Jillian Mayer

400 Nudes (2014):

For this series, Mayer appropriated female nude selfies from various sites on the internet, including revenge porn sites, and replaced the faces of the women in the images with her own. In an interview, Mayer describes being interested in how the selfie is inherently directed by the person in the photograph and how the majority of nude selfies are not intended to be mass distributed and are therefore not authorised – through her intervention, Mayer seeks to recapture and reclaim the images of the girls she features. (Byrd, 2014) In an interview, she expands on this idea:

“When these girls are taking these nude selfies, it’s interesting because they’re almost empowered. They’re the director, they’re the model, the editor and then the delivery vessel. They’ve created this while thing and then the minute it’s released, it becomes this item of vulnerability.” (Frank, 2014)

Vulnerability is something of a euphemism as the consequences for these women who have their nude selfies published online can be dangerous, far reaching, and life ruining – from public shame and damaged personal and professional relationships to suicide.

Reviewing the series’ exhibition at the 2014 Montreal Biennial, Cait Munro (2014) describes the public dissemination of nude photographs of women without consent as “probably the seediest underbelly of internet culture” but praises Mayer for reclaiming these from vengeance through her intervention:

“It’s a brave action that attempts to assuage some of the pain and humiliation many women have felt when they’ve found themselves compromised online in a way they never intended to be. It also opens a dialogue about the consequences of a culture that disseminates information without consent. Mayer recounts watching visitors approach her work during the opening reception, only to become visibly uncomfortable and back away. Part of it is just the natural response to encountering something sexually charged in a public space, but Mayer posits there’s something else at play too. “Because we are used to seeing nudity in a context where it is being taken from a woman, we feel we’re not supposed to be looking at these images, which in a way harms our [ability to enjoy] sexuality.” (Munro, 2014)

While praising the series for being a comment on visual oversaturation, Alicia Eler (2017) is less convinced about whether Mayer succeeds in reclaiming and anonymising the images from the malicious intent of whoever posted them to the internet:

“In making art out of actual revenge porn, Mayer further participates in the sharing and repurposing of intimate images that were never meant to be seen publicly. Within selfie culture, however, there is always an implied potential publicness, that this image could be shared. Selfies are taken with that awareness in mind. As an artist, is Mayer given leeway to use these images for the purposes of social commentary?

Mayer is both empathic to the women who originally shared these images, and fascinated by the images themselves. There is a certain sadness in all of these images. They are all evidence of betrayal. Once posted on the internet they join the glut of bodies as digital detritus or trash.” (Eler, 2017: 104-5)

Although Mayer states on her website that she went to great lengths to make convincing composites, the images I have looked at appear obviously fake. Aesthetically I do not have a problem with this in itself as it could be read as a comment on the other internet phenomenon where nude images of celebrities are faked. It is also of note that this series was first exhibited around the same time that a number of celebrities had their internet accounts hacked and nude images were posted online.

‘400 nudes’ is a challenging series that raises many issues that are important and deserve to be explored, I am not convinced that Mayer is successful with this however. The use of revenge porn to make art is problematic at best and most accurately unethical – there are strange contradictions concerned with empowerment and the fact that this is removed by the actions of a vengeful partner in an act that is a despicable betrayal of trust. Similarly to much rhetoric regarding rape when the survivor is portrayed as having behaved in some way that meant she deserved to be attacked, the victims of revenge porn are criticised for sending the images in the first place – an argument which fails to address the real issues and the fact that this sort of action is a form of sexual violence in itself. I am sure Mayer had positive intentions about being able to change this by her intervention, but she only adds to the problem by widening the audience. Ultimately I reach the same conclusion as Alicia Eler, and like her, I have chosen not to illustrate this post with any of the images from the series as I do not want to be complicit in showing images that were originally published to the internet with the purpose of humiliation.

Links:

Bibliography:

Byrd, C. (2014) Jillian Mayer on the nude selfie project. Fresh Art Intl. Available at: https://freshartinternational.com/2014/10/23/fresh-talk-jillian-mayer/ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Eler, A. (2017) The selfie generation. New York: Skyhorse publishing.

Frank, P. (2014) Artist photoshops 400 nude selfies to explore the future of the online image. Huffpost. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jillian-mayer_n_6064116?ri18n=true&guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAL0a-uK5MU_gYJjkKlUg_H_lfEMDng2_R0ocSAyf9JpWqGl8EGwKxkFZu9wSY02de46WU0ZnSLYfBlyGPepCe0EZvbiXDGWr5T0hq-MSBqmWDWT1rVq3sl-NPtbe2yv0malv-g4lO3BUglUeLZ9p-wr808yi4vHKwSIMLXVibkiQ (accessed 19th July 2020)

Munro, C. (2014) At Montreal Biennial artists tackle sexual politics in the 21st century. Artnet. Available at: https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/at-montreal-biennial-artists-tackle-sexual-politics-in-the-21st-century-141607 (accessed 26th July 2020)

Amalia Ulman

Excellences and Perfections (2014):

In 2014, Amalia Ulman used her Instagram account to create a five month “performance” in which she blended fact and fiction to present a narrative which commented on the extreme makeover culture prevalent on Instagram at the time. Through a series of social media posts and selfies she created a semi-fictionalised version of herself, the background research for which she describes here:

“I began by researching the cosmetic gaze and the beauty myth, then I prepared a script and timeline that followed the rhythm of social media. I identified three popular trends: the Tumblr girl (an Urban Outfitters type); the sugar-baby ghetto girl; and the girl next door, someone like Miranda Kerr, who’s healthy and into yoga. Part of the project was about how photography can be a signifier of class, and how cultural capital is reflected in selfies.” (Eler, 2017: 242)

Although some aspects of the performance were carefully and elaborately orchestrated, such as pretending to have breast augmentation surgery, other parts were real – Ulman followed the strict Zao Dha Diet, went to pole dancing lessons and moved from London to Los Angeles. The introduction to the work on the New Museum website describes the series like this:

“Through judicious use of sets, props, and locations, Excellences and Perfection evoked a consumerist fantasy lifestyle. Ulman’s Instagram account is a parade of carefully arranged flowers and expensive lingerie and highly groomed interiors and perfectly plated brunches. These images are excessive, but also believable – because they’re so familiar. For many privileged users, social media is a way of selling one’s lifestyle, of building one’s brand. And Ulman went to great lengths to replicate the narrative conventions of these privileged feeds, from the use of captions and hashtags (#simple, #cutegasm), to the pace and timing of uploads, to the discerning inclusion of “authentic” intimate or emotional content (a photo of a lover or a moment of despair).”

