Photography has changed the way we see images today. It has been employed in so many different aspects of our life, across a whole range of cultural and social uses that provocative imagery have become part of the norm in catching our attention and responses. However, the concepts of provocativeness in photography and its theoretical concerns have been a rarely discussed subject and thus cannot be ignored. Some topic highlights in my area of investigation include:
- About Activism in photography
- About Landscape in Activism photography
- What does ‘Provocative Landscape’ means?
- Establishing the varying degrees of ‘provocativeness’
- Can there be synergy between authenticity and manipulation?
- How can landscape images promote new thinking and make a difference in the world?
What provocative is, and what is it not?
The definition of “provocative” is to call forth an emotion, usually anger or infuriate. It may also mean to act as a stimulus or incitement. In other words, there has to be a common subject that people can relate to or a catalyst that trigger such responses. In photography, the term “provocative” is usually associated with the human body, in realms of the sensual eroticism and nudity, as well as violent scenes of war and human death. However, these themes of the human body are not so relevant in the landscape context. What is relevant here, as this research explores, is how “provocative” can be applicable in the landscape genre and how landscape photographers and artists have created visuals that make people think or respond, be it positive or negative impact.
This field of research would give me a better understanding of how photographers can promote new ways of thinking by adopting different stances of provocative imagery to influence people. In defining what ‘Provocative landscapes’ means to me, some of the key issues in my research include concerns of activism photography from the historical perspective, establishing the varying degrees of ‘provocativeness’, as well as questioning the synergy between authenticity and manipulation. Though not exhaustive, this research aims to persuade “provocative landscape’ as a possible subgenre in the landscape photography.
Some of the important references beneficial to my field of research include the works of photographers such as Thomas Annan, Lewis Hine, Ansel Adams, Sebastiao Saldago, Luc Delahaye, Paul Seawright, Edward Burtynsky, Nick Brandt, Kelly Richardson, Pedro Meyers and Michael Gordon. Other key figures include photography authors and critics Liz Wells, Michelle Bore, Fontacuberta, William Stott, Ken Light, Fred Ritchin and David Allan Mellor.
In addition, I have also considered online and video sources from various organisations that have promoted these photographers’ works: TedTalk, ffotogallery publication, The Guardian.
Relevancy of Citations
The interpretation of documentary photography is complicated, multi-layered and nuanced. In ‘Critical Photography’, Liz Wells examines the relationship between photojournalism and documentary photography, which can be related to as a form of investigation to address existing social or political situation. She objectively highlighted the issues of its authenticity in the documentary, noting the complex of the technical, socio-political and cultural changes affecting the whole visual culture in photography (Wells, 2000).
Similarly in ‘Photography as Activism’, Michelle Bogre explored the philosophical and historical aspects of the photography’s role in social reform and how it has influenced people (Bogre, 2012). For instance, during the Industrial Revolution, Scottish photographer Thomas Annan surveyed the living and working conditions of the poor from an architectural perspective, while American photographer Lewis Hine was concerned with child labour issues, often depicting his subjects in their environment. Ansel was committed to making social and political changes with the conservation of the western wilderness.
In ‘Documentary Expression and Thirties America’, having studied the wide-ranging view of documentary photography of America during the thirties, William Stott explains how documentary photographers of those times were able to influence people and the methods they use to persuade (Stott, 1986). However, in ‘Witness in our time’, through Sebastiao Saldago’s ideologies of activism photography, Ken Light argued that photographers have to constantly adopt new strategies to address the obstacles and opportunities created by the rapid media changes and cross-cultural contact as the times changed (Light, 2000).
This was evident when early war and conflicts came and propelled activism photography to new heights, where civilian viewers became de-sensitized to deaths and destruction in actual battlefields. Regardless of the landscapes being symbolically replicated, it presented a reality of the atrocities from the photographer’s perspective, as shown in the book ‘Conflict, time, photography’ (David Alan Mellor, n.d.), thus causing people to respond and take actions.
