Category Archives: 5 Documentary, performance and fiction

Seeing is believing – Blog post discussion

This is my response to the WeAreOCA blog post of May 2011, as part of the Documentary course.

First of all, thanks to Cedric for his witty riposte. You are not alone. I lost my thread of Zizec after four minutes. Many of the other links provided are now out of date. (Breathes barely audible sigh of relief)

Jose asked whether seeing is believing, using the example of the confirmation (or otherwise) of the death of Osama Bin Laden and whether a photograph of his body would enable us to believe (not the same as knowing) that he was actually dead. He concluded by stating that he didn’t care in the slightest if he saw proof of Bin Laden’s death. I suspect that is the response of the majority of the population.

From what I’ve seen and read in this section of the course, the objectivity of the photograph as a document is always open to question. The arguments are well rehearsed with regard to a number of factors. The background, gender, age and intent of the photographer, the medium in which it is shown, the context of the publication, etc. Even if the photograph is presented in the most objective way possible, the act of looking and seeing the image involves the individual’s subjective processing. Seeing incorporates understanding. Understanding involves using our ‘crap detector’ (sorry, learning from cognitive dissonance) to judge (for ourselves) the veracity of what is presented to us. Like Jose, I couldn’t care less about seeing a photo of Bin Laden’s body.

I can use an over simplified example. This week has seen the publication of a photograph of what is explained as a weasel on the back of woodpecker in flight. It was presented on the BBC with an explanation that the weasel was carried aloft when it attacked the woodpecker. The photographer reported that the bird managed to shake the weasel free. On the balance of probabilities, this sounds a reasonable explanation. My crap detector says this was probably a genuine record of the event but because I didn’t witness the event at first hand, I only believe it to be true. I do not know it to be true. However, I do not discount the possibility that the image could be a fake. It is not important enough to lose sleep over.


I’ll leave you with this image which has surfaced on Facebook, you’ll only need your crap detector set on low………



Research Point – Charley Murrell and Hannah Starkey

Charley Murrell’s “Constructed Childhoods”

I first came across this work in Maria Short’s Context and Narrative. It is very imaginative, using digital construction to show a child’s dreams or perceptions within the same frame. Again, I had come across the work of Hannah Starkey before at a Study Day when we discussed the work of women photographers. 

Although her images do not appear to be constructed in the way of Murrell’s, they are carefully staged and composed to be interpreted and a narrative discovered. They have the intensity of a movie set, a frame in which a story is being played out but at the same time, the choice of location hints at a particular cultural, class or gender  identity. 

The end result is “real” in the sense that the artist has interpreted and presented a narrative to illustrate real life situations. In my own practice I am considering using a constructed narrative and staging a story for  Assignment 3.