When Ulman brought ‘Excellences and Perfections’ to an end in September 2014, many of her thousands of followers who were unaware of her performance, were so emotionally invested in her character that they felt hurt by what they perceived as her deception. Other commentators praised the way her project drew attention to the double standards that allow women to be simultaneously valued and shamed for the way they present their bodies online. Lucy Souter (2018: 103) describes how Ulman was praised by critics as “one of the internet’s sharpest infiltrators” and for “deconstructing the tyranny of smug social media bragging.” She regards ‘Excellences and Perfections’ as an example of parafictional artwork as it requires the belief of the audience to give them a jolt of reality. She makes this analysis:

“Who is to say where the line between fact and fiction lies in “Excellences and Perfections”? For after all, isn’t this the artist’s actual person? Ulman made real physical changes in her appearance for this project, to the point of exercising hours per day and having fillers injected into her face. Might not some of these experiences or emotions depicted also be at least partially genuine? And what of the unguarded responses of her followers? Are those invalidated when she “outs” the project as being staged? Once unveiled as a hoax, Ulman’s project is a fiction that remains provocative in its negotiation between authenticity and commodification as foregrounded by selfie culture. For indeed, we all encounter a degree of contradiction between our experience of ourselves and the way we present ourselves to the world. The internet has merely extended the reach and velocity of our self-imaging.” (Souter, 2018: 103)

In an interview Ulman addresses the controversy that ensued following the realisation that her social media was an art project rather than reality by drawing an analogy with the way people jumped from their seats when confronted with the Lumières first public film screening:

“in a way, everyone knows at that their core, that all reality online is fabricated. Maybe that’s where the bitterness came from (in relation to the performance) because that exposure not only involved me, but everyone who followed and saw themselves reflected in it.” (Horning and Ulman, 2014)

When the interviweer makes a comment about the project being bound with “the ethics of suspending disbelief on social media”, Ulman makes a reply about the construction of media in general:

“I think it is important to offer skepticism about media in general. Even though it is well known, for example, that news networks are manipulated depending on their ideology and that women’s magazines are constantly censored by their advertisers (mainly the cosmetics industry), reminders are always worth generating. This is because they point out hierarchies of power and manipulation, they help the audience to become more analytical about their sources of information. If I generated a fiction, everything else could be a fiction too.” (Horning and Ulman, 2014)

Peggy Orenstein defines Ulman’s series as spoofing the language of Instagram by creating a “commercialized, one-dimensional, infinitely replicated, and, frankly, unimaginative vision of sexiness…[set to] perform rather than to feel sensuality.” (Winant, 2016) Carmen Winant makes this analysis which describes the fine line that Ulman successfully negotiates through the series:

“In a moment in which feminist art is defined primarily by its immediate context and authorial claims (Ulman does not describe practice as “feminist” or ascribing to any other political categorization), [Excellences and Perfections] could be considered incisive or lacking rigor. In any case, by revelling in the exhibitionism she seeks to critique, Ulman’s work gets to have it both ways.” (Winant, 2016)

I find ‘Excellences and Perfections’ a compelling series – completely convincing even when you know it is a construction, and complex in the way themes of gender politics and the gaze of the internet are explored. The series possesses the quality that all social media presentations of this type strive for – authenticity, something which ironically has no relationship at all to reality.

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Rise and shine 🙏

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Bettr sore than sorry

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Good Morning!! 🌸🌸

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🌾

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Links:

Bibliography:

Bennett, J. (2019) Are we all anxious now? Tate.org website. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-39-spring-2017/are-we-all-anxious-now (accessed 11th July 2020)

Bradley, P. K. (2018) Amalia Ulman on her new book and internet performances. Artforum. Available at: https://www.artforum.com/interviews/amalia-ulman-on-her-new-book-and-internet-performances-75471 (accessed 19th July 2020)

Connor, M. (2014) First look: Amalia Ulman – excellences and perfections. Rhizome. Available at: https://rhizome.org/editorial/2014/oct/20/first-look-amalia-ulmanexcellences-perfections/ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Connor, M. (2018) Rest in Peace, Ethira. An interview with Amalia Ulman. Rhizome. Available at: https://rhizome.org/editorial/2018/sep/11/rest-in-peace-ethira-an-interview-with-amalia-ulman/ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Cornell, L. (2015) Self-portraiture in the first-person age. Aperture #221. Available at: http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ucreative.idm.oclc.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=2639c33e-ec8f-4d7d-b4c5-0053f80ade3f%40sessionmgr4006

Dazed and Confused (s.d.) Dazed and Confused – Amalia Ulman interview. Dazed and Confused. Available at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Zb0Bdwcs8dCwcIZkcfHA2icgOIruiU5NCPWHbbfJpYk/edit#heading=h.3hj9wmyj1wh6 (accessed 11th July 2020)

Dean, A. (2015) Amalia Ulman – gentle deception. Topical Cream. Available at: http://topicalcream.info/editorial/amalia-ulman-gentle-deception/ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Diehl, T. (s.d.) Inside the cover: Amalia Ulman her body, her self. Cura magazine. Available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1ld0yQIgqA-MGtNMktNbUdMaUs3U096TUVUM3ZDbXdLVjBZ/view (accessed 11th July 2020)

Duncan, F. (s.d.) Escape from L.A. with Amalia Ulman. Ssense. Available at: https://www.ssense.com/en-us/editorial/culture/escape-from-l-a-with-amalia-ulman?utm_source=instagram&utm_medium=social&utm_term=amalia-ulman_collabshare_16_03_2018 (accessed 1th July 2020)

Eler, A. (2017) The selfie generation. New York: Skyhorse publishing.

Horning, R. and Ulman, A. (2014) Perpetual provisional selves: a conversation about authenticity and social media. Rhizome. Available at: https://rhizome.org/editorial/2014/dec/11/rob-horning-and-amalia-ulman/ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Kissick, D. (2014) From plastic surgery to public meltdowns Amalia Ulman is turning Instagram into performance art. i-D. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/wxejzb/interview-cassi-namoda-artist-mozambique (accessed 11th July 2020)

Langmuir, M. (2016) Amalia Ulman is the first great Instagram artist. Elle. Available at: https://www.elle.com/culture/art-design/a38857/amalia-ulman-instagram-artist/ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Lucking, M. (2012) Artist profile: Amalia Ulman. Rhizome. Available at: https://rhizome.org/editorial/2012/nov/07/artist-profile-amalia-ulman/ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Morse, E. (2015) Amalia Ulman. ArtReview. Available at: https://artreview.com/september-2015-feature-amalia-ulman/ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Ruigrok, S. (2018) How this 2014 Instagram hoax predicted the way we use photography now. Dazed Digital. Available at: https://www.dazeddigital.com/art-photography/article/39375/1/amalia-ulman-2014-instagram-hoax-predicted-the-way-we-use-social-media (accessed 11th July 2020)

Soutter, L. (2018) Why Art Photography? (2nd ed.) Oxon: Routledge.

