Staged Situations – Research

I’ve moved on to research photographers that create their own staged situations, involving the subject/s undertaking a role that the photographer has given them/ isn’t already there. Photographs that were made consciously, on purpose with specific choices; creating the event, the situation, the environment and the emotion. This is a move away from the photographing that I have been doing in which I have been photographing existing staged situations.

A constructed reality, a pseudo-reality that questions aspects of the world that we live in.

I plan on either creating staged situations of everyday life, considering the relationships and emotions contained within situations. Or I may take the existing type of situations that I’ve been photographing and simply place them in more natural environments.


Project thoughts and plans 16.04.15

Since the mid-year portfolio deadline I’ve continued to work with drama groups, mainly to be in there and get to know them and observe. I’ve taken photographs at each session and whilst the photographs all still have distracting and not great backgrounds, the photographs have allowed me to attempt to figure out where to take the project and what needs changing. I have also since photographed an actual staged dress rehearsal as I thought that the actual stage background may work better. From this I found that technically the photographs are a great improvement, with the stage lighting making a big difference, but for this particular performance the background isn’t really visually the most pleasing. I decided to edit these photographs by removing the background and just having the figures on plain black, I feel that this is definitely an improvement and positive development from my previous work, but now I think that I need to develop this further to step away from the photographs looking like a standard theatre image. Despite this, I am going to continue photographing groups in their found environment, to build up a relationship with these groups, and also photograph their dress rehearsals on stage, to see if those ones work out any better; but I need to do more research and photographing to really develop my work in to the outcome I want.

I want to think more closely about the idea of quasi-staged moments, and the idea of the fourth/fifth wall and how this relates to my work. The fourth wall is the thin line that exists between a story and reality, my photographs may be the equivalent of this or may experiment with this notion. I plan to take people into more natural, everyday environments and explore the idea of people performing to a role in these seemingly ordinary situations. Overall the image within the frame needs careful consideration.

I also want to continue to think about how a figure’s appearance can influence the image’s persuasive representation of a particular state, such as them being engrossed in their activity.

Guardian article on Fried

“Fried argues, “issues concerning the relationship between the photograph and the viewer standing before it became crucial for photography as they had never previously been”. Most viewers look at a large photograph on a gallery wall differently than they would look at it in a book, or as a small print. They prepare themselves for a lengthy, meditative relationship with the image. At this point, Fried argues, contemporary art photography inherited “the entire problematic of beholding”.

This is a theory Fried has expounded before. He suggests the problem arises in the division between “theatricality”, when a picture looks deliberately outwards and declares itself to an anticipated audience, and “anti-theatricality”, when the elements of a picture are constructed without any visible concession being made to an audience, or even to the idea of an audience, and the figures within the image belong to a world of their own – in other words, when the work does not require the audience’s participation to make it complete.

Fried began to develop his ideas in the now famous 1967 essay, Art and Objecthood, in which he criticised minimalist art for its theatricality, suggesting that it depended upon the participation of the public. For Fried, this meant it failed as art.

He extended his theories in Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (1980), arguing that, in the mid-18th century, “a new conception of painting came to the fore that required that the personages depicted in a canvas appear genuinely absorbed in whatever they were doing, thinking and feeling, which also meant that they had to appear wholly unaware of everything other than the objects of their absorption, including – this was the crucial point – the beholder standing before the painting.” This age of absorption came to an end, Fried argued, with Manet, whose paintings were just the opposite of closed: the figures turn towards their audience in what Fried called “a radical facingness”.

It was an accidental meeting with the Canadian artist Jeff Wall in Rotterdam in the 1990s that spurred on Fried to extend these theories into recent photography. Wall, no mean essayist himself, must have been a stimulating intellectual partner, and many of Wall’s works have aspects that fit Fried’s analysis. Wall’s photographs are both anti-theatrical, in that they nearly always depict a person or people fully engaged in what they are doing – in other words, “absorbed” – but at the same time they are deliberately staged for the camera, and their constructed quality is obvious, so they also have an inbuilt theatricality, or “facingness” (or “to-be-seenness”, as Fried prefers it). Fried finds these same qualities, on a sliding scale of “absorption” and “to-be-seenness”, in the works of the other artists he examines in the book.

Of course it could be argued that all works of art are made with a sense of “to-be-seenness”. Even Wall does not wholly agree with Fried’s analysis. For Wall, as Fried admits, the absorptive and the theatrical are both “modes of performance”: the subjects are always, in a sense, performing for the camera. Fried, however, is unperturbed by this lack of corroboration. If in need of support, he quotes copiously from other critics, philosophers and, often, himself.”

Fourth/Fifth Wall

Fourth Wall

“The fourth wall is the imaginary “wall” at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theatre, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play”

“that serves to separate the world of the characters from that of the audience.”

“The thin line that exists between a story and reality. When a character in a story tells the reader in some way that they know that they are a character in a story, that is called ‘breaking the fourth wall’.”

“Speaking directly to, otherwise acknowledging or doing something to the audience through this imaginary wall – or, in film and television, through a camera – is known as “breaking the fourth wall”.

“In fiction, “breaking the fourth wall” often means having a character become aware of their fictional nature.”

This is very interesting in relation to the work that I have been making, as I have been photographing from this ‘fourth wall’. This also then links to the figures and how much they are absorbed in their character/ activity, and could they possibly be breaking this fourth wall if not fully absorbed in their role, which we may decide when looking at the images.

Fifth Wall

“The term “fifth wall” is often used by analogy with the “fourth wall” for a metaphorical barrier in engagement with a medium.”

“It has been used as an extension of the fourth wall concept to refer to the “invisible wall between critics or readers and theatre practitioners.”

In the same way this may refer to the imaginary wall/divide from the beholder and the figures within the image.