Reflection on “The Battle of Algiers”

I thought that The Battle of Algiers was a fantastic film, both in it’s cinematography, but also in it’s subject matter.

The way the film was shot gave it a sense of realism, in contrast to how a lot of movies are shot today. It felt like the footage was shot from the scene the ground, giving it almost a documentary feel, as opposed to a more “theatrical” angle.

Politically, I really enjoyed seeing the story of someone who could very well be labeled a “terrorist” in Western society, and helped me better empathize with their cause. It made me realize just how fine the line between denounced terrorist and celebrated revolutionary is. It seems ironic that the people of Algiers were rising up against French colonial rule, as less than two centuries prior, it was the French who were rising up against their own rulers.

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Thoughts on “Viewing Ecologies”

Of the three readings, Viewing Ecologies by Wolthers resonated the most with me. It was interesting to learn about the history of The Blue Marble, and the societal implications of being able to represent all of human existence in one image. One extension I thought of what was discussed was the rise of live-streaming, and how that relates to the “citizenry of photography.” In particular, this reminds me of how encounters with police officers are increasingly recorded/live-streamed, as a way to hold both officers, and the citizens they interact with ostensibly accountable for their actions on camera. However, as we have increasingly witnessed in the past few years, even video evidence is oftentimes not sufficient to effectively fight abuses of power by the state.

Thoughts on Archive Readings

Archive Fever, and The Historical A Priori And The Archive both made zero sense to me.

In the case of Archive Fever, I felt as if I was reading something completely foreign – the author did not seem to want to make his point very clear. The allusions to Freud and the Classics may indicate the author’s education level, but did little to convey anything to someone, like myself, who did not spend years studying those subjects. I have no comments on the reading  as I got nothing out of it.

The Historical A Priori And The Archive was a little more readable, but still did not convey its point clearly (or at all), and as such, I have no comments on it either.

As a general comment on these sorts of readings, it feels as if the authors purposely shroud their text in pompous language, so that the only readers who might understand the texts are fellow academics with similar knowledge bases. While it may be that this language is essential to convey the exact points and feelings the author is trying to make, it does nothing to help anyone else understand what they are trying to say.

 

Archiving a Revolution in the Digital Age, Archiving as an Act of Resistance and Reading an Archive: Photography Between Labor and Capital were much more enjoyable reads, just by virtue of them being readable.

I like how Baladi gives a history of and context around the protests during the Arab Spring, and helped me better understand exactly how technological advances of social media and mobile telephony helped fuel and make feasible such a large-scale protest.

I also liked how Sekula brought up interesting points about the significance of context for understanding the power of images, and archives. Both the context of which the image is presented, and the viewer itself, can completely change the meaning and feeling of a photograph. With archival, this context can be warped, or even stripped away. reducing photographs from images, to just pure visual information.

Thoughts and Analyses of Social Protest Texts

Power to the People: Images by the People

This text was the one that I found most difficult to parse, but it gave some important and useful background information to better understand and appreciate the other two texts. In this essay, Weibel examines the evolution from representative visual media, to a interactive and more participatory social media, that was initiated by the democratization of image creation, but was truly heralded by the rise of the information age, with the technologies that enabled the mass distribution and dissemination of ideas, media, and art. This rise in social media has significant implications and effects on how society progressed in the late 20th/early 21st centuries, with a particularly notable effect on politics and protests.

 

When seeing is belonging – the photography of tahir

I enjoyed this text, as it provided a fascinating look into the protests in Tahir Square, Egypt, during the Arab Spring. At the time, I was too young and disconnected to fully understand and appreciate the importance of what was going on in the Middle East, and as alluded to by the text, the media I was exposed to was often heavily biased or filtered by the mainstream media sources I was consuming at the time. This article brought up some interesting insights into how social media, and the internet as a whole, enabled the protests to be as organized and widely disseminated as they were, but also touched upon the effects of the spreading of “poor images,” and how it influenced how the unfolding of events was communicated to the world.

 

Occupying the Noosphere: The Evolution of Media Platforms and Webs of Community Protest

This article was centered mainly on describing and analyzing the “noosphere,” defined as the layer above the zoosphere in which information freely flowed between individuals and communities, for the purpose of knowledge dissemination and collective organization. I found McLuhan’s usage of “hot” and “cold” media to be quite interesting, and made me introspect on how I tended to be drawn towards “hot” media, preferring to consume information instead of actively participating in online communities. With the context of the noosphere in mind, it is easier to see how protests around the world, from Egypt to Wall Street, evolved from an idea into widely organized events attended by millions of people. However, the democratization of information exchange facilitated by the noosphere can be as detrimental as it is beneficial, as in my mind, it tends to result in more decentralized communities, that might have a harder time narrowing in a single, unified message. It appears that what is gained in the strength and mindshare of many, is (partially) lost to the general disorganization and incohesiveness that results.

Chinese Pictorialism

Here’s a photographer that I found out about when researching pictorialism. I don’t normally find myself drawn to asian art, but scroll landscape paintings are an exception. Don Hong-Oai emulates these paintings with his photographs, resulting in a dreamy, almost surreal effect.

