|The word PHOTOGRAPHY was first used in 1839, by Sir John Herschel when the process of photography became known. It is from the Greek words for light and writing.
The first successful picture was produced in June/July 1827 by Louis Niepce, using material that hardened on exposure to light. This picture required an exposure of eight hours.
There have been many developments since then, but in the 21st century we use two methods of taking photographs. One is to use a film, which is processed after the images have been taken, and the other is the use of a digital camera Photography is readily available to people nowadays, through cameras which can be very small and compact, through web cams, through their availability on a mobile phone. Many people use online photo sharing sites or social network groups to show and share their photos. Photography is no longer exclusive ( this means that not everyone can be part of something ) and is now inclusive ( this means that almost anyone can be involved ).
Photography is accepted as an art form in itself. At the start of the use of Photography, it was mainly used to record images to give information, for example a family portrait, a criminal identity photo, a state event. It took some time before photography was seen as a valid art form, some artists felt it would be something that stopped other art forms because it would replace them. Nowadays, we all accept that Photography is Art.
Alice Hawkin’s exhibition is called “ The Female Gaze “.
Alice left art college in 2002 and has worked as a photographer and an artist since then.
Her work is well known for both its use of colour as well as her ability to relate to her subjects and models. Her Photography is not just for fashion magazines, she uses her camera to record the everyday life or ordinary people and also to photograph herself. As she explains: “I need to meet my subjects on a normal level. I can then embrace my project and not treat it like work.” Alice enjoys taking portraits for her work but also for her own satisfaction as an artist and photographer.
Alice works here in the U.K. and across the world. Her photography work has appeared in many magazines, and she been asked to do work for well known clients and fashion houses.
This is Alice’s first one person exhibition of her work. There are about 70 different photographs for you to see. Remember that you need to look carefully at the images, you are not just glancing at them, you are looking at them to discover their meaning.
Alice’s photographs are portraits: a portrait is an image made in an artistic way ( so it can be a photograph or a painting or a sculpture ) where the main part of the image is a face and an expression. Portraits are there to show us what a person looks like but also suggest their personality or their mood. Although we can quickly take a photo of someone ( this is known as a “snapshot” ) in photography we understand a portrait as being a composed image of a
person in a still position. A portrait often shows a person looking directly at the painter or photographer, but it can be taken from the side or from other angles.
Portraits are important is helping us to understand our history, although we think that all early portraits were of kings and queens and emperors, the Egyptians painted portraits for ordinary people’s funerals and we are able to see these many hundreds of years after those people lived and died.
Since the birth of photography, in the middle of the 19th century, people have had their portraits taken. Many of the early photographers set up studios and people came in to have their portraits taken, sometimes by themselves and often in family groups. Anyone could have their portrait done and it has given us all access to an incredible history of what people looked like throughout those years. This visual history has portraits of people in general and sometimes people in our own family if someone has kept them safe. In the very early days of photography, it took a long time to take a photograph so people had to sit still for a long time and they had little neck rests behind them to keep their heads steady. When you see a blurred old photo, it is because the person moved whilst the photo was being taken. One of the earliest uses of portrait photography was by the police, who started to take photographs of criminals, these were the first “ mugshots “ or “ identity “ portraits.
Although we often have our photographs taken, we don’t often have proper portraits done. But there will be times in your life when this has been done, you might have had portraits done when you were a baby or a small child, so that your family had a record of you growing up and also so that they could send these images to other people. People like to have proper wedding photographs taken and teenagers like to have formal portraits taken when they go to a school Prom. Schools usually take portraits of pupils once a year when a photographer comes in and takes a class photo and then an individual photo of you. You may have had your photo taken for a news paper if you have been involved in a special event or achievement. We all have to have photo portraits taken if we want a passport and there are rules about these, for example, you should not smile on a passport photograph. As you get older you will need photos of yourself for a driving licence, a library card, a student card etc. A lot of people have their photograph on their blogs or on social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace.
As well as portraits, we can see self –portraits. Nowadays a lot of people have a camera, because of the advances in technology with digital cameras and cameras on phones, so taking a photo of yourself is a very common thing. Some photographers take more composed self portraits by setting up a camera on a tripod and using a self timer. Some interesting artists to look at for self portraits would be Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and Yasumasa Morisuma.
