I have been reading and thinking a lot about creativity. I read Hugh MacLeod’s book Ignore Everybody and 39 other Keys to Creativity. In summary, he is telling the reader to listen to their own voice, work hard, hone your craft and have your priorities in order, (don’t quit your day job). Hugh MacLeod blogs at Gapingvoid.com
I was checking out comments on the book in Good Reads and some of the reviewers hated it and others loved it and the simplistic witty observations presented by Hugh MacLeod. As was noted if you were expecting a witty book that will spark you creativity this is not the book to read, instead his focus seems to be on how to work hard to achieve success based upon you creativity. It is a business book for those wo want to succeed by putting their creative talent to work for them. Work hard, stay positivity, focused ..umm work hard. That is common advice..that is why you should ignore everybody..those well meaning friends and colleagues who will give you constructive criticism and feedback ..they really are not qualified to do that ..they don’t know your art.
I took from this book that you have to figure out what your “creative crayons” are and push your creativity beyond what is normal and acceptable and define what makes you unique and stand out. My creative crayons are the photographs that I write about here, Photoshop, and what I write. This is my life, taking flat objects or images; photographs, and making them multidimensional via my crayon toolbox, writing and digital images an design via Photoshop.
On this project I have read a great deal about others who have conducted similar research. However, for the most part, I have found that their projects are closely defined, I feel what I am doing is loose with the project unfolding ahead of me as I work through my collection. One part of Hugh MacLeod’s book that I definitely will take away is the following…”The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours.”
I have also been reading Susan Sontag’s On Photography. Susan Sontag’s book was somewhat maddening for me; I am a collector and studying these photographs for meaning. Yet it seemed to me she disparaged both at times. However there were some great observations that I will share from this book:
Sontag often referred to the concept that some cultures avoid having photos taken because they felt that photos steal a little of their souls. With that she also observed that to photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed ..it means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge.
My favorite line, “..having an aptitude for discovering beauty in what everybody sees but seeing neglects as too arduous.”
Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniature of reality that anyone can make or acquire.”
Regarding collecting photographs she said: To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker and go out but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about…
Sontag also stated that photographs really are experiences captured….photographs have multiple meanings, indeed to see something in the form of a photograph is to encounter a statement or object of fascination.
Here are some photographs I have collected:
These 8 are what I call a “family” these photos were taken in the same place at Christmas time:
What do I see in this picture? Well I think the girl in this picture received a very pretty pink robe for Christmas. I cannot help but note the wall paper on the wall, the lamp and the throw on the couch! Remember those? That couch will look new ..you will never see it but it will forever look new.
You have to appreciate this photo. This woman reminds me so much of my grandmother and other women of her time.
Now it probably had to be something special to get these four in suits. Wedding or funeral?
Traveling to other countries. Capture what surprises ..capturing a moment.
What do I like here? The dress, the purse and the hair. An obvious travel photo ..
I am sure it was surprising and interesting to capture this young man on a little donkey.
And you really have to appreciate this picture. I like it! Camels waiting for the tourist to come along for a desert ride.
One of my favorite participation opportunities in #CMC11 is getting to hangout in the Google Hangout..it has been great. The conversation groups though small, Google Hangout only allows up to 10 participants at a time have been interesting, with different points of view freely shared.
As you may have guessed right now I have amassed a collection of photos, slides, and negatives from the late 1800’s to today. This is what John Collier says about individual photos versus collections of photos: I know, being one of the few specialists of non-verbal evidence that this is the way it goes. It’s the way it goes in every anthropologist’s photographic file. The individual pictures are not every important. All the pictures together in like categories become extremely important, because they have an extra authority to them.It is Collier who suggests that when photographs are studied it is a search for meaning based on the entire visual record so that details from the structural analysis can be placed in a context that defines their significance. Collier defined photo elicitation, where participants give their responses to and define an understanding of the images.
Richard Chalfen can be credited with taking a lead in recognizing the need to study the family snapshot. He defines that the study should be undertaken which can examine the snapshot’s “construction, organization and consumption of photos from a sociological perspective.” Chalfen has developed a grid which can be used to define or give a study a framework. This grid consists of five communication events and vie components. Studying the photos using this grid establishes a pattern of activity and behavior.
Can it be determined who participated in the photo; who took it, who was in it, the background and setting, the topic or precipitating even for the photo, and the composition.