Link to some more photos: Pictures

Reflections on Third Word Filmmakers meeting, Bazin and Gray

The reading on the Third World Filmmakers was interesting to me, as I never really considered the power cinema (and other art forms) have on the colonization of a nation and its culture. Growing up in the US, I’ve always taken for granted the films that were shown to me as standard. While some films might be more political or have more propaganda undertones, I never recognized the influence such media can have on what society considers to be normal and just, good, or evil. It seems obvious now that a colonizing force would be naive to ignore the culture of the nation they are imperializing, and I now appreciate the gravity of the influence art can, and will have on the trajectory of societies all around the world, and further recognize the importance of cultures having their own art that can be disseminated both internally, to keep their culture alive, and externally, to communicate to others aspects of their culture to educate, inform, and maybe even influence.

I also enjoyed reading The Ontology of the Photographic Image, as it also clarified the importance of photography in shifting western fine art attitudes away from photorealism, to what has become increasingly abstract and esthetic, as opposed to representational. As a fan of modern and contemporary paintings, I am grateful for the camera’s role in not only shifting the trend in art, but also its ability to make viewers feel differently about the works they view. As highlighted in the article, photos feel inherently more real, as it (ostensibly) removes the man from the scene in front of him, and only what is objectively there is captured. However, as photo-manipulation becomes increasingly accessible, questions arise as to whether the role of photography is shifting, from a representation of truth, to just another medium of art that can be manipulated at will to reflect the desires of the artist.

Questions:

  • Did The Battle of Algiers appear to reflect the wishes of the filmmakers at the meeting? (Note that the movie was shot before the meeting)
  • How did the film portray the colonizers? The colonized? We’re the portrayals fair, and how did they influence the way you saw each side?

ICA Reflection

The field trip to the ICA was a very enjoyable experience – it has been a while since I’ve had the time to enjoy contemporary museum exhibits at my own pace. I liked quite a few of the exhibits, with my favorites being Grosse Fatigue by Camille Henrot, View of Harbor by John Rafman, Safe Conduct by Ed Atkins, Nudes lox 22 by Thomas Ruff, and Still, Five Hooded Men with Seated Man by Seth Price.

Continuing the theme of the reading “In Defense of the Poor Image,” I dug a little into the last two pieces.

 

Nudes lox 22  – Thomas Ruff

This photo was part of Ruff’s Nudes series, which consisted of images taken from pornographic scenes, but blown up to obscure the details of the scene due to the low quality of the initial images. This style embraces the “poor” quality of scenes by making them a main feature of his work. Though the details are blurred, the contents of the scene are quite obvious to viewers, who subconsciously resolve the scene in their heads. In my opinion, the works would send a much different message if the details were able to be rendered clearly, relying less on the ability of the viewer to piece together the image based on past knowledge.

Parallels can also be drawn to his cassini series, where he took a similar approach to photographs of Saturn, enlarging images from the Cassini spaceflight, and abstracting them to make it less immediately obvious what is being presented to the viewer.

 

Five Hooded Men with Seated Man – Seth Price

Image result for Five Hooded Men with Seated Man

This work jumped out at me because of the three-dimensional nature of it. Price takes a flat scene of a poorly-shot image of an execution, and through screen-printing it on clear film, gives it added depth, making it jump out of the wall, towards the viewer. It is only upon further inspection that the viewer discovers that the scene is that of an execution – the abstraction of the image distracts the otherwise shocking subject. I liked how these abstractions are compared to the general desensitization of the public, as it resonated well with me. It made me think about how some of the first movies made viewers puke due to the perceived realism, whereas I can easily find videos of executions, rapes, tortures, and other horrific subjects, and view them without a physical response beyond shock, awe, and disgust.

Looking into some of Price’s other works, I was immediately drawn into his use of repetition and texture, in a way that is evocative of Japanese patterned textiles. Such themes are also present in his fashion line collaboration. Though less reminiscent of Japan, his work does evoke a certain sense of conformity and sterility that might also be found in Japanese work culture.

Comments on Hito Steyerl’s “In Defense of the Poor Image”

This reading really got me thinking about how much I disregarded “poor” images. I felt like in today’s day and age, when high quality cameras are so ubiquitous, “poor” images indicate a certain amateurism to them, that makes me question their legitimacy. I’m so used to my media being taken in situations where the photographer has access to the equipment and lighting need to take technically perfect photos, that it’s jarring to see images from a low resolution camera in situations of poor lighting.

 

However, it is exactly those images that are fascinating for the very reason of their low quality. Whether the image is low quality because of a poor camera, poor operator, poor conditions, poor transmission, or poor compression, or any combination of those, there’s a certain story that goes along with the image. Like a tag, the quality of an image gives some indication of the context around the circumstances in which the image is produced and transmitted.

 

Questions:

  • How do you feel when you see images of poor quality? Do you trust them more, less, or the same as high quality images?
  • Can good photography be of poor quality?
  • What messages do you think image quality conveys in today’s society?