Photography and Evidence Lecture

On Monday 14th October 2013, I attended a day of lectures and tutorials that started off with an hour long lecture entitled “Photography and Evidence“. After this lecture had finished, we then received a short 10 minute presentation from Group B that shared with us their research task. Following this, we then discussed this weeks reading about Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother image before watching a half an hour clip of an “Imagine…” video about Don McCullin. Below are all of the notes that I took from this day:


  • Barthes – Camera Lucida
  • YouTube Video – Guardian – “Points of View
    • Considered the most successful advert ever made
    • What’s my perspective?
    • Where do I see it?
    • Am I seeing the whole picture?
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
    • There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment


  • Don McCullin
    • Biafra 1971
    • Country that no longer exists as it lost the war and merged with Nigeria
    • Most influential documentary photographs ever made?

Don McCullin

Don McCullin 2

  • Kevin Carter
    • Pulitzer Prize winning image 1994
    • Nothing has changed from 1971-1994
    • Caused so much controversy that the photographer killed himself six months after he took the photo
    • Didn’t feel like it was his place to intervene, he was the observer – changing to an active member will change the perspective and possibly the event


  • W Eugene Smith
    • Unlike Cartier-Bresson he believes that the integrity of telling the story is more important and therefore he tended to pose his subjects
    • E.g. woman and water
    • Didn’t change the essence of what was going on

Eugene Smith

  • Tomoko in the bath 1971
    • Was banned for 20 years
    • Fetal mercury poisoning
    • Became a symbol rather than the reality – family asked to take the image out of the audiences eye, it is still very intrusive

Eugene Smith 2

  • Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus

Photography as a Witness:

  • Robert Capa’sFalling Soldier

Robert Capa

  • Paul Hansen
    • World press photo award winner 2013
    • What happens if the image looks too professional?
    • Does it look like a documentary image or an advertising image?
    • So much controversy – questioning it’s authenticity
    • Shared 17,000 times on Facebook – is it real or fake?
    • Processed each layer of the image separately to get the final result
    • Is it no longer the truth?

Paul Hansen

  • American soldiers abusing war prisoners
    • May 2004 – Abu Ghraib
    • Our biggest threat as image makers are the amateurs

Abu Ghraib

  • Tom Scooter
    • Brooklyn based photographer
    • Turned a traumatic event into a tourist attraction
    • 9/11
    • Why do we not like that?
    • Five stories about 9/11” – Margaret Oline book called “Touching Photographs
    • Put in the wall of shame within the book as people were so disgusted by it
  • Observation test
    • YouTube Video – Observation Test

Photography in Death

  • Indian USA, 1930 – Aid Smith and Strong Ship?
    • Right in the middle of Race Rights
  • Audrey Hickman
    • Victorian times
    • Had a better relationship with the dead in these times – was usual to find photographs of the dead within a family photo album
    • Photographing death is the last taboo” – Susan Sontag agrees
  • Briony Campbell
    • The Dad Project 2009
    • Photographed her dad when he was dying
    • Remembering him whilst also showing the authenticity of the event
    • She’s exploring the personal – how do you memorialize and make sense of death today?
  • Andres Serrano
    • Morgue pictures
    • Deals with the fragile relationship between intense subject matter and beautiful imagery
    • Titled them by what they died by

Andres Serrano

Andres Serrano 2

  • Paul Smith
    • Do you have to photograph the person to show death?
    • Impact

Paul Smith

Paul Smith 2

Research Group Task

  • Add to your shared resource (Google doc) by adding a paragraph on the following photographic movement
    • Mass observation photography – Holly

From what I have researched so far, the Mass Observation Archive is an archive which holds a number of artifacts that have been used in day-to-day life to evidence peoples past lives and experience’s. The social research organization behind the movement was founded in 1937 and halted in the early 1950’s before continuing to collect more autobiographical items from 1981 onwards. Between the 2nd August to the 29th September 2013, The Photographer’s Gallery held an exhibition entitled “Mass Observation: This is Your Photo” which was, as quoted from the Photographer’s Gallery website: “the first exhibition to focus solely on the Archive’s visual legacy.”

    • New Topographics – Matt
    • Farm security Administration photography – Lucy
    • Objective style photography from the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie – Steve

Group B – Facebook

  • What is Facebook?
    • Social media site
    • Bring people closer together – interact with peers
    • Must register before using the site – can choose privacy
    • Easily accessible
    • Activity log – can be used on peers in order to see what they have been doing for their research
    • Likes – almost like subscribing, find page of topic you are researching, passive research
  • Can join discussions and forum
    • Post files, photos, etc.
    • Can take information from other users
    • Not only in your class but worldwide
  • Search bar
    • Used to search for research
  • Create on pages
    • Circulation of work
    • Multiple admins
    • Vast and can be purely used as a research tool
    • Build on network
    • Can leave feedback
  • Can be affective but was not designed to be purely for research – more of a distraction than an aid

Migrant Mother:

  • We can find different information even though the same source has been used
  • Same information but presented in very different ways
  • Two different texts can give a different history to the images
  • Liz Wells:
    • More academic
  • James Curtis
    • More descriptive
  • How do the texts compare?
  • How does the author introduce the text?
  • Is the author assuming you have knowledge of the subject you are reading?
  • What sort of evidence does the author use to support their argument?
  • Is their perspective partial?
  • How are we suggested to read the image?
  • How does the reading material relate to what you already knew about this image?
  • What part of the reading would be useful?
  • What else do I need to add to this information to use it constructively?


Imagine… – Don McCullin (Video):

  • What matters to Don McCullin?
  • What drives him?
  • What does he want to capture?
  • Photography for me is not about looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your images.”
  • What good is this going to do anyway? Most of these people have already been killed.”
  • Didn’t want the people he was photographing who were committing the acts to think that he, as a photographer and foreign citizen, was “okaying” the act
  • Finsbury Park, 1959
  • Greek-Turkish Civil War
    • Did help people but didn’t want to brag – “I did it to clear my own conscience
    • One of the decisive moments in photography and is completely dependent on timing – when the subject looks up as if they can see God himself (found in situations of great grief)
  • Congo 1960
    • Cracked an amazing no-go situation” – gained access to CIA plan which was taking the mercenaries in to the main war zone
    • Had no power, by the way, to prevent this
    • Want to take this picture, then to stop it
  • The Mississippi
    • You can take great photos but you need someone to edit them to make them acceptable and powerful for the viewer
  • Vietnamese War 1968