Gabrielle Greenberg states, in her article on Pictorial Semantics, November 2010, that “Humans are able to reliably extract complex information from pictures they have never seen before, with remarkable speed and facility, but in ways which vary among communities of viewers. Because such interpretation can be carried out on novel pictures, these facts cannot be explained by simple memorization…she further states that “the content of a picture is not merely what it happens to communicate; rather it is what the picture depicts independent of what is communicated.”
Eventually I hope this blog generates enough interest that I elicit comments on the photos from readers. This is called photo elicitation a method of studying and researching photographs defined by John Collier and others This is defined as follows: Photo elicitation is another technique of data gathering. This methodological tool is a combination of photography as the visual equivalent of a tape recorder, and ethnography or other qualitative methods. Photo elicitation techniques involve using photographs or film as part of the interview—in essence asking research subjects to discuss the meaning of photographs, films or videos. In this case the images can be taken specially by the researcher with the idea of using them to elicit information, they can belong to the subject, for example family photographs or movies, or they can be gathered from other sources including archives, newspaper and television morgues, or corporate collections. Typically the interviewee's comments or analysis of the visual material is itself recorded, either on audio tape or video, etc
Therefore, in keeping with previous blog posting I present the following photos for your consideration:
The family car seems to be ubiquitous in pictures. I really liked this one and I am wondering if the one boy is pretending to be driving!
This little girl does not seem to be particularly happy about being on a horse. I liked the background scene here as well, especially the old barn style roof on the one house in the background. A really great scene.
As you can tell I do little to retouch my photos. This one is fuzzy and blurry, but I really like these two girls with their little bouquets of flowers
A great picture that makes me wonder where they are traveling to or from. I like cars in pictures and this one is no exception.
This picture makes me question the context in which is was taken and ask..does anyone smoke a pipe anymore? A great pic..is he posing for serious or is this all in jest? I just find something humorous about this picture.
A great wedding scene, the bridesmaids and flower girls? Or attendants.
And maybe she didn’t want her picture taken!
One of my favorite pictures. I really like this scene of these three people on this diving board.
What is Multiculturalism: or cultural pluralism, a term describing the coexistence of many cultures in a locality, without any one culture dominating the region. By making the broadest range of human differences acceptable to the largest number of people, multiculturalism seeks to overcome racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.
In contemporary society, different understandings of multiculturalism have resulted in two different and seemingly inconsistent strategies:
The first focuses on interaction and communication between different cultures. Interactions of cultures provide opportunities for the cultural differences to communicate and interact to create multiculturalism.
The second centers on diversity and cultural uniqueness. Cultural isolation can protect the uniqueness of the local culture of a nation or area and also contribute to global cultural diversity. The concept of “Cultural exception” proposed by France in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations in 1993 was an example of a measure aimed at protecting local cultures.
(retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiculturalism) 1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures. 2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.
The question in my mind was how does my proposed project relate to Multiculturalism..how does culture reveal itself in amateur or vernacular photographs? It may be helpful to explain how I got into collecting amateur and vintage photographs in the first place. Several years ago..almost five! I became very interested in learning about digital art and the use of Photoshop. At that point, when I learned that elements can be extracted from scanned images I started to collect old photographs, slides, and negatives, buying them by the hundreds, for a very low price, from ebay and other online sites. Eventually, due to my interest in the history of the area I live in I started to collect photos of places like Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and photos of homesteads, ranches and other sites in the area.
Initially I was not interested in the people in the picture, but interested in cars, houses, and things like bridges and landmarks. Over time though my focus has shifted to an interest in the people…there are thousand of photos each with a story, a theme, and people holding to their cultures, their traditions and that which defined them a heritage passed on generation after generation. As always I encourage your input, comments and observations on the photos I provide.
I am going to provide you with some pictures all of which seem to focus on summer. Summer work, summer fun and summer friends and family:
One of my favorite all time pictures …it evokes fun, camaraderie…what is the story on this barren stretch of highway?
A lot of great detail and interesting things in this picture. Makes you wonder what is being pointed at, why the one person declined to sit up for his photo. I was also interested in the people walking along the fence in the back. Just a lovely day at the beach.
I really like this photo, especially because these two women did not seem to be all that pleased with having their photo taken or being in a row boat on a lake!