Found examples include French photojournalist Luc Delahaye who demonstrated aestheticizing conflict and death could be a means to provoke interest (O’Hagan, 2011), while Paul Seawright preferred a more subtle approach to his landscapes (ffotogallery, 2003). Edward Burtynsky believed that he could present a dialectic discussion of his environmental concerns through the use of the available visual elements in the landscape (TedTalk, 2009). In Nick Brandt’s “Inherit the Dust”, he presented a giant panorama of life-sized animals prints in a barren, human-dominated landscape without the dependence of digital manipulation (Zhang, 2016). However, Kelly Richardson proved that by embracing digital technologies, thought-provoking statements can be created just as effectively (Richardson, 2012).
Similarly, in Pedro Meyer’s ‘Truths and Fictions’, Fontacuberta defended the documentary photographer’s position of embracing digital manipulation in activism photography, stressing that by avoiding the judgement of its negative connotations, the traditional rules does not warrant a stamp of authenticity while new tools should permit new approaches (Meyer, 1995).
In ‘Bending the Frame’, Fred Ritchin examines the evolving media and political landscapes in the paradigms of Photojournalism and documentary photography and explains how new and emerging contemporary visual media may use various strategies and innovative approaches to solving problems and impact the society (Ritchin, 2013).
Thus this paper concludes with American photographer Michael Gordon’s believes, that landscape photographs may not necessarily mean the need to represent any realities and truths; for as long as it has metaphorical meanings infused, it can capture the viewer’s attention for a longer time (Michael E. Gordon, 2009).
I have refined my essay down into five chapters, including the introduction. In each chapter, I have listed some topics I would touch upon, as well as photographers I would highlight in my essay.
The first part of this paper establishes the definition of provocative in the context of the landscape and further examines its philosophical concepts in relation to the art of persuasion from the cultural history, socio-political and personal perspectives. Once this task has been satisfied, the text will proceed to examine the technological and the ethical aspects, the various strategies contemporary landscape photographers today have taken to created such provocative images.
- Establishing what “provocative” is and what is it not
William Stott| Sebastiao Saldago
History in Retrospective
- Activism photography
- Conflict photography
Thomas Annan | Lewis Hine | Robert Capa
The Provocative Image
- The Archives & Technology
- The Controversial
- The Dialectical
- The Rhetoric
Oliviero Toscani | Chloe Dewe Mathews | Pedro Meyer
The Provocative Landscape
- What does it mean?
- Strategies in making landscapes provocative
Luc Delahaye | Paul Seawright | Edward Burtynsky | Nick Brandt | Kelly Richardson
The Viral Factor
- Ethics of publishing
- Synergy of authenticity and manipulation
- People and technology
- Multimedia and beyond
Nick Ut | Steve McCurry
- Provocative images matter
- What makes landscape provocative (A summary)
By dissecting the complex visual culture, this paper attempts to unravel aspects of ‘provocativeness’ in photography and assert its relevance to the landscapes. Yet the aim of this paper is not simply to present a study of how such images are made. Instead, the objective is to investigate the role of the provocative landscape by analysing how such images have influenced and persuade people today. I hope this research would be useful not only in informing my third year but as well as my future photography works and practices.
Meyer, P., 1995. Truths and Fictions: Journey from rDocumentary to Digital Photography. 1st Edition ed. New York: Aperture.
Light, K., 2000. Witness in Our Time. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Adams, R., 2004. Essays in Defense of Traditional Values. In: Beauty in Photography. New Edition ed. New York: Aperture, p. 112.
Bogre, M., 2012. Photography As Activism. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Focal Press.
Wells, L., 2000. Photography: A Critical Introduction. 1st Edition ed. London: Routledge.
Stott, W., 1986. Documentary Expression and Thirties America. 3rd Edition ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sontag, S., 1979. ON PHOTOGRAPHY. 3rd Edition ed. London(Newed): Penguin.
Ritchin, F., 2013. Bending The Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen. First Edition ed. New York: Aperture.
Beyer, L. A., 1988. Intentionalism, Art, and the Suppression of Innovation: Film Colorization and the Philosophy of Moral Rights., s.l.: s.n.
Mavilian, S., 2014. The Modern Archive of Conflict. In: Conflict, Time, Photography.. s.l.:Tate Publishing, p. 224.
Egan, J. D. a. K., 2005. Educational Philosophy and Theory. Educational Theory as Theory of Culture: A Vichian perspective on the educational theories of John Dewey and Kieran Egan, 01 August, 37(4), pp. 475-494(20).
