Mead. A Fuller Picture of Artemisia Gentileschi. 2020

A Fuller Picture of Artemisia Gentileschi. Mead, Rebecca. 2020.

Another Gaze. Suddenly, A Woman Spectator: An Interview With Laura Mulvey

Another Gaze. Suddenly, A Woman Spectator: An Interview With Laura Mulvey. 2018.

Susan Bright. Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood.

Susan Bright. Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood. 2013. Art/Books

Vogue. Arist Carmen Winant on why 2,000 images of childbirth belong at MoMA by Regensdorf, Laura. 2018.

Picking Sides, Picking Selves: Elīna Eihmane and Maternal Entanglement
Abstract – By thinking through Elīna Eihmane’s series Picking Sides (2018), the essay endeavors to establish a viable view of the maternal self grounded in vulnerability and intractability. Elīna Eihmane, Latvian photographer, took the series of photos during 2016–2018 in Taiwan while undergoing the aftermath of a traumatic birth. The essay departs from the liberal notion of selfhood and heads towards an intersectional and embodied perspective, revealing the maternal self as entangled and antagonistic. In doing so, the contemporary neo-liberal ideology of a super mother is critically exposed.

A working-class Anti-Pygmalion aesthetics of the female grotesque

Tallis Reading

Szarkowski, John (1966) The Photographers Eye, New York: MoMA

Chapter 2: ‘John Szarkowski The Photographers Eye / Stephen Shore The Nature of Photographs’ in La Grange, Ashley (2005) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers Oxford: Focal Press

Charter 5: Berger, John (2009) ‘Uses of Photography: For Susan Sontag’ in About Looking London: Bloomsbury (*originally published in 1980)

Chapter 4: ‘Roland Barthes: Camera Lucida’ in La Grange, Ashley (2005) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers Oxford: Focal Press

Chapter 4: ‘The Constructed Photograph’ in Smith, Peter, & Lefley, Carolyn (2015) Rethinking Photography; Histories, Theories and Education Abington: Routledge.

Chapter 3: ‘Susan Sontag: On Photography’ in La Grange, Ashley (2005) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers Oxford: Focal Press


Alongside the Tallis reading list, I have also been reading the following books.

John Berger. Understanding A Photograph

Liz Wells. The Photography Cultures Reader. Representation Agency & Identity. 2019. Routledge, London.

John Szarkowski. The Photographers Eye.


“Photographs cannot create a moral position, but they can reinforce one and can help build a nascent one” Sontag 2008:19.

“I’ve always felt that because photography deals with reality, I’ve got an ethical responsibility to try and change the world” (Neville cited in Warner 2020)

“The painter constructs, the photographer discloses. That is, the identification of the subject of a photograph always dominates our perception of it – as it does not necessarily, in a painting. The subject of Weston’s “Cabbage Leaf’ taken in 1931, looks like a fall of gathered cloth; a title is needed to identify it. Thus, the image makes its point in two ways. The form is pleasing, and it is (surprise!) the form of a cabbage leaf. If it were gathered cloth, it wouldn’t be so beautiful. We already know that beauty, from the fine arts. Hence the formal qualities of style – the central issue in painting – are, at most, of secondary importance in photography, while what a photograph is of is always of primary importance. The assumption underlying all uses of photography, that each photograph is a piece of the world, means that we don’t know how to react to a photograph (if the image is visually ambiguous: say, too closely seen or too distant) until we know what piece of the world it is. What looks like a bare coronet – the famous photograph taken by Harold Edgerton in 1936 – becomes far more interesting when we find out it is a splash of milk”. Sontag On Photography 99-100

“For photographers, there is, finally, no difference – no greater aesthetic advantage – between the effort to embellish the world and the counter-effort to rip off its mask. Even those photographers who disdained retouching their portraits – a mark of honour for ambitious portrait photographers from Nadar on – tend to protect the sitter in a certain ways from the camera’s too revealing gaze.” Sontag On Photography 112

“But the aesthetic tendency of photography is such that the medium which conveys distress ends by neutralising it. Cameras miniaturize experience, transform history into a spectacle. As much as they create sympathy, photographs cut sympathy, distance the emotions. Photography’s realism creates a confusion about the real which is (in the long run) analgesic morally as well as (both in the long and in the short run) sensorially stimulating, Hence, it clears our eyes. This is the fresh vision everyone has been talking about. Sontag On Photography 119

“The photograph is an automatic record through the mediation of light of a given event: yet it uses the given event to explain its recording. Photography is the process of rendering observation self-conscious.” Berger, John. 2013. Understanding A Photography. p19 London: Penguin.

On page 39 of the same book, Berger discusses hegemony in the chapter The suit and the photograph where he discusses the difference between peasants and gentry wearing suits in photographs and the telltale visual signs that differentiate the two.

