As I mentioned in my blog entry responding to my tutor’s comments I was generally happy with the feedback, especially as I’d tried to be innovative / original in my writing – always a risk!. The biggest problem was that I directly contradicted the views that my tutor espoused in a blog post about Diane Arbus. Rather than expand my views in the revised essay and then go above the requested word count I justified my comments in a separate post at Diane Arbus – A Viewpoint. I told my tutor that I’d written a blog post totally disagreeing with her and, unsurprisingly, she took it well 🙂
Other changes to the review were largely cosmetic, just making it easier to follow, expanding a couple of sections slightly. One section that I expanded was on voyeurism but, because of word count I couldn’t cover this as thoroughly as I’d like without losing something else. As it is the word count without the bibliography comes out at around 2,500, right on the limit that my tutor suggested would be acceptable !
I’ve posted the final version at The Reflexive Gaze but included the text below for convenience.
The Reflexive Gaze : How Does Culture Affect Photojournalism ?
The subject of a “Gaze” describing the interaction between photographer and subject has been analysed extensively over the past two decades. In 1991 The National Geographic published The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes by Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins . In this article the authors presenting a simplistic typology of seven kinds of gaze.
The authors admitted that “Recent critiques of these views of the gaze take issue with its …. tendency to universalise its claims and to ignore broader issues of social and historical context, as well of its neglect of race and class as key factors determining looking relations“.
The sociologist, John Urry, partially addressed this criticism when he looked at the relationship between the tourist and the local population in The Tourist Gaze . In this work he looked at the commoditisation of the local community and the way the behaviour of both parties is affected by this commoditisation. In this book Urry describes tourism as resulting “from a basic binary division between the ordinary/everyday and the extraordinary” creating the opportunity for this behaviour. In many ways this could be used to describe the role of a photojournalist, either recording the extraordinary or finding and depicting the extraordinary in the everyday but the photojournalist must be aware of the potential for commoditisation and avoid it or risk losing the necessary objectivity.
To enable this, a photojournalist must, by necessity, go beyond Urry’s simple, uni-directional Tourist Gaze and be aware of a number of other aspects, primarily the fact that, according to Erik Cohen et al , the interaction is multi-faceted, involving both the photographer and the subject.
Figure 1 – McCullin, West Dinajpur, 1971
Alex Gillespie  discusses this in depth, developing the concept of a Reverse Gaze where the tourist’s own gaze is reflected upon himself, often causing embarrassment or discomfort, much as a subject of the Tourist Gaze might feel in the first place. This will then question motivations and trigger a re-positioning, allowing the photographer to develop a more sympathetic and informative viewpoint.
Dean MacCanell  takes this further, developing the concept of a Second Gaze which “is a part of tourists’ subjectivity that has as its object the tourist gaze. It …. asks how tourist experiences have been constructed …… and asks what has been left out”.
It’s that last element “asking what has been left out” which is fundamental to a tourist becoming a photojournalist, going below the obvious photographer-subject interaction to portray the extraordinary or just the important.
The analytic approach necessitated by Gillespie’s Second Gaze would complement Sontag’s view, the analysis overriding any personal viewpoint that the photographer might initially develop.
As an example of this similar approach both Don McCullin and Margaret Bourke-White spent time in India photographing the horrific aftermath of a cholera outbreak.
McCullin’s image (above left) was taken in 1971 at West Dinajpur on the India Bangladesh border. Presumably of a cholera victim being carried by her husband, the viewer is spared nothing. The image is almost confrontational and there is no attempt by McCullin to conceal the fact that he is there. If it wasn’t for the open gaze of the man it could almost be considered voyeuristic in its grief.
On the right, Margaret Bourke-White’s image of a cholera victim feeding her child was taken 24 years earlier in Kasur, Pakistan. As in McCullin’s image nothing is spared, the viewer is left with a
Figure 2- Bourke-White, Kasur, 1947
similarly voyeuristic view of the mother’s despair.
The two images are very similar in approach, reinforcing Sontag’s view that the works of photojournalists are similar. When Lange’s Migrant Mother is compared to Bourke-White’s image the viewpoint is further consolidated.
