Research / Altered CDV’s & Cabinet Cards

Tom Butler Divided Self / Cabinet Cards

Butler studied sculpture not photography but began collecting cabinet cards as they provided an affordable artefact to experiment with. He alters his appropriated cabinet cards using collage , paint , drawing or cutting , the results are fascinating if somewhat disturbing . He initially begins with the eyes , often removing all trace of them , and finally adds white gouache to “bring them to life”. The work explores concepts of memory and identity.

His alterations make us aware of both the exquisite and typical style of cabinet cards whilst the modifications metamorphose them into an exciting and innovative artwork.


Shinya Kato Life Goes On

Kato’s altered cabinet cards are painted over with vivid colour , a hybrid of antique and Pop Art.

His Instagram feed has some really interesting appropriated art work too.

Alex Gross Now and Then

Gross’s altered CDV’s are colourful and fun see HERE .

Rachel Phillips Divinations

Phillips uses a wet pigment transfer process to alter cabinet cards.


I am going to write up a separate blog post about some of her other work , an idea I have in mind is something she has explored.

I have been experimenting further with some of my acquired CDV’s and cabinet cards  I really don’t think I am confident enough to restrict myself to only using CDV’s for the final assignment , which entails investigating digital identities, but I do intend using appropriated imagery , including a small selection of some of my altered CDV’s.

References / Bibliography
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The gaze in the digital age

Exercise 4.2

Read Michael Foucault’s essay ‘Panopticism’ (reproduced in Evans and Hall (1999) Visual Culture :The Reader, London: Sage , p.p 61-71.

Write a short summary of Foucault’s arguments , and comment on the relevance to digital culture.

Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon , a circular prison developed in 1786 , had cells arranged so inmates could be observed at all times. The panopticon was structurally designed so an observer can see the occupants without being observed himself . Instead of being locked away out of sight the inmates visibility becomes a device to control and regulate behaviour. However ‘with the development of photography , his utopian structure was to become redundant’ ( Tagg , p.g 87) .The growth of new and innovative technology, of which photography was one, led to the ’emergence of new institutions and new practices of of observation and record keeping” ( Tagg , p.g 5) . It was no longer necessary to gain power through arbitrary violence , it could be obtained by more premeditated and sophisticated methods .

Surveillance itself is a form of power. Institutions , prisons , hospitals , schools , factories etc all normalise power. Using photography the body can be observed and classified and Foucault states ‘the body is directly involved in a political field'( Foucault. 2015 p.p 4 ) i.e through the use of torture . But ‘the body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjugated body” (Foucault . 2015.p.p 4 ), hence’ whenever the photographer prepared an exposure , in police cell , prison, consultation room , asylum , home or school. Foucault’s metaphor for the new social order which was inscribed in these smallest exchanges is that of the Panopticon’ (Tagg , p.g 85) . Photography was perceived as being objective but ‘clearly involved here was not the discovery of pre-existing truths which the camera so meticulously revealed but the construction of new kinds of knowledge about the individual in terms of visible physiological features by which it is possible to measure and compare each individual to another’ (Foucault. 2015 p.g 6)

Foucault’s theory established a link between knowledge and power, with man as both subject and object. Due to the technological advances of the 20th and 21st century we live in an age where we are constantly surveyed and gazed upon , but also gaze and survey back too. New knowledge has led to the emergence of CCTV , GPS , Google Earth / Maps , mobile camera phones , more sophisticated photography techniques and equipment . Whilst this new knowledge and the resulting power gained might be considered to be beneficial it is not always so.

References / Bibliography

Tagg , J. ( 1988) The Burden of Representation Essays on Photographies and Histories. Macmillan Press Ltd , Great Britain.

‘On Foucault: Disciplinary Power and Photography’ by David Green (The Camera Works Essays , 2015 , pp.119-31) .

Project 1:The ‘digital self’

Interestingly the introduction to this section discusses the comparability between a carte de visite portrait and photographs shared on modern day dating sites. CDV’s were typically used to make a statement about oneself ; they might be considered precursors of how the modern-day ‘selfie’ is used for self-promotion. I have been collecting and writing about CDV’s so rather than repeating myself the link is HERE to my previous posts.

Avatars and alter egos
Freud’s analysis of the human personalty suggests that it consists of the id , ego and superego. The id being the primeval and impulsive component whilst the ego attempts to rationalise .The superego incorporates both ‘the conscience and the ideal self’ (McLeod, M). Digital media makes it easy to create an hypothetical digital identity.

I am always intrigued at the social media ‘profile’ picture chosen by individuals. As our lives become more public many choose to try and disguise their identity. I’ve taken some screen shots (see below) of a couple of my friends Facebook profile images. In no particular order one of these is a former marine now a freelance artist , another is a pharmacy assistant , one a landscape gardener and one a youth worker.

Paradoxically despite attempts to conceal our real identity a recent study see persimages16icwsm suggests our choice of profile picture discloses a large amount about our real character.

Exercise 4.1
Write an entry of up to 500 words about the creation of false or alternative identities online.