We often think that a fashion photographer should only work with beautiful and glamorous people, because this is the image that people like to see and which often attracts them to an image. This is also known as a stereotype. A stereotype is not based on what you see individually it is based on what people as a group think is the right way to see something.
An example of a stereotype would be that we think that all French people wear berets and carry a French loaf of bread or that all blonde women are not clever. These are not true facts, but these examples explain what a stereotype is. So, Alice creates photographs of people who we do not normally expect to see in a fashion style photograph. For example, the photograph called “ Bad Boy, Dodger “ where there is a clue in the title. If Dodger is a bad boy, he is not the type of person we would expect to see in a photograph like this. But, whey shouldn’t we see people from all walks of life in photographs ? In the Hollywood Wives photos we see older women who are still trying to look young and who still want to look good on their photographs by wearing their nice clothes and with their hair and make up all done. But usually, we only see portraits of younger women. But why shouldn’t we see people of all ages in these photographs ?
Alice’s portraits show people from all over the world, they show people from different countries and races, they show people who are rich and people who are not so rich, they show people from different age groups, they show people sitting indoors in very formal situations, they show people in more natural surroundings, inside their homes or outside.
They have titles which help us to see a connection with the images. For example, when we hear the word “ Couples “ we usually think of a man and woman of a similar age who are together or are married ( again this is a stereotype ) but Alice shows us that couples can be two young people going to the Prom or two friends of the same sex, the same age, from the same place. She uses themes in her work, for example a group of photos are all about India, another set are about women in Russia.
Alice shows us her views of beauty in portraits from places we might never visit, such as Russia and India. In some of her photographs she celebrates the young black British girls who like to dress up and show off their style and their fashion. She takes portraits of pairs and of groups. These can show similarities between the people or differences and contrasts.
What is also interesting about Alice’s photographs is that when we look at the portraits we often see that people have dressed up for the camera, they have been asked to sit a certain way or stand in a particular place, they might be smiling or laughing or they might have a quieter expression. This is like acting, we dress up and we do certain things for our audience. In the portraits, people are doing exactly that. Alice’s work has been described as being able to capture the “ everyday burlesque “, this means the things in our ordinary lives that are theatrical. We often put “ on a show “ for other people and we usually do this for a portrait.
The title of a portrait helps us to create a story in our head about the person, so it is important to look at them and see if they give us more clues. What is interesting about portrait photography is that the person or persons are looking at the camera and the photographer at the moment that the image is captured. But, when we see the portrait, we don’t see the camera or the photographer, so they are looking at us. So, in the same way that we start to make judgements about someone when we meet them face to face, we do the same when we look at the portraits. We look at the expression on their face, we look at their clothes, their body language, the place where they are when the photograph was taken, we start to make up a story in our head about the person. In a pair or group photograph we start to think about who the people are in relation to each other. We also need to remind ourselves that when we have our portrait taken we think carefully about the image that we present. We think about what clothes to wear, how our hair will be done, how we will stand or sit in front of the camera, we think about our physical image and we think about the expression on our face. Should we smile ? Should we look serious ? Should we have another expression ? Should we look directly at the camera ? We often get embarrassed when we have our photograph taken because all of that individual attention is on us and because we know that moment will be captured and stay that moment forever.
When we look at and enjoy Alice’s portraits, we should try and remember all of these things that might have been going on just before and when the portrait photograph was taken.
Do this task by yourself. Look at Alice’s photographs and select a group of portraits with the same theme.
What is the theme for these portraits ?
What clues do the title of the work give you about the photographs ?
What is the person ( or persons ) wearing ?
What do their clothes tell you about them ?
What is the expression on the face ?
What is behind the person ( or persons ) ?
What does that tell you about them and where they were when the photograph was taken ?
How do the photographs connect with each other ? What is similar about them ?
Create a quick sketch/diagram of one of the photographs in this box to remind you of it later.
Do this task in a pair.
Choose one portrait.
Find out the title of this and write it here: ____________________________________________
In your pair, discuss the portrait. What do you think this person ( if it is a group portrait then you need to discuss all the people in it ) is all about ? What country are they from ? Can you say what you think they are like ? Are they old , young, in between ? Are they rich or are they poor ? Are they happy or sad or can you find something else in their expression ? Talk to each other about what you feel when you look at the portrait.