Small, R. (2015) Amalia Ulman. Interview Magazine. Available at: https://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/amalia-ulman#_ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Tate (2016) When art meets technology… Tate.org website. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/ik-prize-2016/art-meets-technology (accessed 11th July 2020)

Ulman, A. (2020) Amalia Ulman: why I staged my own Instagram meltdown. Financial Times, January 3 2020. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/d2cb7650-279b-11ea-9a4f-963f0ec7e134 (accessed 11th July 2020)

Winant, C. (2016) Our bodies, online. Aperture #225, Winter 2016. Available at: https://aperture.org/blog/bodies-online-feminism/ (accessed 11th July 2020)

Haley Morris-Cafiero

I came across the work of Haley Morris-Cafiero from her Instagram account and her series ‘The Bully Pulpit‘ immediately resonated with me because of its strong opposition and defiance to online bullying and trolling. On her website she describes herself as “Part performer, part artist, part spectator” and concerned with exploring the act of reflection in her photography.”

Wait Watchers:

For this series, Morris-Cafiero set up a camera in a public space and photographed herself completing mundane tasks while passersby moved around her. She then selected images in which the strangers in the frame displayed a critical or questioning elements in their face or body language. From her artist statement, she has this to say about the series:

“I consider my photographs a social experiment and I reverse the gaze back on to the stranger and place the viewer in the position of being a witness to a moment in time. The project is a performative form of street photography. I place the camera on a tripod and take hundreds of photographs. The resulting images capture the gazer in a microsecond moment where the shutter, the scene, my actions and their body language align and are frozen on the frame. I do not know what the people in my photographs are looking at or reacting to. I present the images to the world to start a conversation about the gaze and how we use it to communicate our thoughts of others.”

‘Wait Watchers’ straddles many genres of photography, one of the attractions of the series is how it is difficult to define, something acknowledged by Morris-Cafiero who describes it as “technically street photography, documentary, self-portrait, conceptual and guerilla all at once.” (Cirla, s.d.) Asked if she was enraged or hurt by the response of the strangers she captures in her photographs, Morris-Cafiero says she had the opposite reaction:

“From the beginning, I was excited when I found an image as I am always surprised at how a camera can freeze an ephemeral moment that lasts only a microsecond. Every time I got a successful image I was motivated to shoot more.

I use humour to de-weaponise the aspects of an image that have the potential to hurt other people…I have learned that my ability to laugh at hateful reactions is true and deep – it’s not just a mindset that I tried to position for myself. If you think that someone will attack you, you like to believe you would be able to defend yourself, but until it happens, you never really know for sure. Now I know. I can handle it and respond to it in a witty and insightful way.” (Cresswell, 2018)

The Bully Pulpit:

This series is a direct response to the cyberbullying and body-shaming Morris-Cafiero experienced after ‘Wait Watchers’ went viral online. She found photographs of the bullies online and then recreated their images and overlayered transcripts of the bullying comments in the frame in an attempt to challenge the fallacy that the internet will shield their identities. From her artist statement, she makes this point about her motivations:

“instead of responding to “deaf ears”, I realize that I can parody the bullies attempts by creating images and publishing them on the internet – the same vehicle used for their attacks – and the images would be seen by millions, and would live again, again, and again.”

Diane Smyth (2019) says this about the series:

“By using her critics’ words, Morris-Cafiero allows their behaviour to speak for itself; in the costumes she constructed, though, she allowed herself a dose of irony. Deliberately rough, verging on the grotesque, her costumes allude to “the false sense of protection that the internet provides these and other bullies” but also give a physical manifestation of the ugliness of their words – and, hopefully, give the viewer a laugh while encouraging them to think all this through.

“As I am interested in addressing difficult subjects in my work, I use humour to neutralise some of that negativity” says Morris-Cafiero. For Bully Pulpit, I wanted humour to be present in the photos because I always laugh when I receive or read one of these comments. I think it is such a waste of their time and electricity to write a comment that they think will hurt me stop what I am doing.” (Smyth, 2019)

Challenging the supposed anonymity of the internet and the power of the mob is a key point of the work with Morris-Cafiero believing few would have the courage to say the comments made to her online in person. Featuring the text in the images is not just a visual strategy but a practical one as comments can be deleted from the internet but images cannot so her response will be available online forever. In an interview, she explians this further:

“I wanted to out-smart and out-wit the people who were attacking me. It would have been easy to publish their names, addresses etc. but that would have been easy. We would have looked at the information and then reacted and then move on. But by taking advantage of the fact that they do not own their likeness, I am using it to amplify my voice. Their constructed image is very important to these people and I am using it to show the world what they say about me – and others.” (Cirla, s.d.)

Links:

Bibliography:

Angelos, A. (2019) Haley Morris-Cafiero parodies her body-shaming bullies. Feature Shoot. Available at: https://www.featureshoot.com/2019/06/haley-morris-cafiero-parodies-her-body-shaming-bullies/ (accessed 8th July 2020)

Cirla, G. (s.d.) Haley Morris-Cafiero. PHROOM. Available at: https://phroommagazine.com/haley-morris-cafiero/

Cresswell, J. (2018) Wait Watchers: this photographer documented reactions to her weight. Refinery 29. Available at: https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/wait-watchers-haley-morris-cafiero (accessed 8th July 2020)

Smyth, D. (2019) Haley Morris-Cafiero’s The Bully Pulpit. British Journal of Photography. Available at: https://www.bjp-online.com/2019/04/haley-morris-cafieros-the-bully-pulpit/ (accessed 8th July 2020)

Wykes, J. (2013) That one isolated moment: an interview with Haley Morris-Cafiero. No More Pot Lucks. Available at: http://nomorepotlucks.org/site/that-one-isolated-moment-an-interview-with-haley-morris-cafiero-jackie-wykes/ (accessed 8th July 2020)

Cindy Sherman

See earlier posts on Cindy Sherman:


For this post, I am concerned with Cindy Sherman’s recent Instagram work, thoughts about her other aspects of her practice can be found in my post on her exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery on 2019.

In 2017, Cindy Sherman caused a sensation in the art world by suddenly, and without explanation, making her previously private Instagram account public. For Noah Becker (2017), in a sense Sherman pioneered the idea of the “selfie” decades before social media with her dramatically stages self-portraiture. He describes the work:

“Sherman’s Instagram posts are a series of wildly distorted selfies, flower arrangements and disturbing hospital self-portraits, with oxygen tubes up her nostrils. There is a video shot from the perspective of someone lying in a hospital bed. The viewer is made to wonder how much of this is real, whether Sherman was actually hospitalized, or if it’s mere fabrication. The images are also affected by an array of decorative filters available on Instagram that animate or change the facial features of users. The line between real life and posed events that Instagram affords heightens the confusion as to what is actually happening.” (Becker, 2017)

Sherman is famously reticent in discussing the meaning of her work. Parul Sehgal (2018) quotes curator Darsie Alexander as saying, “[the] fact of her silence is now almost part of Cindy’s canon”. One thing Sherman has imparted about her work however is that her photographs are not self-portraits, nor do they depict her fantasies. She has also commented that she loathes selfies describing them as “so vulgar”, a comment that becomes loaded when read in conjunction with her Instagram work. Sehgal describes her thoughts on the series:

“with the Instagram series, Sherman isn’t riffing on recognizable archetypes. Her new mock self-portraits are of ordinary people, albeit cartoonishly caricatured. They are some of the first pure protagonists in Sherman’s work: These women are not metaphors, they are not waiting to be represented, rescued or destroyed. They are gloriously, catastrophically themselves, and we meet them on their own terms – as we so frequently meet each other – in stagy, embarrassing, endearing selfies launched into the world.