“When we find a photograph meaningful we are lending it a past and a future. The professional photographer tries when taking a photograph to choose an instant that will persuade the public viewer to lend it an appropriate past and future. The photographer’s intelligence or his empathy with the subject defines for him what is appropriate. Yet unlike the storyteller or painter or actor, the photographer only makes, in any one photograph, a single constitutive choice: the choice of the instant to be photographed. The photograph, compared with other means of communication, is therefore weak in intentionality. Berger, John. 2013. Understanding A Photography. p64-65 London: Penguin.

“The unachieved positivist utopia became, instead, the global system of late capitalism wherein all that exists becomes quantifiable – not simply because it can be reduced to a statistical fact, but also because it has been reduced to a commodity.

In such a system there is no space for experience. Each person’s experience remains an individual problem. Personal psychology replaces philosophy as an explanation of the world.

Nor is there space for the social function of subjectivity. All subjectivity is treated as private, and the only (false) form of it which is socially allowed is that of the individual consumer’s dream.

from this primary suppression of the social function of subjectivity, other suppression follow: of meaningful democracy (replaced by opinion polls and market-research techniques), of social conscience (replaced by self-interest), of history (replaced by racist and other myths), of hope – the most subjective and social of all energies (replaced by the sacralization of Progress as Comfort).

The way photography is used today both derives from and confirms the impression of the sical function of subjectivity. Photographs, it is said, tell the truth. From this simplification, which reduces the truth to the instantaneous, it follows that what a photograph tells about a door to a volcano belongs to the same order of truth as what it tells about a man weeping or a woman’s body.

If no theoretical distinction has been made between the photograph as scientific evidence and the photograph as a means of communication, this has been not so much an oversight as a proposal.

The proposal was (and is) that when something is visible, it is a fact, and the facts contain only the truth.

Public photography has remained the child of the hopes of positivism. Orphaned – because these hopes are now dead – it has been adopted by the opportunism of corporate capitalism. It seems likely that the denial of the innate ambiguity of the photograph is closely connected with the denial of the social function of subjectivity.” Berger, John. 2013. Understanding A Photography. p72-73 London: Penguin.

Appearances also cohere within the mind as perceptions. The sight of any single thing or event entrains the sight of other things and events. To recognize an appearance requires the memory of other appearances. And these memories, often projected as expectations, continue to qualify the seen long after the stage of primary recognition. Here, for example, we recognize a baby at the breast, but neither our visual memory nor visual expectations stop there. One image interpenetrates another.

As soon as we say that appearances cohere this coherence proposes a unity not unlike that of a language. Berger, John. 2013. Understanding A Photography. p84 London: Penguin.

Furthermore, appearances in their unmediated state – that is to say, before they have been interpreted or perceived – lend themselves to reference systems (so that they may be stored at a certain level in the memory) which are comparable to those used for words. And this again prompts one to conclude that appearances possess some of the qualities of code (i.e. language). Berger, John. 2013. Understanding A Photography. p85 London: Penguin.

Another way of making this relation clearer would be to say that appearances in themselves are oracular. Like oracles they go beyond, they insinuate further than the discrete phenomena they present, and yet their insinuations are rarely sufficient to make any more comprehensive reading indisputable. The precise meaning of an oracular statement depends upon the quest or need of the one who listens to it. Everyone listens to an oracle alone, even when in company.

The one who look is essential to the meaning found, and yet can be surpassed by it. And this surpassing is what is hoped for. Revelation was a visual category before it was a religious one. The hope of revelation – and this is particularly obvious in every childhood – is the stimulus to the will to all looking which does not have a precise functional aim.Berger, John. 2013. Understanding A Photography. p72-88 London: Penguin.

The photograph cuts across time and discloses a cross-section of the event or events which were developing at that instant. We have seen that the instantaneous tends to make meaning ambiguous. But the cross-section, if it is wide enough, and can be studied at leisure, allows us to see the interconnectedness and related coexistence of events. Correspondences, which ultimately derive from the unity of appearances, then compensate for the lack of sequence. Berger, John. 2013. Understanding A Photography. p90 London: Penguin. [It is here Berger uses the arrow and the circle to illustrate how the coherence of appearances extend the event beyond itself as they implicate other events. He states that it is the energy of these simultaneous connections and cross-references which enlarge the circle beyond the dimension of instantaneous information.]

“How is It possible for appearances to ‘give birth’ to ideas? Through their specific coherence at a given instant, they articulate a set of correspondences which provoke in the viewer a recognition of some past experience. This recognition may remain at the level of a tacit agreement with memory, or it may become conscious. When this happens, it is formulated as an idea.