Ayer, A. J. &. O. J., 1992. A Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations.. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Wilkins, P. P. a. L., 2008. Informing the Public Must Come First. In: Media Ethics: Issues and Cases. 1st Edition ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. p. 38.
John S. Nelson, A. M., 1988. The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences. Language and Argument in Scholarship and Public Affairs.
Bates, D., 2009. Photography: The Key Concepts. 1st ed. Oxford: Berg.
Singer, P., 2009. Foreword. In: P. Singer, ed. A Shadow Falls. 1st ed. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., p. 132.
Mark Durden, n.d. Monograph Essay by Mark Durden and John Stathatos. Paul Seawright: Hidden.
Ritchin, F., 2008. After Photography. s.l.:W. W. Norton & Company.
Struck, W., 2014. Genesis, Retold: In Search of an Atlas of the Anthropocene. Environmental Humanities, Volume 5, pp. 217-232.
Claeys, G., 2010. The origins of dystopia. In: G. Claeys, ed. The Cambridge companion to utopian literature. 1st ed. New York,: Cambridge University Press, pp. 110-131.
Grundberg, A., 2010. Crisis of the Real. 1st ed. New York: Aperture.
David Alan Mellor, S. B. M. B. M. S. C. S., 2014. Conflict, Time, Photography. Illustrated ed. s.l.:Harry N. Abrams, 2015.
Nicolson, A., 2007. Foreword. In: Journey Through the British Isles. London: Merrell, p. 191.
Hansen, C., 2013. Chapter 2, Informing the Public Must Come First. In: C. Hansen, ed. Media Ethics: Issues and Cases. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, p. 336.
How to recognide a dystopia. 2016. [Film] Directed by Jeremiah Dickey. s.l.: TED-Ed.
Barthes, R., 1977. Rhetoric of the Image. In: Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana Press, p. 224.
Foss, S., 2004. Framing the Study of Visual Rhetoric: Towards a transformation of Rhetorical Theory. In: M. H. Charles A. Hill, ed. Defining Visual Rhetorics. New Jersey(Mahwah): Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 303-313.
Pensky, M., 2004. Method and time: Benjamin’s dialectical images. The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin, 29 March.p. 266.
Wrigley, R., 1992. Ansel Adams /images of the American West. Leicester: Magna Books.
Trachtenberg, A., 1977. America & Lewis Hine: Photographs 1904-1940. New York: Aperture.
Baker, S., 2014. Conflict Time Photography. Armageddon in Retrospect, p. 224.
David Gordon, J. M. K. J. C. M. C. R., 2011. Controversies in Media Ethics. 3rd Edition ed. New York: Routledge.
Gossman, L., 2015. Thomas Annan of Glasgow: Pioneer of the Documentary Photograph. s.l.:Open Book Publishers.
Morss, S. B., 1991. The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (. London: MIT Press.
ffotogallery, 2003. publications. [Online]
Available at: http://www.ffotogallery.org/hidden-%E2%80%93-paul-seawright
[Accessed 27 03 2016].
O’Hagan, S., 2011. The Guardian. [Online]
Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/aug/09/luc-delahaye-war-photography-art
[Accessed 28 March 2016].
Michael E. Gordon, 2009. Metaphorical Landscapes. [Online]
Available at: http://www.michael-gordon.com/articles/Metaphorical_Landscapes.pdf
[Accessed 26 Feburary 2016].
Richardson, K., 2012. Orion Tide. [Online]
Available at: http://www.kellyrichardson.net/orion_all.htm
Edward Burtynsky, 2011. Edward Burtynsky Photography. [Online]
Available at: http://www.edwardburtynsky.com/site_contents/Photographs/Water.html
[Accessed 23 03 2016].
Prixpictet, 2011. Portfolios. [Online]
Available at: http://www.prixpictet.com/portfolios/power-shortlist/luc-delahaye/
Seawright, P., 2003. Hidden. [Online]
Available at: http://www.paulseawright.com/hidden/
[Accessed April 2016].
Burgett, G., 2014. The Story Behind Robert Capa’s Pictures of the D-Day Invasion that Almost Never Were. [Online]
Available at: http://petapixel.com/2014/06/02/story-behind-robert-capas-iconic-images-d-day-invasion-omaha-beach/
[Accessed 10 July 2016].