These are all photographs of subtle rebellions – the first thing being the demand, of women of a certain age, to be noticed, admired. Or do I have it backward? The longer I look at these photographs, the less sure I am of them. Are these women insisting on being seen or are they taunting us, mischievously playing on fears of female ugliness, of becoming old and absurd or just invisible? That slipperiness in her work – does she see people clearly out of kinship or cruelty? – becomes complicated here by her ambivalence about ageing.” (Sehgal, 2018)

In an interview with Andrew Russeth (2017), Sherman is humble about her intentions with her Instagram work, describing them as “silly sketches”:

“All these Instagram images are, for me, just playing around…I don’t think it at all competes with my serious work. They’re just fun, like a little distraction” (Russeth, 2017)

Russeth sees an irony in her use of Instagram however, as an artist who has constantly resisted autobiographical readings of her work to embrace a platform that thrives on the interplay of the personal and the artificial seems provocative. He also notes that many of Sherman’s images could be designated ‘plandids’ rather than selfies – that is, “carefully composed images of studious nonchalance; [that] capture subjects who are determinedly carefree.”

Jad Dashan (2019) makes a distinction between the tone of Sherman’s “official”, gallery exhibited work and the images she posts to Instagram:

“The very nature of the gallery valorizes the artwork, even in the case of art defined by institutional criticism. This might be an historical vestige of the exclusivity of salons and the art economy. Regardless, this is replaced on Instagram with the validation given by likes, comments, and follower counts. Opening up critique to a massive, unspecialized cyber-public seems to imbue her Instagram pictures with a sense of informality that is only bolstered by the fact that they are interspersed with more casual, perennial posts…In a way, the art is more democratic even more accessible when exhibition bureaucracies…are sidestepped and the art is no longer immured within the gallery.” (Dahshan, 2019)

Paddy Johnson (2017), while finding elements to admire in Sherman’s Instagram work, such as a post where she poses with her pet macaw in which she humorously appears like a 50 year old teenager, is suspicious of the near universal critical acclaim the work has received describing it as the result of a trend becoming more influential than the craft itself. Ultimately, she finds the works lacking in depth:

“As per usual, Sherman has transformed herself, but there’s no grand insight that comes from selfies altered with a couple of apps.

And that’s fine. As a platform for experimentation and play, Instagram is pretty great for artists at all levels of the game. But I don’t want to describe this as more than it is. It’s not an exhibition, these are not masterworks, and we definitely don’t need to hail Sherman’s selfies.” (Johnson, 2017)

While I can see Johnson’s point, and I can understand her railing against the sycophancy directed toward Sherman’s Instagram work, there is a suggestion of elitism that turns me off. Similarly to Stephen Shore, an artist who has recently been posting work to Instagram, the accessibility of these works is what makes them so appealing to me. To see the platform used as a kind of sketchbook is fascinating, and in the case of Sherman, the inclusion of personal posts alongside her manipulated images only adds to her enigma. Superficially, these posts offer an insight into her personal life that she has tried hard to keep private over the years, but it does not take much consideration to realise that we learn very little new, and definitely nothing of substance. Perhaps the surface nature of Sherman’s engagement with social media are the point of the exercise in itself. Personally, I find the work interesting and engaging on a number of levels especially since the type of performative self portraiture that Sherman has made her practice around is now available for anyone with access to a smartphone and the relevant apps.

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Eye-yi-yi

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Ready for fashion week!

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On the mend!

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Am I cured doctor?

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Links:

Cindy Sherman’s Instagram

Bibliography:

Becker, N. (2017) How Cindy Sherman’s Instagram selfies are changing the face of photography. The Guardian, 9th August 2017. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/aug/09/cindy-sherman-instagram-selfies-filtering-life (accessed 8th July 2020)

Dahshan, J. (2019) Let me take a selfie: Cindy Sherman and the shift to Instagram. Artmejo. Available at: https://artmejo.com/let-me-take-a-selfie-cindy-sherman-and-the-shift-to-instagram/

Elbaor, C. (2017) Cindy Sherman just made her Instagram account public and it’s amazing. Artnet. Available at: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/cindy-sherman-instagram-1039676 (accessed 8th July 2020)

Johnson, P. (2017) Why I “like” but don’t love Cindy Sherman’s Instagram photos. Hyperallergic. Available at: https://hyperallergic.com/394486/cindy-sherman-joins-instagram/ (accessed 8th July 2020)

Russeth, A. (2017) Facetime with Cindy Sherman. W Magazine. Available at: https://www.wmagazine.com/story/cindy-sherman-instagram-selfie/ (accessed 8th July 2020)

Sehgal, P. (2018) Ugly beauty. The New York Times Magazine, October 5, 2018. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/05/magazine/instagram-cindy-sherman-ugly-beauty.html

Wright, G. (2017) Cindy Sherman just made her private Instagram public. i-D. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/pagnny/cindy-sherman-just-made-her-private-instagram-public?utm_source=stylizedembed_i-d.vice.com&utm_campaign=gy44yj&site=i-d (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Lev Manovich/Selfiecity

Selfiecity is a research project led by Lev Manovich which attempts to make sense of the multitude of selfies posted to Instagram. Over the course of a week between 5th December to 11th December 2013, photographs shared on Instagram from 5 cities across the world (New York, Bangkok, Moscow, Sao Paolo and Berlin) were selected before being sorted into images that showed a “true selfie” – that is, a photograph of a single person taken by themselves. From these a selection of 1000 images was chosen from each city and then classified using face-analysis software to measure facial characteristics such as size, orientation and mood as well as gender and age. (A detailed description of the process can be found in this essay by Alise Tifentale and Lev Manovich here.) Dominikus Baur, a contributor to the project, makes this analysis of why the selfie is worthy of such meticulous study:

“selfies are a fascinating target for analysis: especially in their Instagram incarnations, they’re a massive data set offering a unique glimpse into the public psyche. Selfiecity is our stab at what studies of such data can look like, methodology – and result – wise.” (Baur, 2014)

The Following outputs were made with the data and images:

Findings:

Details of the demographics of people taking selfies, their poses and expressions. The first finding is perhaps the most surprising – only 3-5% of the images from the initial selection were “true selfies”. (Given that this study was completed in 2013 however, I wonder if this would still be the case today.) Other assumptions were proved to be true however, such as significantly more women take selfies and the majority are taken by younger people with the median age being 24, although more older men post selfies than women. (See this essay by Mehrdad Yazdani for further details.)

