Exercise 1: Select a Broad Them

Select a broad theme as your individual starting point and research how it is expressed photographically through different genres by different practitioners.

Some examples of broad themes include (but are not limited to):

  • The Body
  • Identity
  • Friendship
  • Systems
  • Home
  • Environment
  • Anthropocene
  • Power
  • The Gaze
  • Materiality
  • Otherness
  • Time
  • Family

You can choose one of these, a variation, or something else. Assignment 3 is designed to help by making connections within your analysis.

Resources to Explore

To support your work on this course you will need to navigate to the Source Texts and Case Studies and begin there; with the range of documents, Padlet spaces, case studies and recordings to engage with. You will need to continue to dip into these resources throughout the unit and they can be accessed or revisited at any time. In each resource there will be questions to consider, artist examples to spark wider research and reflections on practice.

The theme I have chosen is Identity.

Key Characteristics of Identity in Photographic Practice

Representation and Self-Representation
Photographers often use self-portraits to explore and express their personal identity. This can involve both literal representations and more abstract or symbolic depictions.
Notable practitioners: Cindy Sherman’s work, where she takes on various personas to question and explore identity, particularly gender and societal roles.
Cultural and Social Identity
Photographers document their own cultures and communities to represent collective identities.
Notable practitioners: Zanele Muholi’s portraits of the LGBTQ+ community in South Africa.

 Narrative and Storytelling
Personal Histories: Photographic projects can delve into the photographer’s own history and experiences, creating a narrative that speaks to their identity.
Notable practitioners: Nan Goldin’s “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” which provides a raw, intimate look at her life and the lives of her friends.
Community Narratives
Documenting the stories and experiences of a community to reflect a shared identity.

Notable practitioners: Gordon Parks’ documentation of African American life, capturing the struggles and resilience of his community.

Cultural and Ethnic Identity
Representation of Heritage: Photographs that highlight cultural heritage and traditions, often contrasting them with modern influences.
Notable practitioners: Seydou Keïta’s portraits in Mali that blend traditional African attire with contemporary fashion.
Colonial and Postcolonial Identity
Examining the effects of colonization on identity and how postcolonial societies reclaim and reconstruct their identities.
Notable practitioners: Yinka Shonibare’s work, which explores postcolonial identity and cultural hybridity through staged photographs.

Gender and Sexual Identity
Exploration of Gender Roles:
Photographic work that challenges traditional gender roles and explores the fluidity of gender identity.
Notable practitioners: Catherine Opie’s portraits that explore the diversity of sexual and gender identities within the LGBTQ+ community.
Queer Identity: Documenting and celebrating queer identity, often in the face of societal challenges.
Notable practitioners: The work of Del LaGrace Volcano, who explores gender fluidity and queer identity through their photography.

Political and Social Commentary
Activism through Photography:
Using the medium to comment on social and political issues, advocating for change and raising awareness.
Notable practitioners: Sebastião Salgado’s work, which often highlights social issues and the plight of marginalized communities.
Identity Politics: Addressing how politics and societal structures influence and shape personal and collective identities.
Notable practitioners: The work of Carrie Mae Weems, who explores African American identity and history, often highlighting issues of race and gender.

Symbolism and Metaphor:
Use of Symbols: Employing symbols to represent aspects of identity, both personal and collective.
Notable practitioners: Francesca Woodman uses props and surreal settings to explore her own identity and psychological states.
Metaphorical Imagery: Creating images that serve as metaphors for broader concepts of identity.
Notable practitioners:: Man Ray’s surrealist photographs that explore subconscious desires and fears, touching on aspects of personal identity.

References and Further Reading
1. **”Photography and Identity: From the Self-Portrait to the Snapshot”** by Amelia Jones – Explores various aspects of identity in photography.
2. **”Ways of Seeing”** by John Berger – Provides a foundational understanding of visual culture and representation, crucial for analyzing identity in photography.
3. **”Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography”** by Roland Barthes – Discusses the emotional impact and personal connection to photographs, relevant to identity exploration.

For a deeper exploration of these themes, you can refer to:
– [Art21 on Identity in Photography](https://art21.org/read/identity-in-photography/)
– [The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Photography and Identity](https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/idph/hd_idph.htm)