A photograph which achieves expressiveness thus works dialectically: it preserves the particularity of the event recorded, and it chooses an instant when the correspondences of those particular appearances articulate a general idea.” Berger, John. 2013. Understanding A Photography. p92 London: Penguin.

Berger, John. 2013. Understanding A Photography. p101 London: Penguin. Berger references a sequence of 150 images entitled ‘If Each Time –‘ in Another Way of Telling. There was no text as “no words redeem the ambiguity of the images”. The sequence begins with certain memories of a childhood but then does not follow chronologically. There is no storyline, the reader is free to make his own way through the images. The viewer can wander in any direction without losing a sense of tension or unfolding. Nevertheless, the sequence was constructed as a story. It is intended to narrate.

By the mid-1980s Rosler, along with Allan Sekula, was part of a movement working within a genre called the ‘new social documentary’ that considered photography, specifically constructed photography, to have an important role in representing and questioning social issues (Marien, 2011: 438). This is an area of post-conceptual art practice that seeks to use photography to transmit ideas rather than as a medium of self-expression. In using found photographs Rosler draws attention to the medium itself and in so doing challenges the common sense idea of photographic truth. This kind of image has self-irony that is intended to make viewers think about how they read images as well as thinking about their ostensible subject matter. Smith, Peter, and Carolyn Lefley. Rethinking Photography : Histories, Theories and Education, P122 Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. 

Many practitioners using photography in the 1960s to 1980s were informed by postmodernism and intertextuality as a way of consciously referring to other systems of representation or meaning, for example painting, literature and cinema. This was intended to have layers of personal, social and political references for the viewer. For many this way of working was in opposition to ‘straight’ or Pictorialist photography. The postmodern era made artists reconsider the strengths of constructed or staged photography as a method of knowingly referencing other systems of meaning. David Campany, in his book Art and Photography, notes: ‘For many artists the overtly constructed image, owing as much to cinematography as photography, has allowed a depiction of the particular while alluding to more general social forces’ (Campany, 2007: 29). Marien agrees with Campany and notes: ‘…the omnipresence of movies and television, in which a director orchestrates scenes, may have amplified photographers’ desire to direct for the still camera’ (Marien, 2011: 455).
Smith, Peter, and Carolyn Lefley. Rethinking Photography : Histories, Theories and Education, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. P122

Sherman uses gesture, styling, setting, composition and lighting to tell a story. She is pictured as a gendered subject but since she is, herself, in control of the shoot the conventional way of reading the image is disrupted by the prospect of the audience’s knowing this. The approach is a comment on the power of the photographic image to fix gendered meaning.
Smith, Peter, and Carolyn Lefley. Rethinking Photography : Histories, Theories and Education, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. P123

Wall notes: “It has curious resemblances to the older way of painting in the way you can separate the parts of your work and treat them independently. A painter might be working on a large canvas and, one afternoon, might concentrate on a figure or object, or small area. Part of the poetry of traditional painting is the way it created the illusion that the painting is a single moment – the moment the shutter is released. Photography is based on that sense of instantaneousness … Things that could never coexist in the world easily do in painting.” (Wall cited in de Duve et al ., 2003: 134)
Smith, Peter, and Carolyn Lefley. Rethinking Photography : Histories, Theories and Education, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. P128

Victor Burgin in his essay ‘Looking at Photographs’ (Burgin, 1977). He makes the point that the photograph is about social class and ‘race’ but goes beyond this reading in saying that it produces visual structures linked with social structures in the world at large. His concern is not just with specific meaning in a single image but images in general. He wanted to show that photographic meaning is influenced by socially agreed values and ideas (Burgin, 1982: 147– 150). we may insist on seeing the photograph in our own way and yet socially agreed values and ideas still intrude. Burgin wants us to question what is taken for granted when looking at the photograph. in this way the reader is encouraged to think about the way interpretation of images is shaped by pre-existent ideas and perspectives.
Smith, Peter, and Carolyn Lefley. Rethinking Photography : Histories, Theories and Education, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from falmouth-ebooks on 2022-02-21 21:49:36.

The word ‘intertextuality’ is used in cultural theory to describe the way meanings migrate from one text to another. By ‘text’ we mean a piece of writing, image, advertisement, work of art, a film or television show, or magazine article. Intertextuality occurs when one text refers to another text. One text might ‘quote’ another text. Post-conceptual photography that mimics an already existing work is an example of intertextuality.
Smith, Peter, and Carolyn Lefley. Rethinking Photography : Histories, Theories and Education, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.

The photograph, as it stands alone, presents merely the possibility of meaning.

– SEKULA, 1982: 91


Stephen Shore MoMA Live
Barbara Probst Artist Talk

Age of the Image (2020)

Arena. Jo Spence. ‘Putting Myself in the Picture’ Accessed 22Apr 2022

An Introduction To Semiotics — Signifier And Signified