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Archive for the ‘Visual Imagery’ Category

Feedback and grades for two adversarials can be found in this post.  Both assignments covered visual imagery to some degree: The first dealt with On Photography, Sontag’s approach to the grammar and ethics of seeing, and Tom Junod’s “The Falling Man”; the second delved into iconic photography and the impact of Photoshop on visual imagery.

The key to understanding each of these scores is this fact: the in-class component was only part of the final point total, and the rest of the points were earned through this blog.  For the post relating to On Photography, two students’ final grades were altered by the quality of their online replies; one saw an increase in the final score for particularly effective and generative replies, while the other saw a slight decrease for not posting any comments at all.  Since so many of you did not post online between 5/12 and 5/17, the second adversarial needed no augmentation; instead, the normal scaling yielded a wild disparity between high marks and failing or near-failing grades.

If you have any questions about the information posted below, please email me or schedule an individual conference.  Before you do that, however, be sure that you review the assignments and posts I’ve collected below.  Note also that anything posted after the deadline was not counted toward your final score.

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Airbrushed Ethics
Unit: Photography

Okay, the rant first

The media focus on physical appearance bleeds into every other aspect of our lives, cresting with celebrations like a high school Spirit Week, prom, etc. (To be fair, Halloween is probably the worst; Halloween, however, is mitigated by candy. Also to be fair, I might be a curmudgeon who should be put out to pasture.)

The outfits worn by students to demonstrate spirit often demonstrate skin and not much else. This is to be expected, though. Spirit, energy, vigor; youth, charisma, sexiness; even intelligence: all of it is pounded into our collective unconscious as tied to, dependent on, and reflected in the physical.

The problem is how obscenely dishonest the media is in projecting this image of sex and beauty. It’s common knowledge that models, especially female models, are airbrushed; it’s how much they are airbrushed that escapes attention.

This activity is about awareness, and we aren’t just looking at women, or at models. We are looking at celebrities of all kinds. We are looking at Maxim MagazineTime Magazine, and GQ. As you read, jot down reactions and ideas; you will then discuss in class and here, in the comments, one of the most systemic ethical violations in advertising and image peddling.

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Once you are satisfied with your contributions to the adversarial discussion of “The Falling Man,” you may start on your next assignment: to find an iconic photograph that you wish to discuss through the four lenses provided here:

  1. The Grammar of Seeing
  2. The Ethics of Seeing
  3. The Role of the Photographer
  4. The Photo’s Message

Search through the links below, allowing yourself to see each image as iconic — as representative of larger ideas and even eras, as emblematic of moments in time, as transformative in some important way.  Keep Sontag’s ideas in your mind, but treat this as an opportunity to see what photos have changed the world.  The sites I’ve given you detail the context of each photo, as well.  Which ones would you like to discuss in class?  Make a note of them in your compendium, being sure you can direct us to it, when we are back in class.

You can leave your suggestions in the comments, as well.

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Click to load a larger image.

Your conversation begins with the photograph to the left and the article by Tom Junod that grapples with it.  Read both the image and the text carefully.  Then refer to this summation of the Sontag excerpt you read; consider it not a step-by-step commenting guide, but a holistic way to approach your responsive writing.

Now pull out selections and sections of “The Falling Man” and identify them in your comments.  Offer your measured responses and insights.  Ask questions of your peers; react to the way Junod frames the discussion; use the four ideas gleaned from Sontag to explore the issues this photograph and essay raise; and so on.  As always, return here frequently to see your peers’ thoughts and offer replies.

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Susan Sontag, ON PHOTOGRAPHY

To read a photography, we need a philosophy; without one, we are passive consumers of visual data, reflecting little and evaluating only in the most basic terms (the “that’s cool” and “that sucks” school).  In this course, we use Susan Sontag’s On Photography, focusing on an excerpt that covers (among many splendid ideas) four key concepts: the grammar of seeing, the ethics of seeing, the role of the photographer, and the inherent didacticism of photography.

After having collaborated in class on an annotation (of sorts) of the excerpt, you are all capable of reading a photograph in a mature, thoughtful way.  The list here is a guideline, not a requirement; while you can separate each section, effective analysis will meld them together in the obvious ways.

Reading a Photograph

  1. The Grammar of Seeing
  2. The Ethics of Seeing
  3. The Role of the Photographer
  4. The Photo’s Message

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