Blended Video Montages:

Video montages made from images from each of the 5 cities can be found on the Selfiecity website here. Each video presents 640 selfies from each city with the images aligned at eye level and the new ones fading on top of the old giving an abstract representation of both the individuals and their context. Moritz Stefaner (2014) describes the effect as “a dynamic, morphing ‘aggregate city face.'” Tifentale and Manovich explain further:

“This visual strategy is designed to create a tension between individual shots and high-level patterns. We don’t show each face by itself. But we also don’t superimpose all faces together – which would create a generic template. Instead, we show something else: a pattern and individual details at the same time.” (Tifentale and Manovich, 2014)

Imageplots:

Imageplot grid for New York arranged by head tilt

These, histogram-type visualisations of the individual images, seek to show the pattern and distribution of genders, ages and expressions in each of the cities observed. Shown as graphs composed of individual images, they allow the viewer to explore the interplay between similarities and differences within each set.

Imageplot distributed by gender and age. On the website, hovering over each square of the graph shows the individual selfie. Imageplots also made of smile distribution by gender and city.

Selfiexploratory:

This is an interactive visualisation app that allows site visitors to explore the data collected in the project and filter the photos by city, gender, age and a number of face measurements such as pose and head tilt. The functionality of this part of the project is extremely intuitive and I found myself playing with the settings for some time and exploring the varying outputs of individual images.

Screenshot example of Selfiexploratory

Selfiecity is a fascinating project both in terms of research rigour and artistic output. Although the project seeks to provide empirical data to either prove or refute commonly held notions about the the selfie, it can only be a snapshot of a particular moment in time and I wonder what differences would be found if the project was rerun today. The difficulty in being able to categorise the selfies is discussed in many of the essays on the website and is another interesting point to consider. Deciding whether an image was a true selfie was often contentious and prone to disagreement, eventually relying on a system of voting. The essays on the development of the selfie and their social and cultural relevance available on the website are also fascinating insights into a complex and far reaching subject that has fired my imagination to research further.

Links:

Bibliography:

Baur, D. (2014) Data Visualisation: Selfiecity. Available at: http://do.minik.us/blog/selfiecity (accessed 6th July 2020)

Hochman, N. (2014) Imagined data communities. Available at: http://d25rsf93iwlmgu.cloudfront.net/downloads/Nadav_Hochman_selfiecity.pdf (accessed 5th July 2020)

Losh, E. (s.d.) Beyond biometrics: feminist media theory looks at Selfiecity. Available at: http://d25rsf93iwlmgu.cloudfront.net/downloads/Liz_Losh_BeyondBiometrics.pdf (accessed 5th July 2020)

Stefaner, M. (2014) The design of Selfiecity. Well-Formed Data. Available at: http://well-formed-data.net/archives/996/selfiecity (accessed 6th July 2020)

Tifentale, A. (2014) Making sense of the “masturbation of self-image” and the “virtual mini-me”. Available at: http://d25rsf93iwlmgu.cloudfront.net/downloads/Tifentale_Alise_Selfiecity.pdf (accessed 5th July 2020)

Tifentale, A. and Manovich, L. (2014) Selfiecity: exploring photography and self-fashioning in social media. Available at: http://manovich.net/index.php/projects/selfiecity-exploring (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Tifentale, A. and Manovich, L. (2016) Competitive photography and the presentation of the self. Available at: http://manovich.net/index.php/projects/competitive-photography-and-the-presentation-of-the-self (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Yazdani, M. (2014) Gender, age, and ambiguity of selfies on Instagram. Software Studies Initiative Blog. Available at: http://lab.softwarestudies.com/2014/02/gender-age-and-ambiguity-of-selfies-on.html (accessed 6th July 2020)

Simon Roberts

I previously considered the work of Simon Roberts here:


The Last Moment (2011-2014)

For this project, Roberts appropriated press photographs taken from British broadsheet newspapers, then, through a process of scanning, layering, marking and exposing he created abstract images which highlighted every camera in the photograph. Each image recording device is marked with a circle which highlights them above the background which is muted and barely visible with the effect that each one appears to float in negative space.

In an essay about the series, Miranda Gavin explains that ‘The Last Moment’ is an attempt by Roberts to investigate our rapidly shifting visual culture and contemporary attitudes to image making such as the way create and consume photography, the seemingly endless deluge of images and the obsessive need to document our lives. The materiality of the photograph and the crossover between digital and analogue media is important with the scanning process revealing the tiny round dots of the newspaper printing process. The idea of translucence and the relationship to optics and lenses is also significant with the masked off, not entirely white background layer creating a ghostly background on top of which the disembodied ‘eyes’ of the isolated image making devices appear as their own self-contained world. Gavin concludes the essay with this analysis:

“The role of photography today is multifarious and in a constant state of flux. As photography has become ever more available and mobile, the perceived function and value of photographs has changed. In the world of social media where life is played online, the act of taking a photograph is not confined to the production of a final image, a physical object, but is more about the intangible nature of photography, the ritual of sharing photographs, and of asserting the photographers presence. It is against this backdrop that Robert’s contemplates The Last Moment.” (Gavin, 2014)

The simplicity of the idea for this series and the effectiveness of Roberts execution appeals to me. The works are on first inspection abstract patterns which reward close examination – I imagine they would be extremely effective printed large in a gallery space. The series succeeds in resonating with thoughts and concerns I have about the ubiquity of the digital image without being overtly about this – engaging with the work is sending my thinking in multiple directions which is a particular strength and something to aspire to in my own practice.

Royal Wedding Revelers,​ London,​ 2013
A Quick Burn to the Top, Snowdon, 2013
Bull run, Pamplona, July 2014

Between The Acts, Part III – Folly Marches On (2019)

‘Folly Marches On’ is a video installation (see here) featuring scanned images of the three British Prime Ministers (David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson) who were involved in Brexit negotiations following the 2016 referendum. It is Theresa May who features most prominently in the series, and the representation of her by the media can be read in gendered terms. From his artists statement, Roberts makes these observations:

“While Folly Marches On features all three UK Prime Ministers involved in Brexit negotiations, it is Theresa May, the only female contender, who receives the majority of image, or press, attention. The news photographs of Theresa May reflect a specific public perception of her character; that she was inflexible in her impression management. Moreover, the amount and design of media attention focussed on the female former Prime Minister reinforces an imbalance in the media’s representation of male and female characters in the public sphere, in particular politics. This “gendered mediation” sees the media reinforcing gender-specific stereotypes instead of working against them. So, while men might be expected to adopt the masculine norms of politics, women are perceived as aggressive or cold when they follow suit. However, if they act too “feminine” they are viewed as weak and ineffectual, which means there is no way to gain the mediatic upper hand.” (Roberts, s.d.)

