Project Hyperessay – Conclusion

One of the key ideas that was discussed as part of the Media and Performance class is the private vs. the public. 1/200th Of A Second draws from that discussion because of its transgressive methodology that recalls that of the paparazzi photographer.

This is further implicated by the fact that the Net has greatly reduced the time between an image is made and that when it is seen by others, whilst simultaneously increasing the potential number of viewers who will encounter the image.

While the project does not directly deal with the distribution aspect of the digitalised photographic image, it nevertheless has an implication in the proceedings of the project. This is evident in instances when the subject seeks clarification over why and how the images will be used. Clearly, how they their image may be distributed over the web and its resulting implications, become part of our contemporary assessment of taken of images ourselves.

Interestingly, the number who choose to clarify the motivations of the project are in the minority. The vast majority of subjects photographed behave either indifferently, or look on but nevertheless continue what they were originally doing. It may be difficult to truly account for this behaviour through this project alone despite two separate rounds of shooting. As mentioned in an earlier post (http://oss2014.adm.ntu.edu.sg/weilong/paparazzi-test-shoot/), the proliferation of cameras and general comfort of having others take pictures of us in our contemporary culture are likely factors.

While the development of the project has been relatively constant, reading more about works that deal with the private and public domain has certain helped shaped how I may extend this project further as it manifests into a second iteration or subsequent projects. For example, looking at the GRAM paparazzi catalogue has raised possibilities of using a book presentation format to recontextualise the images.

Overall, completing the project been a fruitful exploratory experience and this project will certainly be a good stepping stone as I explore more about the relationships we have with the camera and the photographic image in our contemporary culture today.

Reading – G.R.A.M. Paparazzi

GRAM Paparazzi Cover

 

G.R.A.M. Paparazzi is a catalogue book containing paparazzi style images of celebrities and non-celebrities alike.

Picking up the book and flipping through the pages is an interesting experience, not least because it’s unusual to encounter these paparazzi style images in such a format. The intimacy and formality of the book lends a different dimension to these images, which are more typically  encountered in the pages of the tabloid press in magazines, newspapers or trashy websites.

It is never clear in the book if the creators actually shot these images, or they were taken from other sources. This in combination of displaying images of the famous and non-famous alike in a non-hierarchal manner creates a flat and democratic pictorial landscape that doesn’t differentiate between the subjects.

The book is also interspersed with short essays about celebrity culture and the distribution of popular images.

Overall, I think G.R.A.M. Paparazzi serves as an interesting reference in how the presentation medium can recontextualise images we encounter. Moving forward, it maybe be useful to consider extending the project by presenting the images in different mediums.

Reading – Class Struggle: The Invention of Paparazzi Photography and the Death of Diana, Princess of Wales

HWL_MP002_Lo-Res-Web
Scan of the first page to the essay “Class Struggle: The Invention of Paparazzi Photography and the Death of Diana, Princess of Wales”

I was trying to research more into paparazzi photography when I came across “Overexposed”, a collection of essays edited by Carol Squiers. In it, was one of particular interest, an essay that discusses how paparazzi photography (and the larger media machine) played a role in creation and ultimately destruction of Princess Diana – both the princess and the Princess.

The essay starts off by discussing the origins of paparazzi photography. How it has its roots in post-war Italy, which became a melting pot of traditional Italian values and liberal American ideology. While some were desperately tried to fend off American hegemony, there was really little there could be done to prevent the liberal (relatively) lifestyles of the Hollywood jetset like Elizabeth Taylor from being splashed all over the papers. This was not something happening from afar across the Atlantic Ocean, this was happening in their very own backyard, and this posed a direct alternative to the traditional Italian idea of femininity.

The writing also discusses briefly the differences between photojournalism, documentary photography, celebrity editorial and promotional photography, surveillance photography, and paparazzi photography. Noting that paparazzi photography differ from the other forms of photographic documentation in its subject matter, approach and technical standards.

“…be watchful so as to catch the spilling cleavage, the ungainly yawn, the drunken pratfall or ill-advised strut. But the paparazzi’s provocations, which made celebrities lash out, get angry, flee from or chase the photographers, produced exaggerated reactions that created celebrities as comic visions…” (pg 288)

The essay then goes on to consider the politics and agenda setting mechanisms of the media. It proposes a direct conflict between media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the British monarchy, with the former using his media outlets such as The Sun, to deconstruct and destabilise the royal family. Subsequently, the piece goes on to discuss how the media formed the public’s idea of the Princess; how each stakeholder (the Queen, the public, media outlets, the Princess herself) in the building up the idea of the Princess had their own agenda, using the media as a means to manipulate and craft that image.

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Having completed the reading, I find the essay pertinent in providing insight on the early roots of paparazzi photography, while weaving in the socio-political landscape that it was borne in on. The proposed distinctions of paparazzi photography that differentiates it from other forms of “more esteemed” modes of documentation photography is also one that I’ll consider while solidifying the project’s framework.

While the latter parts are of much less direct relevance to my project, it is nonetheless interesting to note the power structures and struggle that existed in the tug of war over the image of Princess Diana. The agenda setting and status conferral powers of the media is also something of interest.