“Inner tubing” is the hallmark for fun if you live along a river or a creek!
And is fun for all ages!
Of course I don’t know if the below double exposure was deliberate or mistake ..but I think it’s fabulous!
Another great family tradition..are they getting ready for church? A wedding an outing of some sort. A sunny family on a sunny summer’s day!
I am guessing this picture was taken on a summer’s day and I am wondering what is in the bottle? Is it her first bottle of root beer? Probably! What would be better on a summer’s day?
In this particular picture I love the sun glasses and the crispness of the summer dresses. They just seem so comfortable. There is a slight contrast between the two women..I think the woman on the right might be fun!
This picture, below, makes me smile in so many ways. I think it may have been taken in Deadwood South Dakota. It is sometimes easy to tell this if the photos are marked or taken from a certain batch of photos.
I have a variety of photos from other countries illustrating tradition, traditional dress, and cultural traits:
I remarked to a friend, just this morning, that I wanted to become a leading researcher in Visual Ethnography; studying vernacular photographs for traditions. He didn’t respond for a while, then without missing a beat changed the subject.
I can only surmise what he was thinking, it was a virtual IM discussion, I didn’t ask though either. I think he was thinking..you already do too much why do more? Because I love these photos, slides, and negatives I have collected over the years. I love the stories they tell, the lives they depict, and the history they silently capture. It is my challenge to bring all of that to life.
I am not a seasoned researcher. I have completed my Ph. D. , yet, that does make me an expert in this field. I retrieved our copy of Denzin and Lincoln’s Handbook of Qualitative Research from my husband’s bookshelf. I know I am going to have to research how to research this archive so I can set into my mind a plan for going forward.
On page 703 begins the essay by Ian Hodder on The Interpretation of Documents and Material Culture, in that he writes of “how to interpret mute evidence …even though separated from the author, producer, or user…” .
Photographs are, in my opinion, a part of the material culture that Hodder defines. He states that, “Material culture, including written texts, poses a challenge for interpretive approaches that often stress the importance of dialogue with and spoken critical comment from participants. Material culture evidence, on the other hand, may have no living participants who can respond to its interpretation.” Hodder is answering the questions I have..can I conduct a research of these snapshots, a frozen moment in time in a way that will provide some meaningful insight into the experience of being human? The answer to that is easy, I think so. Will this research have some premise in being credible, I believe so, but even beyond my observations of studying these photos I welcome your comments and observations, lending even more credibility to this study.
I can provide even more credibility to this study if I can provide you with some context, dates, times, place and event behind these photos. I can do that for some, but not all. So how do we comment and observe on those photos that I do not have this type of information? We can do that only within the context of our own experience, and that is what makes this interesting.
As you can see I am laying the groundwork for my study. If I were writing a dissertation I would conduct my study within the context of one of the theories above, perhaps feminist theory or social theory to narrow the scope of my study. This is a personal mission for me though, by the end of this study I may have reviewed all of these photographs within the context of the theories presented above. I am almost five years into building this collection, it is difficult to know where this journey will take me in five years, ten years or a lifetime.
As I go along sharing these photos with you I want to present a disclaimer to you. I have purchased these photos outright via online auctions, these are photos I have taken myself, etc. In these terms I am the copyright owner, I have no means to research the original owner of these photos. These photos are not used for materials or commercial gain by myself and are used only in research and for educational purposes.
Normally I try to study or will present photos from the 1800’s – 1950 the first photos below are from a wedding in the 1980’s:
Older wedding pictures:
Family pictures, family traditions.
And don’t you love the fact that they included the family dog front and center?
And the cars often make the family photo too:
Note the hood of the care in the foreground of this photo taken of these four lovely women.
I love this one taken in front of the family vehicles. Were they leaving and someone said,"Let me get a picture real quick…” Could be…
When I saw the picture below I wondered who is sitting at the kiddy table? And for most of you who celebrate big family dinners for Thanksgiving, Christmas or whatever your traditions are you will know what I am talking about.
This picture answers that question (oops I should have flipped the one above)
Every family has one right? The clown, the goof, and the one who stands out..who is that in the picture below?
A really great picture to study. Check out the drapes, the lamp, and the table cloth on the gate legged table. Good stuff!
A different sort of family shot. Brothers? Probably.
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