This series particularly resonated with me because of my work for assignment 2 featuring Boris Johnson for which I used appropriated images from the internet taken during the 2019 General Election campaign. The comment that no female politician would survive scrutiny if they had even a degree of the ‘colourful’ personal life that Johnson has is something that is discussed regularly and something that is particularly relevant given he took over from a female leader. The high incidence of threats of physical and sexual violence towards female politicians is something that has been widely reported and it difficult not to consider the media complicit in this. There is such a reliance on image in politics that is difficult to see how discourse can move beyond this and focus on the substance of arguments and policy.

‘Folly Marches On’ is accompanied by ‘The Crying Game’, a viewmaster slide viewer showing some of the most common gendered tropes used in the media portrayal of May who was often represented with relentless close-ups and an almost forensic exposure. This is a brilliant concept, the viewmaster slide viewer was a common childhood toy that I remember from my youth but which is now archaic and defunct. I would imagine looking at the slides of May through the viewer forces a consideration of how fair and justified the press treatment of her was – looking back, I certainly feel a sense of regret that I did not pick up on this at the time and disgust at the disparity between the coverage of May and Johnson.

A Daily Sea (2020)

Between 19th March 2020, when the UK Covid-19 lockdown began, and 13th May, when Government advice changed and the lockdown began to be eased, Roberts took a series of images looking out to sea at Brighton, posting these to Instagram with a sea-related poem or quote. During lockdown I have been making a series centred around my daily walk from my house and back so this work really resonated with me. My series is much less focused the Roberts, which is the point for me at the minute as I have no idea where it may go. I admire the way he quickly arrived at a way of working within the confines of the lockdown rules and has produced a series that is both beautiful and poignant.

Links:

Bibliography:

Gavin, M. (2014) The last moment. Available at: https://www.simoncroberts.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Miranda-Gavin-New-Vedute-essay-1.pdf (accessed 4th July 2020)

LensCulture (s.d.) The Last Moment. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/simon-roberts-the-last-moment (accessed 4th July 2020)

Roberts, S. (s.d.) Between the acts, part III – folly marches on. Available at: https://www.simoncroberts.com/work/between-the-acts-part-iii-folly-marches-on/ (accessed 4th July 2020)

Evan Roth

Evan Roth originally trained as an architect but became interested in the world of the internet during the heyday of torrenting, experimenting with code and making websites in the early 2000s. He engaged in various activist collectives such as Graffiti Research Lab and Free Art and Technology/F.A.T. Lab before becoming an artist working with new media. He describes the work he makes as, “[wrestling] with a desire to create net art as a cultural object while staying critical of it.” He describes himself as having a “hacker philosophy” means playing within rule structures where you are not meant to have agency:

“A hacker tweaks these small moments of power you do have into something bigger. My interest in this philosophy is as a problem-solving technique for artists and activists. Actually, a lot of my work deals with personal empowerment issues, looking for those rare moments when users can gain power that makes us feel bigger than we are.” (Small, 2018)

This artists talk by Evan Roth, although predominately about his project ‘Red Lines‘ gives an excellent overview of his development as an artist and his passion for internet activism. When I initially looked at Roth’s work I almost discounted studying it further, however, as I read more about I became drawn to both his strategies and philosophy. Rather than being an academic exercise, Roth demonstrates a great deal experimentation in his work and context is essential to fully understanding it.

9 to 5 Paintings (2006)/Level Cleared (2012)/Angry Birds All Levels (2012)/Multi-Touch Paintings series (2013-ongoing)

These series’ expand on the idea of transforming the activity of using a computer/device into a visual artwork. With ‘9 to 5 Paintings’, Roth created a visual representation of daily computing routines. (This video shows how the images came together.) The resulting ‘paintings’ are simple abstracts that are more successful conceptually than aesthetically.

Nov. 1, 2006
Oct. 16th, 2006

With ‘Level Cleared’, ‘Angry Birds All Levels’ and ‘Multi-Touch Paintings’, Roth extends the idea into the arena of touch screen devices that had become prevalent in the time since the earlier work. The painting are made as Roth plays the popular game Angry Birds using inked fingers on tracing paper. The screen sized paintings are displayed as grid, the small scale of each individual image contrasting with the sheer number of them and forcing consideration of our relationship with our mobile devices. In the text from Roth’s website, the work is described as a comment on the rise of casual gaming, identity and our relationship with mobile devices:

“The series is a comment on computing and identity, but also creates an archive of this moment in history where we have started to manipulate pixels with gestures…In the end, the viewer is presented with a black and white representation of the gestures that have been prescribed to us in the form of user interaction design.”

The idea is further developed with the ‘Multi-Touch Paintings Series’ for which Roth enlarges the finger print smudges to huge dimensions which often dwarf the viewer. The detail of each fingerprint is enlarged to such an extent that the aesthetic beauty of each is accentuated both individually and as part of the larger composition which it becomes and further expanding on the idea of how our connected life is imposing over our real world experience.

Casual Computing No. 1, 2014 (Candy Crush)
Slide to Unlock (2013)
Zoom In Zoom Out (2013)

Internet Cache Self Portrait series (2014-ongoing)

This series features an uncensored stream of images collected from daily browsing, or “memories that were never intended to be saved” according to the artists statement on Roth’s website. Personal images are presented side by side with advertisements and corporate logos, something that Roth describes as an “attempt to reveal something human and intimate about us through our interactions online.”

See also: Internet Cache Portrait series (2014)

Silhouette series (2014-ongoing):

This series takes inspiration from an 18th century technique of representing a subject cut as an outline into a single piece of black paper. Rather than the typical subject for this technique of a person in profile, Roth makes compositions based on the proportions of the internet such as his own browsing data or standardised internet advertising proportions which, according to his artists statement:

“[draws] into question whether these proportions are in reaction to or are a driving force behind the general shape of the web. Similar to its 18th century counterpart, the series eschew the content of the subject, leaving only the familiar outlines to represent the character.”

Forgetting Spring (March to June 2013) (2014):

For this work, Roth printed all of the internet cache collected from four months of browsing onto a large piece of card before putting this into a trash compactor which creates a messy cube. This was then bound with chord and displayed as a sculpture in a gallery. The work is a physical manifestation of how web browsers track our behaviour – information unintended to be viewed. In a review of the piece, Josephine Bosma suggests Roth is making a comment on how the intricacies of the internet is dumbed to become a string of images not much different from a TV channel and concludes: “Evan Roth leaves is to wonder about the value, shape, and function of our extended memories with this deceptively simple work.” (Bosma, 2014)

Landscapes series (2016-ongoing)/Red Lines (2018-19)

Since 2014 Roth has documented coastal sites where undersea internet cables emerge from the water and into the ground using a modified digital camera that is capable of photographing infrared spectrum. The idea for the work came from increasing concerns Roth had about the internet and our relationship with it driven by issues such as the NSA surveillance controversy and crude, simplistic metaphors like ‘the cloud’. He began to question the specific dangers to the network:

