Nancy Burson produced some of the earliest computer-generated portraits, and in collaboration with MIT engineers Richard Carling and David Kramlich, became a pioneer in the now familiar territory of computer-manipulated imagery. Burson continued to collaborate with Kramlich, who later became her husband. Together the two developed a significant computer program which gives the user the ability to age the human face and subsequently has assisted the FBI in locating missing persons. In Evolution II she combined the face of a man with that of a monkey to produce an imaginary portrait of a species (as well as a technology) in transition. This image was published in a series of manipulated portraits, reproduced in the book Composites (1986).
The self-portraits by the Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura, Requiem for the XX Century: Twilight of the Turbulent Gods, examines an array of historical figures and political events that have been significant in shaping the 20th century. Employing his usual methodology, Morimura uses costumes, make-up and props to create unconventional and bold renderings of iconic images from history.
While Morimura’s work has traditionally investigated femininity through iconic depictions of women from art history and popular culture, this body of work examines widely disseminated images of prominent masculine figures from the last century. Each protagonist or event is cast in a moment of apogee, when history is being made and visually captured. Substituting himself for ideologues, dictators or brilliant minds such as Einstein, Lenin, Che, Mao or Trotsky, Morimura reflects on his personal encounter of these images during his lifetime as well notions of masculinity embedded in politics and war. By re-contextualizing portraits and events into present day, Morimura offers a fresh look at these prominent men who, moved by wisdom, hate, ideology or idealism have carved a space in our collective psyche.
Alison Jackson toys with celebrity worship and our collective desire to embroider the facts.
Jackson’s new book, “Alison Jackson: Confidential,” published this month by Taschen, is a parade of provocative images conjuring the A-list actors, musicians, politicians and 15-minutes-of-fame celebutantes who seem, whether we like it or not, to knock around in our consciousness. The images feel “real” enough to make you look more than twice. Their jittery focus and seemingly rushed, imprecise framing make them that much more “authentic,” as though they were caught on the fly or procured through a peephole.
Some think of Jackson’s images as satiric — and there is something shocking/embarrassing about seeing someone with her skirt up, both literally and metaphorically, that can inspire a nervous or knowing chuckle. But Jackson isn’t simply playing pranks. She sees the work as commentary. “I’m trying to raise questions about photography,” she says.
“The very nature of photography. I question it — media imagery — as deceitful,” adds Jackson, who recently touched down in L.A. on business — mostly TV and publisher meetings and to prepare for an upcoming gallery show. “So you think you’re looking at the queen, but in fact you’re looking at Jane Smith. I’m proving that you can’t rely on your perception when it comes to photography. The camera does lie.”
The photographs are narratives, fueled by the public’s imagination, that sink the viewer into a scene, mid-moment, and they’re perfectly portioned for our shortened attention spans: George Bush and Tony Blair in an impromptu hootenanny in the sauna, Britney Spears pigging out at the gym. Jackson’s photos fill in blanks at the same time that they raise questions. They’re images that can satisfy our speculations so precisely that they seem inevitable.
Tate Modern: www.tate.org.uk
28 May – 3 October 2010
Since its invention, the camera has been used to make images surreptitiously and satisfy the desire to see what is hidden. Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera examines photography’s role in voyeuristic looking from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day. It includes pictures taken by professional photographers and artists, but also images made without our knowledge on a daily basis through the proliferation of CCTV.
1. The Unseen Photographer
The first section of the exhibition considers ways in which photography can reveal the world unawares and show people caught with their guard down. This idea begins with the technologies that have allowed images to be made surreptitiously, from nineteenth-century cameras hidden in walking sticks, shoes or inside suit-jackets, to twentieth-century devices such as the lateral view-finder which allows the photographer to apparently face one direction while taking a picture in another.
1938. Gelatin silver print
2. Celebrity and the Public Gaze
The notion of celebrity as we know it today is inseparable from the invention of photography. By the 1860s, photographic studio portraits allowed notable figures to become instantly recognisable to the public. However, this period of controlled self-publicity was short-lived. Smaller, more portable cameras allowed for covert picture-taking during private moments, and faster shutter speeds opened up opportunities for capturing subjects off-guard. Whilst some famous figures have manipulated the medium to their advantage, the infringement of privacy represented by such photographs remains controversial.
Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
Alison Jackson has exploited the comic potential of this genre through her staged photographs of celebrity lookalikes. Jackson takes the candid picture to an extreme, picturing her ‘celebrities’ in their most intimate moments.
3. Voyeurism and Desire
Sexual or erotic images have been made throughout the history of photography. This section includes photographs that gaze openly at willing subjects as well as those depicting illicit and intimate acts made without the knowledge or permission of their subjects. Many of these images seem to position the viewer in the role of a ‘peeping tom’. At the same time, they pose difficult questions about who was looking and why, when the picture was made, and whether we should collude with, or reject, this point of view.
The French pioneers of photography often supplemented their income by producing pornographic pictures printed on small stereo cards, which appeared as three-dimensional when viewed correctly. Respected artist and photographer Auguste Belloc used the false name ‘Billon’ when he created a series of stereoscopic prints showing women with their skirts raised and legs apart. His contemporary Felix-Jacques Moulin was sentenced to a month in prison after the discovery of his obscene photography.
The photographs series titled The Park were visible only by flashlight, as each visitor shone a torch over the pictures. As a young commercial photographer, Yoshiyuki uncovered a nocturnal phenomenon of Japanese park life. The men were trying to get close enough to touch the bodies on the ground without being noticed. Yoshiyuki participated in the voyeuristic ‘sport’ for several months before he started to document it using his 35mm camera and an infrared flash bulb. “To photograph the voyeurs, I needed to be considered one of them”, he has said. “I behaved like I had the same interest as the voyeurs, but I was equipped with a small camera. My intention was to capture what happened in the parks, so I was not a real ‘voyeur’ like them. But I think, in a way, the act of taking photographs itself is voyeuristic somehow. So I may be a voyeur, because I am a photographer.”
The Park, Untitled
1973 . Gelatin Silver Print, 20″ × 24″
Derived from the French word ‘surveiller’, meaning ‘to keep watch’ or ‘to watch over’, the surveillance camera has been used to police borders, to assist war-time reconnaissance, to gain advantage over political enemies or simply to gather information. Techniques of surveillance are closely linked to developments in photographic technology – from the earliest aerial photographs to satellite pictures. In the twenty-first century, cameras on street corners, in shops and public buildings silently record our every move, while web-based tools such as Google Earth adapt satellite technology to ensure that there is no escape from the camera’s all-seeing eye.
Every day for one month in 1969 Vito Acconci followed a randomly selected stranger on the streets of New York, recording his experiences with photographs and a written account.
1969. Gelatin silver print, 8 x 8 cm (3 1/8 x 3 1/8 in.) each
Sophie Calle has made a number of works that explore the artist’s voyeuristic nature, whether following strangers or employing others to follow her. In 1981 she took a job as a chambermaid in a Venetian hotel with the intention of gathering information about its occupants.
Photographer Merry Alpern hid a video camera inside her handbag so she could take it into the harshly lit fitting rooms of a number of fashion boutiques, and found that it revealed a disconcertingly unfamiliar image of herself: “I had always seen myself quite differently when I looked in the mirror. Suddenly I no longer knew what I really looked like”.
1999. Photograph | Cibachrome print 20 x 24″
For the series “Dirty Windows” Alpern hid out in a building across an air shaft, capturing blow jobs, strip teases, coke-snorting, and a host of other activities with a telephoto lens.
1994. Gelatin silver prints, 18.2 x 12.2 in.