November 13, 2021

Week 8: Audiences And Institutions

Positions & Practice
Mandy Barker

Figure 1: Mandy Barker 2021. Belfast Photo Festival. [online]. Available at: https://www.1854.photography/2021/06/the-public-installations-on-show-at-this-years-belfast-photo-festival/

“Images circulate, then, but they also land in specific places, where they are seen by people: their audiences.”
(Rose 2016: 38)

This statement encapsulates the topic discussed this week and the direct consequence of image circulation; they land in specific places (institutions) and are shown to people (audiences). The cultural diversities within an audience influence the reading of an image, as suggested in (Conteh 2021a). But I also indicated how the presentational context affects an image’s meaning within the same text. And these presentational contexts are influenced mainly by institutions. Rose argues that the site of audiencing (Conteh 2021b), which considers audiences and institutions, is the most important site at which an image’s meaning is made. Through audiences and institutions, an image’s meanings are renegotiated or even rejected by particular audiences watching in specific circumstances (Rose 2016: 38).


Berger in Ways of Seeing explains how paintings were integral parts of the buildings for which they were designed (Berger 2008: 19). But the invention of the camera changed how we see a painting. Through photography, a painting could now be seen in various contexts; in a book, magazine, TV, etc. The invention of photography also gave rise to new institutions like Kodak with their slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest.” Through the Kodak camera, Kodak transformed the way consumers and viewers accessed photography. The technical knowledge previously required to produce photographic images was subcontracted to the institution, and a new breed of ‘amateur snappers’ emerged from this transformation (Edwards 2006: 47). This trend continues today. Camera manufacturers now offer camera operators devices with seemingly endless automation and computational power. Institutions like Apple confidently make claims that their “New sensor-shift optical image stabilization keeps shots steady even when you’re not” or the “iPhone went to film school, so you don’t have to” (Apple 2021). –implying even less intervention from the camera operator.


What is evident is the power which these institutions associated with photography have managed to consolidate, exemplifying the monopoly trends in capitalism and providing a pivot for economic and cultural transformation (Edwards 2006: 47). More so in the arena of Social Media, where advertising agencies utilize the power of surveillance to sell us more of what we have. On the 4th October 2021, Facebook and its other platform, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, were inaccessible for close to six hours. This outage heavily impacts the ability to communicate and do business for many of the platform’s 2.8 billion users (Sweney 2021). MSG estimated that Facebook lost nearly $6.5 million of advertising revenue every hour during this outage (Juneja 2021).


The Facebook event highlights the global reliance on social media and how social media has embedded itself in people’s daily lives. Jurgenson also argues that social media is changing the field of vision, how we see and what we see. Social media platforms have amassed so much power that they have become de facto governments. Collectively and individually, in different ways and to varying degrees, we all struggle with the personal and social changes brought about by social media (Jurgenson 2019: 1).


My practice is positioned between science and art, similar to contemporary practitioners like Mandy Barker (Barker 2021). Like Barker, the need to protect our natural environment from the harmful waste we generate inspires my work. This work often involves researching data from institutions that study our natural environment and waste management agencies in the case of my current project. Also, like others in my field, my work is disseminated through photobooks, exhibitions, websites and social media platforms to engage with the broadest possible audience.


References
  • APPLE. 2021. ‘IPhone 13 and IPhone 13 Mini - Apple (UK)’. [online]. Available at: https://www.apple.com/uk/iphone-13/
  • BARKER, Mandy. 2021. ‘WORK — MANDY BARKER’. [online]. Available at: https://www.mandy-barker.com/work
  • BERGER, John. 2008. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.
  • CONTEH, Alan. 2021a. ‘Reading Photographs’. Alan Conteh [online]. Available at: https://www.contehfotos.co.uk/blog/week-3-reading-photographs/
  • CONTEH, Alan. 2021b. ‘Methods and Meaning’. Alan Conteh [online]. Available at: https://www.contehfotos.co.uk/blog/week-2-methods-and-meaning/
  • EDWARDS, Steve. 2006. Photography: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.
  • JUNEJA, Prachi. 2021. ‘The Economic Impact of Facebook Outage’. [online]. Available at: https://www.managementstudyguide.com/economic-impact-of-facebook-outage.htm
  • JURGENSON, Nathan. 2019. The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media. London New York: Verso Books.
  • ROSE, Gillian. 2016. Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials. 4th edition. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  • SWENEY, Mark. 2021. ‘Facebook Outage Highlights Global Over-Reliance on Its Services | Facebook | The Guardian’. [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/oct/05/facebook-outage-highlights-global-over-reliance-on-its-services