BA Phot

I&P: Part 1, Page 2: Origins of photographic portraiture

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Project 1, Historic photographic portraiture - Exc 1.1 - Project 1.2 Typologies - Exc 1.2 - Exc 1.3 - Exc 1.4 - Conclusion - Upsum

New online course material - Exc. N1 - Exc. N2 - Exc. N3 - Exc. N4 - Exc. N5 - Exc. N6 - Exc. N7
Spence and Martin portrait analysis - Bate, five elements

Arbus - Bellocq - Bey - Bird - Callahan - Cameron - Campt - Cohen - Evans - Fiskin - Hardman - Höfer - Hoppé - Huebler - Mapplethorpe - Medley - Mertin - Nadar - Sander - Schmid - Zaidi -

interpretation - Reflective Writing - Square Mile - Standard Six - Surface - Typologies

Preamble - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Asg.1 - Asg.2 - Asg.3 - Asg.4 - Asg.5 - C&N - EyV

spellchecked 13Nov

Project 1.2 Typologies

[p.25, Np.40]
[19Aug20 [I&P p.25] We open with a quote from Barthes (rarely a good sign) The Blue Guide (1972) The cmat summarises Barthes' view as people conforming to regional stereotypes. Sue Sontag (1982) described Barthes as,

fond of bizarre classifications, of classificatory excess Sontag, 1982, p.xiii

Thence to more solid ground with a dictionary definition of typology,

1. A classification according to general type, especially in archaeology, psychology, or the social sciences.
2.The study and interpretation of types and symbols, originally especially in the Bible.

That is from the free, online OED site, (accessed 2020).

and, very sensibly, we're straight to the Bechers' water towers. Then, and this is important, the cmat states,

Typology can often seem to show more about difference than similarity but, by bringing together the members of a similar class, the photographer implies, and seeks to identify, a common essence (as Barthes suggested). Typology is therefore an act of attribution as opposed to classification, which is simply a process of definition. I&P p.25

This is (perhaps) suggesting that an artist-chosen typology might be more subjective or intuitive or subtle than a formal, scientific one: more perceived than real. Nevertheless, we progress to Sander who, between the Wars, attempt to document German society through portraiture: he identified 7 categories and an initial selection of portraits, Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time) was published in 1929, but he refused to adjust his study to conform to Nazi concepts and his work was banned and destroyed.

There is a page on typologies here.

Exc. 1.2
Box A
Exc 1.2

Exercise 1.2

Exercise 1.2, studying Sander and creating a Sander-style portrait, is documented on another page.

[p.27, Np.42]
[4Sep I&P p.27] and now to Arbus and Mapplethorpe, who, we are told, 'deal explicitly
with identity' (I&P p.27). Sander's approach in the 1930s and before was to apply straight (non-painterly) photography to portraits, resulting in relatively objective and documentary images. By the time of Arbus' work (1950s and 60s) and then Mapplethorpe's (1970s and 80s), photography had become art and photographers were concentrating increasingly on more subjective, individualistic approaches. While revealing more about the personality (or style or lifestyle) of their subjects, the photographers also (examining their output as a whole) revealed more about themselves and, taking this one remove further, through exploration of more extreme (or niche or specialist or bizarre) subjects allow the viewers to learn more about themselves too through their reactions to the images. Arbus' images (often dealing with what are sometimes referred to in reviews and articles as societal 'outsiders') certainly provoked strong reactions at the time and Mapplethorpe's images of gay S&M practices still do.

Jason Evans

Jason Evans, 
from  Strictly , 1991
Box B
Jason Evans
from Strictly, 1991
image from the course material
Jason Evans
b: 1968, Holyhead, Wales
Site - Tate - Wikipedia

The cmat draws a parallel between Jason Evans' 1991 series of portraits, Strictly (fig. B1) and Sanders' work, citing their 'plain frontal stance'. Evans photographed 'young black men placed in very suburban settings, dressed as "Urban Dandies"'. The cmat goes on the describe the series as, 'the first to foreground fashion portraiture within a discourse about both race and sexuality' [p. 28].

Tariq Zaidi
b: ?
Site - Lensculture

An interesting, comparable project is Tariq Zaidi's Sapeurs – Ladies and Gentlemen of the Congo, documenting sartorial extravagance (figs. C1-C4), as reported in Lensculture. A 'fashion subculture of Kinshasa & Brazzaville' in which the Sapeurs and Sapeuses have 'ordinary day jobs as taxi-drivers, tailors and gardeners, but as soon as they clock out they transform themselves into debonair dandies'.

Tariq Zaidi, Sapeurs Tariq Zaidi, Sapeurs Tariq Zaidi, Sapeurs Tariq Zaidi, Sapeurs
Box C
1-4. Tariq Zaidi from Sapeurs: Ladies & Gentlemen of the Congo
© Tariq Zaidi
images from

It would be interesting to explore whether the notion of cultural appropriation is a one-way street.

[spellchecked to here]

Douglas Huebler
b: 1924 Ann Arbor, Michigan
d: 1997 Truro, Massachusetts
MoMA - Wikipedia

Douglas Huebler

[p.29, Np.45]
[6Sep I&P p.29] In anticipation of Part 4 that deals with the combination of images and captions, we are told to study Douglas Huebler's Variable Piece #101, 1972. Here's the piece (fig. D1),

Box D
Douglas Huebler, Variable Piece #101, 1972
© the estate of Douglas Huebler
image from The Art Institute of Chicago

The text reads (it is repeated in French in some versions)

Variable Piece #101
West Germany

On December 17, 1972 a photograph was made of Bernd Becher at the instant almost exactly after he had been asked to "look like" - a priest, a criminal, a lover, an old man, a policeman, an artist, "Bernd Becher", a philosopher, a spy and a nice guy … in that order.

To make it impossible for Becher to remember his own "faces" more than two months were allowed to pass before prints of the photographs were sent to him; the photographs were numbered differently from the original sequence and Becher was asked to make the "correct" associations with the given visual terms.

His choices were

1. Bernd Becher - 2. Nice Guy - 3. Spy - 4. Old Man - 5. Artist - 6. Policeman - 7. Priest - 8. Philosopher - 9. Criminal - 10. Lover

Ten photographs and this statement join together to constitute the final form of this piece.

March, 1973

Douglas Huebler, text component of Variable Piece #101, 1972

I was underwhelmed by Huebler's notion when I read the (unillustrated) description in the cmat, but, on viewing it, find it quite fun, an interesting experiment. The cmat states that the project 'uses the photographic caption (normally used in a supportive role) deliberately to create confusion when reading the work'. In my view it is more about the discrepancy between face we (or in this case, Becher) think we are presenting to the camera and the actuality. There is an interesting 2007 essay by Gordon Hughes (available on JSTOR) that considers this piece.

Hughes states that the way that the piece is presented (in terms of numbering the original alignment and Becher's evaluations) has differed in various exhibitions and books and is sometimes confusing and misleading. He agrees in general terms that the work is about testing the traditional relationship between the image and the caption. It is also about the ironic contrast of Becher's (with Hilla) photography, which is obsessively orderly and using him as a subject for this chaotic exploration of the intersection of image, self-image, performance and language.

Time for another exercise.

Downing Street
Box E
Downing Street,
October 2020

Exercise 1.3

is shown on another page.


[6Nov] Typologies are groups of similar subjects (think Becher water towers). I reach the working hypothesis that most photographers work in typological modes, sometimes multiple and of varied duration. August Sander is cited as an exemplar.



References for Part 1 are shown on the first page.

Page created 19-Aug-2020 | Page updated 18-Sep-2021