Design Magazine, 2016. Oliviero Toscani: controversy meets creativity. [Online]
Available at: http://magazine.bydesignconf.co/oliviero-toscani/
[Accessed 15 July 2016].
Anon., 2016. Studio of (Un)truth. [Online]
Available at: http://www.austinchronicle.com/screens/1995-11-24/530159/
[Accessed 16 July 2016].
Grigonis, H., 2016. Famed Photojournalist Steve McCurry Speaks Out On His Use Of Photoshop. [Online]
Available at: http://www.digitaltrends.com/photography/steve-mccurry-photoshop-controversy/
[Accessed 01 August 2016].
Agtmael, P. v., 2016. Why Facts Aren’t Always Truths in Photography. [Online]
Available at: http://time.com/4326791/fact-truth-photography-steve-mccurry/
[Accessed 03 August 2016].
Jenkins, T., 2015. Five years on: Untangling Instagram’s growing web of influence. [Online]
Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/22/fashion/instagram-is-changing-the-world/
[Accessed 09 August 2016].
Plota, 2016. Home. [Online]
Available at: https://www.plotagraphpro.com/
[Accessed 29 July 2016].
Glauert, R., n.d. The line between traditional and controversial art is blurred as radical artists seek ways to voice their dissent. [Online]
Available at: http://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/article/1811263/line-between-traditional-and-controversial-art-blurred-radical
[Accessed 28 July 2016].
Colberg, J., 2007. A conversation with Luc Delahaye. [Online]
Available at: http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/extended/archives/a_conversation_with_luc_delahaye/
[Accessed 18 July 2016].
Burtynsky, E., 2006. My wish: Manufactured landscapes and green education. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/edward_burtynsky_on_manufactured_landscapes?language=en
[Accessed 01 May 2016].
Nick Brandt, 2016. Nick Brandt: Behind The Photo. [Online]
Available at: http://nickbrandtphotography.blogspot.co.uk/
[Accessed 07 July 2016].
A.Simpson, J., n.d. Oxford Dictionary. [Online]
Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/provocative
[Accessed 09 November 2016].
Smail, C., 2014. World’s Most Controversial Photographers. [Online]
Available at: http://illusion.scene360.com/art/66399/worlds-most-controversial-photographers/
[Accessed 09 November 2016].
Morris, J. G., 2014. Robert Capa’s Iconic D-Day Photo of a Soldier in the Surf. [Online]
Available at: http://time.com/120751/robert-capa-dday-photos/
[Accessed 25 July 2016].
By Design Magazine, 2016. Oliviero Toscani: controversy meets creativity. [Online]
Available at: http://magazine.bydesignconf.com/oliviero-toscani/
[Accessed 12 August 2016].
Nick Brandt, n.d. Nick Brandt. [Online]
Available at: http://www.nickbrandt.com/text_page.cfm?pid=2708
[Accessed 07 May 2016].
Brandt, N., 2016. #14: UNDERPASS WITH ELEPHANTS, 2015. [Online]
Available at: http://nickbrandtphotography.blogspot.co.uk/
[Accessed 04 August 2016].
Safina, C., 2016. Praise for “Inherit the Dust”. [Online]
Available at: http://www.nickbrandt.com/text_page.cfm?pid=2708
[Accessed 05 August 2016].
TedTalk, 2005. My wish: Manufactured landscapes and green education. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/edward_burtynsky_on_manufactured_landscapes/transcript?language=en#t-1851180
[Accessed 24 March 2016].
Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, n.d. Kelly Richardson: ‘LEGION’. [Online]
Available at: http://www.ngca.co.uk/exhibs/default.asp?id=187&prnt=18
[Accessed 02 August 2016].
Laurent, O., 2016. Steve McCurry: I’m a Visual Storyteller Not a Photojournalist. [Online]
Available at: http://time.com/4351725/steve-mccurry-not-photojournalist/
[Accessed 15 June 2016].
Davies, L., 2016. Drone photography: exploring views from whole new heights. [Online]
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/photography/what-to-see/drone-photography-exploring-views-from-whole-new-heights/
[Accessed 26 August 2016].