious and pulling her punches - I keep wishing she would follow through and say something about the extreme fragmentation and commercialization of modern society (particularly US society) and the fact that "Girl Culture" as a part of culture in general is crucially shaped by pressure from large corporations wishing to sell goods without any regard to wider implications. I am aware that this is not easy to do in the USA, but people like Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock have proved that it is at least possible.
I'm not positive but I believe she is a product of LA, a city that is so far over the top on "image" that most people find it humorous if it wasn't so sad and so influential. Actually almost every city in the US has gone Valley Girl as far as the female adolescent lifestyle goes.
As for people like Michael Moore he is regarded as a bit of a hypocrite who puts his "aw shucks" persona on and parades around with his crew playing gotcha with his "victims". He has gone Hollywood when it suits him, and dirt poor when he's making his points.
The photographs are interesting individual elements that when put together in the manner they have been tell a story that for me seems to be far-fetched and very unbalanced view of young womanhood.
Of course it has been a long time since I have lived in LA as a young lady and my memory and age could well be skewing my attitudes.
It certainly could be a little girl playing dress up in her Mother's shoes but the lipstick is too perfect and too bright. It jumps out at you. It was the first thing I noticed. It made me think someone had made her up for the photo shoot. Or as someone suggested, a pageant child.
To see what would happen and what comments might come up -- same as ALL posts in this area!. In this specific case, what comments might be when a photo that's highly-context-dependant was posted without the context -- a context that transforms it from a generic cute kid pic to a complex adult one by positing it within something broader (Greenfield has been careful always not to directly preach as to the good or evil of Girl Culture, but instead to use photography to explore it -- this lack of judgementalism and an ability to see directly is a huge part, I'm sure, of her ability to gain intimate access (and probably a reason why she was selected post-GC as a member of VII). Whether you agree with the importance of her theme or find it superficial, it's clear (to me) that the context is a big element.
Maybe I should have picked a more obscure photo (not Greenfield) that is meant to be sold as a single pic though part of a broad body of work, like:
Menopause will do that to you.
Bjorke, it seems that your opinion, or the point you're trying to get across is that context is as important as the individual print. Sort of a buy the photographer not the photograph sort of thing.
I think that when a photographer decides to make a social documentary with their photographs, it may be a different thing than when a photographer with their built in prejudices and points of view, takes random picture of subjects than interest them.
But I still hold that if an individual picture can't stand up, then laying a story line around it, is just a crutch and the photograph fails. If that is the case then the photographer should take up cinematography, because the failures should end up in the garbage can and not the background for a series of mediocre pieces to a whole.
I agree with blansky:
If the picture does not work on its own, then a story line is just a lame crutch.
If the picture is supposed to serve a documentary purpose or be evidence for an investigation, then the context is vital. If it is supposed to be art, then it either is, or it is not, and lame titles, captions, or story lines or artist statements will not change that.