Documentary Part 4: Ethics and looking at the other

Project Gaze and Control

Exercise: ‘On Foucault Disciplinary Power and Photography’ by David Green

  • The article explores Foucault’s thought on the politics of the body and the use of surveillance as one tool in the maintenance of discipline in society
  • The use of photography in compiling anthropological, medical and criminal data (and as seen in an earlier part of the course, eugenics) for it’s perceived objectivity.
  • He talks about the “cultural politics of photography and puts forward the idea that it is “necessary to develop alternate ways of working with photography” depending on the context of the use of that photography. The camera has become ubiquitous and as photographers we need to be aware of our ethical obligations to use it responsibly. Sometimes we are unaware of the power of our photographs, particularly in the wrong hands.

Exercise: ‘The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes: The Example of National Geographic’ by Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins.

I read this article with a great deal difficulty. Once again I found the language difficult and the presentation of the ideas over complex. The article dealt with the topic of the gaze from an anthropological stance but as mentioned above, photography plays its part in recording and archiving  anthropological data. As photographers we need to be aware (if possible at the moment of capture or later during the edit) of the ways in which our images may be interpreted. Of course, as discussed earlier in the course, the context in which the images are ultimately viewed and the subjective nature of individual viewers interpretations render our efforts generalisations at best. In pursuing an ethical practice, it is up to the photographer to use the medium as objectively and responsibly as possible.

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