“I became interested in visiting the internet somewhere. Others focus on the mines where the minerals come from, or maybe the data centres. I liked how the cables coming out from the ocean are at these strange transition points around the globe. You find yourself looking for these massive networks but end up finding yourself completely alone, because, by design these cables are isolated for safety reasons.” (Small, 2018)

The series is an attempt by Roth to depict both physical and hidden landscapes. 53 landing sites for fibre optic cables around the world were filmed by Roth where he created videos using his infrared adapted camera. The scenes show no indication that each is a hidden source for the world wide web, but the eerily beautiful red tones of each give an alien feel, the use of infrared is a direct reference to the fact that this is what is transmitted through the cables. The tranquility and remote nature of the locations gave Roth time to slow down and consider where his art practice was going – originally intended as some form of online activism in response to feeling jaded about the internet, Roth was able to slow down and “see through the digital noise” and gain a much needed moment of reflection. He comments:

“[The remote spots] provided a nice sanctuary for slowing down and so the work became about that…It wasn’t about seeing the cable and reporting back on it…these remote places…allowed me to think about the network in different ways, slower ways and ways that were more informed by the pace of nature rather than the pace of social media.” (Bland, s.d.)

For the exhibition ‘Red Lines with Landscapes’ at the Usher Gallery in 2019, Roth chose 18th and 19th century landscape paintings from the museums collection to show alongside his works. His website explains this further: “By contrasting the old and the new, this exhibition explores the history, power structures and ideologies that shape our visible and non-visible contemporary landscape.”

‘Red Lines’, commissioned by Artangel, is a way for Roth to bring ‘Landscapes’ out of the gallery space into peoples homes. Using peer to peer software (similar to that used by torrent sharing sites such as Pirate Bay) the work can be viewed on any internet enabled device, this allows most people the opportunity to live with the artwork in their own home.

Details on how to set up ‘Red Lines’ here.

As suggested by Roth, I set up an old smartphone to show ‘Red Lines’ and to ‘live’ with the work for a while. There is a strange, meditative nature to the work which is conducive to viewing just outside of peripheral vision. I had the screen displaying the work set up to next to my computer and found myself studying the scenes during moments where I was thinking – the work is a calming presence. I am attracted to the Roth’s ideas about accessibility for art and how this piece is essentially free for anyone to access by anyone with an appropriate device and an internet connection. Rather than being an artwork you own however, by displaying the work you become part of the network that displays it – a particularly poetic response to questions about the value of art and how ownership is accessible to the very few.

Links:

Bibliography:

Bland, S. (s.d.) Interview: Evan Roth. Artangel. Available at: https://www.artangel.org.uk/red-lines/interview/ (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Bosma, J. (2014) Clearing out four months of internet cache by Evan Roth. Neural. Available at: http://neural.it/2014/05/clearing-out-four-months-of-internet-cache-by-evan-roth-description/ (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Matthewson, J, (s.d.) River to river. Artangel website. Available at: https://www.artangel.org.uk/red-lines/river-to-river/ (accessed 24th May 2020)

Popovich, N. (2013) Evan Roth: the badass artist hacking popular culture. The Guardian, 20th August 2013. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/aug/20/evan-roth-badass-hacktivist-artist (accessed 28th September 2019)

Rabimov, S. (2019) The Strasbourg Biennale artists reflect on the most pressing question. Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephanrabimov/2019/01/19/the-strasbourg-biennale-artists-reflect-on-the-most-pressing-question/#2598be76cd67 (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Regine (2019) Strasbourg Biennale. Being a citizen in the age of hyper-connectivity. We Make Money Not Art. Available at: https://we-make-money-not-art.com/strasbourg-biennale-being-a-citizen-in-the-age-of-hyper-connectivity/ (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Roth, E. (2018) Landscape, signal and empire: Evan Roth talk. Retune fesival 27th September 2018. Available at: http://www.evan-roth.com/presentations/retune/ (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Roth, E. (2019) Artist Talk: Evan Roth. The Photographers Gallery, 21st June 2019. Available at: https://vimeo.com/356205376 (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Small, Z. (2018) A net artist on why the cloud is a bad metaphor for the internet. Hyperallergic. Available at: https://hyperallergic.com/460796/a-net-artist-on-why-the-cloud-is-a-bad-metaphor-for-the-internet/ (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Teplitzky, A. (2018) Evan Roth created a work of net art that you can live with. Creative Capital. Available at: https://creative-capital.org/2018/09/10/evan-roth-created-a-net-artwork-that-you-can-live-with-for-free/ (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Watson, L. (2018) Internet art: Evan Roth’s ‘Red Lines’. Financial Times, September 28th 2018. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/6190e9ca-bcc6-11e8-8274-55b72926558f (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Chloe Juno

I first came across Chloe Juno and her series ‘Someones Rubbish’ via Instagram. The series is a longterm project documenting life in Juno’s home town of Brighton through the everyday items that are discarded. Juno makes this summary of the project on her website:

“Someones Rubbish over 2500 images on Instagram. Photos taken daily from 2014. Looking at everyday life in the centre of Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, Britain. The objects people use and discard, a street museum of now, looking at the cost of living, the things we need to use in this life for play, work, education, health, beauty, food, sex, love, drugs, debts, money, bills, general domestic life. Over time I have also realised, that many of the objects I am drawn too document, are things I have used or relate to in some way. As the collection builds patterns form, representing of a section of a city. A big picture of life now.” (Juno, s.d.)

Apart from being drawn to both the concept and execution of this series it has also now taken on a particular relevance as collecting photographs of rubbish and discarded items is something I have started to do as part of my ‘DailyWalkDiary’ project. This project came about as a way to motivate myself to do something creative during the recent Covid-19 lockdown. As I work in retail I found myself busier than ever so being stuck in the house was not a concern for me, in fact, I was working long hours and it felt like I was hardly ever at home. I started walking daily, and documenting what I saw as a way to decompress from the pressure of work and also to push myself to use photography as a creative outlet to support my mental health and well being. I did not intend to photograph rubbish as part of this project, it is just something that happened instinctively, but was perhaps subconsciously driven by my knowledge of Juno’s series. Since I have started doing this I can identify much more with the drive Juno has to follow her own project – the idea that these items can tell us something about human life now is a compelling one. In a recent blog post, Juno imagines how an archaeologist in the future could look back at items of the past and use them to build a picture of human life (Juno, 2020). Juno’s simple, yet effective concept succeeds because of the sheer number of items Juno has collected over the years and because each is charged with multiple potential narratives – I look at them and imagine the circumstances that led to the objects being left and am left with many possibilities ranging from the profound to the banal. Taking these images myself I feel a sense of quiet envy at some of the amazing finds Juno has had, and a jolt of memory from my own searches when I have come across something out of the ordinary and felt pleasure at photographing it.

