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Educational Program

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All of the elements of the Educational Program are merely references and guidelines we are proposing for the museums to consider within their own activities.
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LECTURE 7

Title
Reading and interpreting photographic images today

Audience:
To anyone interested in better understanding how to read and perceive images on the screen compared to seeing them in a publication or on a wall.

Subject matter:
With the rise of digital photography, nowadays millions of photos are produced every day introduced on the screen and in cybernetic communication networks. Most of the people who produce these images are unaware that a photo generally needs to be linked to others or to a context, just as a word or a sound, otherwise it runs of the risk of not being anchored, of losing its significance and its meaning.

An individual who observes an image taken by someone else or representing someone other than the viewer can only imagine the photographer’s intentions, but if nothing in the image strikes the viewer’s attention, it will simply be forgotten. Furthermore, there are millions of images to see. The photographer’s intentions perhaps cannot be understood, unless the creator is present, has written a text, or recorded an audio explanation, or else the material is well published. Consequently, the publication of images has been of such importance for photographers, due to the fact that it can give meaning to their ideas.

Most photos floating around on public Internet sites are arranged in systems of templates to facilitate their classification and management. This arrangement is decided by the website programmer who usually thinks only in terms of functionality.

As Peter Marx commented in editorial #83:
“Each photo is reformatted and re-contextualized based on the will of Facebook, without paying any attention to the photographer’s intentions. The page is created via software that captures data and commentaries from a large number of users who are not familiar with the photographers or their intentions. The software determines size, formats, colors, organization, and order based on its own internal rules. Furthermore, the system adds meta-data to the photo which help (or confuse) in the process of interpreting the image. Something similar occurs in all online social networks today.”

This makes us wonder how many images are adrift, tucked away on hard-drives without being classified, or are classified under criteria distinct from that of the photographer. This is not to deny the existence of interesting approaches published online and the fact that many individuals who never before had a forum for expression now have an opportunity to share their images. Nevertheless, online publication is highly confusing in general.

The photographer has a commitment to his work, whether he is a professional or an amateur, and that is to communicate ideas by means of images. However, there are new circumstances that merit reflection, as Peter Marx added in the same editorial:
“Photographers must see themselves as creators of visual images. Just as screenplay writers, they are at the beginning of the process, but very rarely or never are they involved in the final stages when their work is seen by someone. This can be frustrating, but technology increasingly takes more power away from creators of content. These same frustrations are shared by musicians, filmmakers, artists, and anyone whose creative medium may be digitalized.

Photographers can still maintain some influence, but they certainly have no authority.”


Earlier it was understood that the photographer was not merely the one who activated the shutter. He or she was the one who researched what to photograph, who reflected on how to shoot it, and later selected the best images to transmit his or her ideas, and finally knew where and how to display them so that his or her vision could be conveyed as clearly as possible.

As Diego Goldberg stated in editorial #86:
“This is producing a slow (?), but inexorable, exodus leading to electronic media. And even when the paper made from tree pulp is transmuted to paper with electronic ink and wishes to continue to be called paper, the fact is that it will be one of the new ways that screens will be adopted. Because that’s the idea: e-ink, i-phone, tablet, computer, TV, flat or projected screen, we are getting the idea that this will be the surface for the dissemination of information and these will be the places where photography will continue expanding.

It is too obvious and requires no explanation: a single image cannot explain a complete subject. Not all photos have the same “value,” whether due to their form or content. Size matters a lot. Each image needs an ideal size to express itself.

A story, no matter what media it may be in—text, film, TV, music—has a dramatic structure. It has a beginning and end, development, emphasis, important elements, and others less so, central and secondary themes, characters, moods, and so forth. They are all tools that whoever is telling the story uses to transmit what he or she wishes to say in the most effective way.

Looking at a photo is a “voluntary” act and the time that one chooses to spend gazing at each one can be decisive. One pauses, really bores into an image, and tries to read, understand, and discover it. Information needs to be deciphered. This triggers ideas and feelings and at the same time this leads to it remaining recorded in one’s memory. Here the power of the fixed image is synthesized.

This is the work of programmers, designers, publishers, photographers, and writers. The use of photography in this new medium needs to be rethought. We need to find other ways of telling our stories that go beyond a mere sequence of images.

Photography is undergoing extraordinary growth, but if we do not reorganize its use in the media into some sort of hierarchy, it will remain a mere ancillary illustration decorating a webpage or a castrated version of a television program.”

Duration:
About an hour.

Speaker Profile:
The speaker must have knowledge of photography, the history of photographic images, and needs to do direct research with the creators of Heresies to understand the project and be able to explain it fully.

Materials:
A video projector and computer, depending on the speaker’s needs.


Sponsored by:

patrocinio

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