Simon Sweeney | Informing Contexts: Gazing at photographs

Informing Contexts: Gazing at photographs

February 27, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

It’s difficult to categorise a form of gaze or ‘scopic drive’. As my project is of an astronomical and landscape nature. My practice is steered towards the impact on climate and light pollution. It is not considered as sexual or has any sexual context or people within. I try to look at the world in a different light (frame) and I visualise how it will look after each exposure is collated into a time-lapse. Therefore, my approach is more of a voyeuristic and documentary gaze. After researching this concept more, I would argue it is more of an apparatus theory.
David Bate explains “The perceptual identification of the viewer with the optics of the camera position offers a form of visual pleasure in itself, this pleasure is not directly determined by sexual differences or any position within it…Projected into a photograph (or the sequence of photographs in the narrative of a film), we can lose and sense of our own space; feeling the fear or desire of characters in the scenes though we are one of them or a disembodied camera eye among them. In this way, pleasure in looking can seek and find satisfaction in looking at the most realistic documentary photographs or the most abstract or imaginary scenes. To thus engage with and have a sense of gratification from these experiences may be at a level of fantasy that is even in conflict with what it is that is being shown and looked at-as indeed an unconscious pleasure or fantasy” David Bate – The Key Concepts 2nd edition page 221.  

When I’m dealing with longer exposures I can’t wait to see how the image will be like, so maybe that’s more of an apparatus theorem or a ‘non-sexual’ narcissistic personality with my own practice. Are we not all self-aware, judgmental of our own images and have an excessive interest in our own practice?
I visualise that my finial piece will hopefully give viewers a pleasurable experience but after reflecting they may feel guilt. Guilt that we, have contributed to climate change.
For example Marry Alper’s ‘Dirty windows 1994’ has had an impact on me. Whether this is staged or not? It leaves me with a feeling of guilt; as though I should not be looking, you are intruding and a sense of loneliness. This has given me an idea or two to try and capture the Milky Way passing in between two mountains/hills (a window), with a lone tree. Thus my intention is to give pleasure whilst the Milky Way is passing. Once passed an emotion of guilt and loneliness for the tree, as it stands alone or to show the light pollution taking away that view.

Another impact on me this week is the interpretations of Ansel Adams. Showcasing his imagery of unspoilt natures of America and his vision of what we could lose. This has yet again put another spin on my practice. This is precisely what I am trying to show from start to finish. But what we have already lost, and what else we could lose. The difficult part is not to anthropomorphise landscapes or astronomy. I am not trying to anthropomorphise Earth, God or the universe, only to enlighten what is happening. To quote John Taylor: Anthropomorphising the land: “Though women have been and remain identified with nature, in the mythical text nature remains an enclosed space that men enter for leisure, pleasure and to test themselves and their authority. Nature is what men are not. In other words, the mythic experience of nature is not primarily addressed to women but establishes and reinforces a patriarchal version of masculinity”

Astronomy, the Universe and 'God' have a close relationship. The moment God is anthropomorphised, God generally embodies a male or female figure. In both instances, ‘Mother Nature’ (feminine); or ‘God’- Christ, (masculine). In both examples the opposite sex is instantly diminished to an inferior. Therefore I will endeavour to exclude any Antropomorphisng from my project to try and include all types of gazes, views and opinions.  


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