Links:

Bibliography:

Juno, C. (s.d.) Someones Rubbish. Available at: https://www.chloejuno.com/someones-rubbish-1/luc2qjv1zwhdbs7jszmq7xfbmf0nwe (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Juno, C. (2020) Someones Rubbish: Babybel Chloe Juno, Brighton and Hove, England. Chloe Juno Blog, 15th May 2020. Available at: https://www.chloejuno.com/blog/2020/5/15/someones-rubbish-babybel-chloejuno-brighton-and-hove-england (accessed 23rd May 2020)

Gab Bois

I came across the work of Gab Bois on Instagram in an article on the Elephant website while I was researching another artist and was immediately struck by the playful, witty, original yet simple nature of her work. The themes of consumerism, body image, aspiration and living in an always connected world that are often present in her work also resonated with me. Bois uses digital manipulation to reimagine alternative uses for everyday objects in a way that bends the line between real and imaginary. Andrew Lasane believes that the ideas are the reason the images work and that the way the photographs twist reality to illustrate bizarre, yet clever, concepts by depicting unnatural double entendres and impossible feats in a way that is seamless. (Lasane, 2019) Louise Benson has this to say about the work:

“With just a few smart visual cues, Bois has much to suggest about the state of our over-medicated, hyper-branded and self-obsessed contemporary reality – not to mention about our short attention spans. When it is all too easy to keep scrolling, Bois stops you short in your tracks.” (Benson, 2020)

Jyni Ong describes Bois’ work as being “visually impactful in an era of over-saturation [while] providing a point of difference.” She describes the images as having a ‘life-hack aesthetic’ (as an aside, life-hack is a phrase I cannot stand, although I do recognise the accuracy in Ong’s assertion and that this is a genuine phenomena on social media.) In response, Bois states that it is important to her that the work has a:

“raw feel [so it] doesn’t become too close to an ad, or like content from a clickbait site…It’s also important for my work to involve subjects that I know. Whether that’s my own body or familiar objects or food I like. The challenge of creating something new from something I’ve looked at thousands of times is really stimulating and satisfying.” (Ong, 2019)

In an interview she expands on these points and her inspiration:

“I like to get inspired by subjects that I know and have experienced…I work with parts of my everyday life because it’s the only way that it feels relevant. I mostly create for myself because a lot of my images have memories and meanings attached to them. It’s a very selfish process. If my followers and viewers relate to my images, then all the better. But there’s no specific reaction I’m aiming for…I look at Instagram as kind of a mood board and it’s just a way for me to put my thoughts into images.” (Douglas-Davies, 2018)

Links:

Bibliography:

Benson, L. (2020) Bored at home? These mind-bending photos transform the everyday. Elephant. Available at: https://elephant.art/bored-at-home-these-mind-bending-photos-transform-the-everyday-17042020/ (accessed 19th April 2020)

Dazed Beauty (2018) Gab Bois is the Instagram artist finding beauty in the banal. Dazed Beauty. Available at: https://www.dazeddigital.com/beauty/community/article/42351/1/instagram-artist-finding-beauty-in-the-banal (accessed 19th April 2020)

Douglas-Davies, G. (2018) You may not know her name, but you’ve definitely regrammed Gab Bois’ pics. i-D. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/59j45x/you-may-not-know-her-name-but-youve-definitely-regrammed-gab-bois-pics (accessed 19th April 2020)

Lasane, A. (2019) Ironing wrinkled chops, keeping headphones in place, and other surreal life-hacks photographed by Gab Bois. Colossal. Available at: https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2019/10/surreal-life-hacks-photographed-by-gab-bois/ (accessed 19th April 2020)

Ong, J. (2019) Gab Bois transforms things we’ve seen a thousand times into something spectacular. It’s Nice That. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/gab-bois-photography-170919 (accessed 19th April 2020)

Stephen Shore

Stephen Shore is a photographer who holds a special influence for me as I became familiar with his work as my interests moved from the craft of photography to the photograph as art. His style, which focuses on the everyday, has been described as banal, vernacular, democratic and led to the concept of the snapshot aesthetic – all things that I find appealing in photography. His work is simultaneously straight documentary and highly conceptual and it is difficult to overstate the influence has had on photography as an artform.

I came across an article in The Guardian by Sean O’Hagan which although predominately about Shore’s new book ‘Transparencies: Small Camera Works, 1971-1979’ also provides insight into Shore’s strategies and motivations. Describing his ‘democratic approach’, Shore states:

“To see something ordinary, something you’d see every day, and recognise it as a photographic possibility – that’s what I’m interested in.

I have always been interested in everyday experience…It relates to an idea I had…of what it might be like to pay attention to the average moments in your life, rather than just the dramatic moments. Attentiveness is self-awareness – you are aware of yourself paying attention. It was a different experience and I was nourished by it. I still am.” (O’Hagan, 2020)

In an earlier article, also by O’Hagan, Shore says this about photographing the everyday:

“To see something spectacular and recognise it as a photographic possibility is not making a very big leap…But to see something ordinary, something you’d see every day, and recognise it as a photographic possibility – that’s what I’m interested in.” (O’Hagan, 2015)

I love this idea of looking closer, and photographing, things that others may pass by and dismiss as unworthy subjects for a photograph – it is something that deeply influences my own work.

At the end of O’Hagan’s article, Shore describes his current engagement with Instagram and how he is using this to explore the notion of democratic photography in the digital world with Shore posting a single image a day shot on his iPhone. He describes his attraction to this way of working:

“It means I work every day…It can be diaristic or it can be pictures I find interesting. I recently posted a picture of the steering wheel of my car and someone commented something along the lines of: ‘Jeez, you’ve finally run out of subject matter.’ So I replied: ‘Yep, that’s it exactly.’ I think that most people understand my Instagram feed is not my gallery…I’m interested in visual thinking, and there is something very personal and revealing about this kind of visual thinking that I just find fascinating.” (O’Hagan, 2020)

Having felt a bit stuck, uninspired and struggling to find the time and motivation to make photographs lately Shores approach and enthusiasm resonated with me and has inspired me to use Instagram as a way of making work. Instagram is not something I have strongly engaged with in the past but something that suddenly struck me as having potential as a creative outlet. I have set up a new account for this project, dailywalkdiary, and have started to use this as a way of motivating myself to take photographs each day, and most importantly, do something with them. I follow broadly the same route each day and photograph anything that catches my eye – I am not sure if this will evolve into anything else, and to be honest that is not important, as the process itself has already helped reignite my creative energy.

Images from Stephen Shore’s Instagram:

As an aside I came across the comments these comments on Shore’s Instagram intriguingly juxtaposed:

Links:

Bibliography:

O’Hagan, S. (2015) Shady character: how Stephen Shore taught America to see in living colour. The Guardian, 9th July 2015. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jul/09/stephen-shore-america-colour-photography-1970s (accessed 10th May 2020)

O’Hagan, S. (2020) Stephen Shore: ‘People would chase me off their lawns with my Leica’. The Guardian, 29th February 2020. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/29/stephen-shore-ordinary-america-photographs-interview-plate-camera-leica?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other (accessed 29th February 2020)