Second Life is a virtual online world where one can create a alternative digital identity . It is possible to be virtually involved with other avatars, join societies , tour the world . create businesses , buy and sell goods. Interestingly an art world exists on Second Life where galleries and artists display virtual artwork. However unlike their real life counterparts the art is incorporeal and reproduction costs are minimal , additionally their archival quality is unforeseeable.

Photographer Robbie Cooper’s work Alter Ego: Avatars and their Creators presents photographs of gamers who participate in online communities such as Second Life alongside their chosen digital avatar. Cooper’s project took him around the globe , the finished project was printed in book form and can be viewed online. Accompanying the images is personal information about each individual and how much time they spend online. Digital avatars can be as fantastical as one chooses and each gamer discusses their own particular digital persona.

Unlike real life your online identity is malleable , you are able to portray yourself as anything you want to be. Some of the gamers have avatars of the opposite sex , whilst others chose a more idealised , sometimes younger, version of themselves. It is possible to interact with people online and never physically meet them

1.Kimberley chooses an avatar similar to herself but 20 years younger , the avatar is usually dressed in a smiler style to her real life wardrobe.

2.Elizabeth plays Hero’s journey and has an older (but glamorous) avatar she names Thalia whom she aims to emulate as she ages stating it conceptualises what she envisages for her future self.

3.Jason has physical disabilities so for him a digital identity enables him to participate in activities he is unable to in real life. It offers him a form of freedom

4. Harisu , a female Lineage 11 player , has both male and female avatars whom she considers to be more like partners than an alternative persona.

Tom MacMaster , a Scottish Ph.D student , created a female lesbian Syrian-American blogger he named Amina Arraf. Her blog Gay Girl in Damascus documented her purported daily life in a traditional and precarious society. Following her alleged abduction , which was posted to her blog by a cousin , the kidnapping made headlines and public demands were made for her release. However via Twitter journalist Andy Carvin observed the fact than nobody had actually met or even spoken to her. The photographs of Arraf were actually of a woman from London and the computer she supposedly blogged from was discovered to be in Scotland. Her digital identity was totally fictitious ; MacMaster conceived Amina because of his intense opinions on the political situation in Syria and to give them authenticity.


References / Bibliography
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McLeod, S. A. (2016). Id, Ego and Superego. online
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Assignment 3:Tutor feedback 

My feedback was positive overall and the assignment was “received well; it is mature, engaging and is supported by some insightful sources” but as I expected my tutor has recommended some amendments.

I need to structure a clearer introduction with “a focused objective“.

I’m horrified that there are grammatical errors –I must ensure I proof read more carefully and thoroughly in future . I usually print my essay out as it makes it much easier to spot mistakes but didn’t this time.

Some sections need re-wording and he suggests I remove a couple .
The Abu Ghraib section “distracts from the overall focus” whilst ‘Operation Photo Rescue’ covers the same topic as ‘Salvage Memory’

The essay does not always flow hence perhaps include a contents page detailing each chapter and possible a smaller paragraph introducing each section to “guide the reader as to their pertinence“.

I will post the updated version when I have amended it.

Assignment 3: The Critical Review

The growth of digital technology from the 1990’s onwards led to an immense increase in vernacular photography and was the beginning of what is termed the ‘post-photgraphic era’ . As my particular area of interest is vernacular / snapshot / family photography I have chosen the following question for my review.

Discuss how the the conditions of the ‘post-photographic era’ relate to a particular area or institution of photography.

PDF link below

Assignment 3 The Critical Review Digital Image and Culture

The critical review has taken me far longer to complete than I originally planned but unfortunately circumstances outside my control delayed my progress.

I have found the web an invaluable and inspirational source of research material , especially the work of photographer Alex Beck and his series Big Shots .

In addition the following books / journal were particularly relevant for my analysis of vernacular /snapshot photography in the ‘post-photographic era’.

– Dijck , J.V (2007) Mediated memories in the digital age. Stanford California : Stanford University Press

– Dijck , J.V (2008) . “Digital photography:communication , identity , memory” . Visual Communication , 7(1) 57-76

– Howarth , S and McLaren , S. (2016). Family photography now. United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.

– Larsen , J. and Sandbye , M . (eds.) (2013) Digital Snaps The New Face of Photography . London :I.B. Tauris

– Long , J. Noble , A . Welch , E. (eds) . ( 2009) Photography Theoretical Snapshots: London : Routledge

– Rose , G. (2016) . Doing Family Photography . Oxford: Routledge

I’m a bit concerned about my word count as although I have reached the required 2500 minus quote’s needed I do wonder if I have additionally included too many quotes. I will await my tutor’s thoughts but I found it impossible to cull it any further and felt that those I used were relevant to support my argument.

I have to admit there has been a few occasions over the past couple of months when I really felt like giving up completely but my family kept nagging me that I must continue .

So I am still here and finally ready to begin the next section of the course !

Exhibition : More Real than Life 19th Century portrait photography

I visited a small exhibition of carte-de-visites at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts in collaboration with the NPG. The Barber Institute is on the University of Birmingham campus and free to visit , it houses a small but beautiful collection of artwork.

