Tuesday, 25 January 2011


My husband's ears have pricked-up. Yes, I did say 'pornography'. No, not the top-shelf variety. 'Photographic porn' actually - the ears have lost their pricked-upness. He slopes off thinking he really should have known better!! More seriously, I think this is quite an interesting term, particularly in respect to social documentary and its ethics.  It is a term that I have seen occasionally on comments on the HCSP forum on flickr but didn't really understand.  I forgot about it and then, I see reference to it in several places on one day. I think this is the web-way, you read something on a website or blog, which gets rewritten or quoted elsewhere and discussed yet further elsewhere.  'Topics-of-the-moment' gather energy and momentum very quickly.  And so it is with porn... a discussion on ethics in the Street Photography Now Instruction 17. And then shortly after I came across these two articles on jmcolberg.com which referred back to an in-depth article on david-campbell.org.  And probably like others, I write about it too. A definition David Campbell has used for porn is:
 ‘pornography’ has come to mean the violation of dignity, cultural degradation, taking things out of context, exploitation, objectification, putting misery and horror on display, the encouragement of voyeurism, the construction of desire, unacceptable sexuality, moral and political perversion, and a fair number more
Development pornography, poverty porn, ruin porn, famine porn, stereotype porn all falls in the 'pornography' term.  Joerg Coelberg succintly says:
But what seems crucial is that pornography also and especially entails an act itself, namely the mindless, superficial, yet titillating visual consumption of imagery. That consumption might contain someone’s dignity being violated, or some desire being constructed; but at its core lies a corruption of the act of mindful viewing.
Pornography is to shamelessly ogle
He concludes by saying:
The fact that so much photography has attracted the label “porn” indicates that there is an increasing dissatisfaction with how photography works, is treated, and discussed. It’s time to move beyond the same Susan Sontag essays. As unhelpful as the “porn” label might be, we still need to take its application to look at the possible issues, the possible discontent that is being voiced. This entails talking about empathy and its supposed lack, but it also means talking about what images mean and how their meaning is generated. 
From my point of view what I find interesting with this is threefold.  The first is that the meaning and rationale for taking a photo is critical as to whether it is considerd 'porn' or purposeful.  The second is that there is a distinction between working out of your comfort zone and what you're not comfortable doing. And finally the spirit of street photography  appears to embrace a slighter more optimistic or lighter spirit than other genres - and that I like.  It's aim is not to ridicule or 'shamelessly ogle' and it is so refreshing in a world full of images that sensationalise, humiliate and offend that it doesn't have to be that way!

Nb. I don't know why but my blog seems to put double spaces between the paragraphs...I can't figure out why...

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