Now, imagine the conversation between Alice and the person in the few minutes before the photograph was taken. What do you think Alice was saying ?
What do you think the person in the photograph was saying in the moments before the image was captured ?
Can you do a role play of the conversation with one of you being Alice and the other one being the person ( or persons ) in the photograph ?
If you were there at the time and you had the chance to set up the portrait, would you do it the same way or would you do something differently ?
Create a quick sketch/diagram of one of the photographs in this box to remind you of it later.
Task3: Do this task in a pair.
If you were to be photographed wearing the clothes that give you your own personal identity, what would you choose to wear ? Describe the items and the colours below.
What would these say about you ?
Now, ask your partner to do the same task about YOU …what would they photograph you in and what do they think it would say about you ?
When you get back to school. Group project.
Back at school, work in a trio.
The project is to take a portrait in the school environment which tells us something about that person and their relationship to and with school.
You could bring in different clothing for the photo session. Clothing which belongs to you but which you would not usually wear to school. Or, you might actually decide that you want to wear your school clothes for this portrait.
In the trio, you each have a role. One of your is the photographer, one of you is the stylist, one of you is the model or the subject for the portrait. The subject will have their hair and clothes as they want them to be, the stylist will help with this or ask to make changes. The photographer will decide where the photographic portrait is to be taken. This won’t be a random choice. It needs to be thought about. So, for example, if the subject is a person who enjoys sport at school, you might find a background which is connected to this. As trio, you will work together to get the portrait set up. If you can get a tripod to help with taking the photograph you will find this easier.
Before you take the portrait photograph, talk about how you would want this to look. Everyone is involved in this, the subject, the stylist and the photographer. But, in the every end, the photographer will make the decision because it is them that pushes the button and captures the moment.
You could ask one of your teachers to be the subject or anyone else who works at the school.
A really good project would be to photograph a range of people at the school and not just the pupils.
Another good project would be to get your subjects to pose for the portraits in a way which would be very different from what would normally be expected. For example, the school caretaker might be wearing their best clothes and reading a book, two things that he/she likes to do, but which you don’t get the chance to see him/her doing at school. This would change the stereotype image of the person and their role.
Task 5: Do this by yourself.
Alice’s exhibition is called “ The Female Gaze “.
What do you think this means ?
Is it about Alice looking ?
Does it means something else ?
Imagine that you are writing a short article in The Sunderland Echo about this exhibition.
You want to encourage people to come and see the exhibition.
What would you say ?
Write some rough notes here:
Now, create two paragraphs for the Sunderland Echo called “Within the Female Gaze “. You can type these up in Word or Publisher and make it look like a newspaper article.
The editor also asks you to choose two portraits from the exhibition to illustrate the article about the exhibition.
Which ones will you choose and why will you choose them ?
Choice 1: _________________________________________________________________
Reasons for choice:
Choice 2: _________________________________________________________________
Reasons for choice:
Task 6: You can do this as a pair or in a group.
Use your observational skills to try and gather as much information about the exhibition as you can. If you are in a group, do this as a team and compare results with other groups.
How many different countries can you find where portraits have been taken ? ____________
Name the countries : ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
How may portraits are of just one person ? ______________________
How many portraits are of a pair ? _________________________
How many portraits are of a group of three ? _________________________
How many portraits are of a group bigger than three ? ________________
How many portraits are taken inside a building ?__________________
How many portraits are taken outside a building ?______________________
How many portraits are taken in the open spaces away from buildings ? ________________
How many portraits have a animal in them as well as people ? ___________________
Name the animals:
How many portraits can you see where a tattoo can be seen ? _______________
How many portraits can you see where someone has a hat or similar on their head ? _________
How many portraits can you see where someone is wearing glasses ? _____________
How many portraits can you see where the clothes are the same color as the background ? ___________
How many photographs can you see of women ? ______
How many photographs can you see of men ? ________
How many photographs can you see of children ? ______
How many photographs can you see where you can see the whole body of the person or people ? _______
What are your two favourite portraits ?