I have a growing collection of CDV’S myself so was particularly interested to see what was on display and reading more about them. The exhibition highlights how CDV’s were typically used to make a statement about oneself ; I suppose they might even be considered precursors of how the modern-day ‘selfie’ is used for self-promotion.

Queen Victoria , Oscar Wilde and Viscount Palmerston were amongst Victorian ‘celebrities’ on display. For royals , politicians and actors CDV’s were an easy way to publicise themselves whilst there were reciprocal benefits for the photographer who benefited from the fame of their customer by offering the sitters free portraits in exchange for being permitted to selling the images.

For the first time popular figures in society could be publicly scrutinised. Whist some found this public scrutiny unsettling in 1882 Oscar Wilde had photographs specially produced to publicise his American lecture tour .The portraits helped restyle Wilde into an easily recognised celebrity of the day. The unauthorised use of one Wilde’s portraits SEE HERE by a company who reproduced a lithograph copy of the photograph was challenged in court by photographer Napoleon Sarony. The defence argument that a photograph was ‘mechanical’ and therefore not art was rejected by the court which consequently led for the the expansion of copyright protection to photographic images for the first time.

Singer / actress Adelina Patti was another Victorian public figure who made practical use of her portrait for self- publicity. The CDV on display was hand coloured SEE HERE . Photographer Camille Silvy sold over 20,000 CDV’s of her , augmenting both his status as a photographer and Patti’s as a star:

“Silvy took the carte de visite , in which one put a face to one’s name , and turned it into a mass-production industry . People bought his portraits in their thousands , gluing them into albums alongside friends and acquaintances , swanking about who they knew. It is no anachronism to suggest that he pioneered a prototype of Facebook ; he even photographed people absorbed in the pages of these addictive books”
(Cumming, L. 2010)

Backdrops and scenery were re-used and occasionally a single painted roll would contain a variety of scenes enabling the photographer to speedily change the background. Occasionally the background plus other features were added afterwards. There was a beautiful hand tinted CDV of King Edward V11 with Queen Alexandra on display next to the unaltered original.

There are 7137 CDV portraits on the National Portrait Gallery website see HERE

My previous post HERE discusses CDV’s in more detail .

References / Bibliography

Cumming , L. 4/7/10. Camille Silvy :Photographer of Modern Life ; Fiona Banner Duveens Commission 2010. the
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Research / notes / working towards assignment 3

Gillian Rose, an Open University professor , conducted research investigating why family snaps are still significant in the digital age . She suggests ‘in many ways digital photography allows people to do what they want to do with family snaps more easily , more often , and more extensively’ (Rose 2013)

Her initial research was conducted in 2000 and only one of her interviewees (who were all female with children) had access to a computer and all used analogue cameras . The second interviews were conducted between 2006-8 by which time the majority owned a digital camera and all had a computer at home.

Rose suspects ‘ that a really significant transition in family photography—one which will articulate changed subjectivities and a different relation to digital images is likely to take place in another decade , when todays teenagers who use social networking sites as a central part of their social relations and representations of self become parents in their turn’ ( Rose 2016 p.p 129)

Doing Family Photography. The Domestic ,The Public and The Politics of Sentiment .

– Family photographs are no longer static but are circulated around the globe. ‘A large part of what is ordinarily done with family photographs… about making them mobile’ (p.p59)
– Family photographs function as a means of ‘maintaining familial togetherness’ (p.p 59) when living distances apart.
– Charity organisations use personal family photographs to publicise their work Missing People is a charity organisation , their website HERE has Search Directory that one can use to search for missing people. On the 24th May 2007 ,which was International Missing Children’s Day, images of missing children were projected on to Marble Arch.
– Newspapers publish family photographs of missing children and victims of atrocities.
– Family photographs are shared digitally via email and Rose comments ‘ the family snap changes somewhat when it is emailed’ (p.p 64) , they are used as a form of communication and connectivity. However emailed images are not often printed and more importantly frequently deleted , ‘it is less the photo’s themselves that matter when they are circulated as messages , and more the connection they are intended to signify’ (p.p 67)
– ‘ Participating in email exchanges strips family snaps of much of the destiny of memory ….they are not sent primarily as a truthful record of a happy moment…their indexicality , in fact , is no longer key’ (p.p 68)
– Family photographs are increasingly being circulated by family members into the public sphere following disasters.

How Digital Technologies Do Family Snaps , Only better

– Rose suggests rather than reconstructing family photography digital technology has augmented it.
– All her interviewees took numerous snaps , they felt it crucial ‘to take photographs of their family members and in particular of their children’ (p.p 79)
– The mothers Rose interviewed felt it crucial to correctly date , store and organise their images ‘and with digital photography , all these things are remarkably easy to do’ (p.p 81
– Social media sites enable easy sharing of snaps with family

+ See my notes HERE : van Dijck , J. (2008) . “Digital photography:communication , identity , memory” . Visual Communication , 7(1) 57-76

References / Bibliography

Rose,G. (2016) Doing Family Photography. Oxford:Routledge

Rose G . 2013. In Larsen , J. and Sandbye , M . (eds.) “How Digital Technologies Do Family Snaps , Only Better” Digital Snaps The New Face of Photography . London :I.B. Tauris p.p 67-84.

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