Lange’s image was taken on the other side of the world and the subject matter was not disease and instead was the Great Depression but the emotion and message of the images are similar. The impression aligns with Sontag’s view in that all great photojournalists are aware of the best practices to ensure that their images deliver the correct message. Additionally it almost appears that the message is the same whenever human suffering is the subject.
Figure 3 – Lange, Migrant Mother
McCullin’s later, personal work in India, initially at least, again tends to reinforce this view. His work as a photojournalist is very different to his later, personal, work for his book India in which he describes  the country as “like a kaleidoscope of beautiful colour”. Certainly not a term that would be used for his journalistic work in the country and contrary to the analytic approach necessitated by Gillespie.
Looking again at the original two images differences in approach do start to become apparent. Compositionally both are similar though the background figure in McCullin’s image gives his image more of a feel of a public event than does Bourke-White’s. The primary difference is in the gaze of the husband; direct and challenging.
Solomon-Godeau  in Inside/Out builds on some of Sontag’s ideas and differentiates between those images taken from the “inside”, full of inside information and context versus those taken from the “outside” which can contain elements of voyeurism or seem to be removed from the subject, almost dispassionate. The two images above can be categorised in this way but she is more concerned with categorising photographers in this way rather than individual images.
Two photographers that she uses as examples are Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin, the former regarded by Sontag as a “morbid voyeur”, very much known for lack of involvement with her subjects and content to photograph from the outside .
Conversely Goldin is known for the empathy that she shares with her subjects  – ‘There is a popular notion that the photographer is by nature a voyeur, the last one to be invited to the party. But I’m not crashing; this is my party. This is my family, my history.”
The issue of voyeurism in photojournalism is something that has been debated in depth by many academics other than Sontag and would require a whole essay to summarise just some of the issues. However, one thing that seems constant is that blatant voyeurism detracts from any message or context of the photojournalistic image.
As an example of this Sebastian Salgado and Martin Chambi are another pair of photojournalists that have shared a subject. Both are South American and have taken extensive collections of the continent.
Chambi was an indigenous Peruvian, noted for his sympathetic portraiture of indigenous communities, mostly using available light. His images depicted the culture and lifestyle of his compatriots, showing the poverty and pride in equal measure.
Figure 4 – Salgado, Mexico, 1980
In Other Americas Sebastião Salgado similarly portrayed the indigenous cultures of Latin America but, as an outsider, seemingly voyeuristic, many of his images show no rapport with the life of the subject. Over the course of the complete portfolio it becomes apparent that Salgado isn’t part of the culture, he is merely standing outside and recording it dispassionately, often overlaying religious symbology. His emotional contact with the subject stems from his desire to romanticise or ennoble the subjects ,
“If you take a picture of a human that does not make him noble, there is no reason to take this picture. That is my way of seeing things.” Sebastião Salgado, 1994
Conversely Chambi’s view was 
“I feel I am representing my race; my people will speak through the photographs.” – Martín Chambi, 1936
Figure 5 – Chambi, Kanchis, ca 1936
These two viewpoints do begin to contradict Sontag’s view of the absence of a personal vision but don’t completely dismiss it. Both viewpoints could be executed dispassionately to deliver an informative image. However what does contradict Sontag’s view is the fact that the viewpoints of the two photographers directly reflect their culture. Chambi is photographing his own race, fully aware of both the negatives and the positives, recording the poverty and the pride in equal measures.
Conversely, Salgado is photographing the indigenous people through the eyes of his own people, the conquering settlers. Almost like a tourist he is keen to emphasise the “nobility of the conquered savage”, emphasising how the conquered people have not been forced to lose their dignity.
Here we can refer back to Nan Goldin’s quote above and replace Goldin’s “my family, my history” with Chambi’s “my race, my people”. Chambi, in this regard, would inevitably be considered an “inside” photographer in Solomon-Godeau’s classification but now we have an inherent reason for the approach rather than a deliberate methodology. Here we have Chambi utilising his knowledge of his own culture to produce a different image from that produced by the outsider, Salgado.
By analysing McCullin and Bourke-White’s images in a similar way the difference can again be attributed to the cultural differences of the photographer. McCullin’s early background  was in a hard, racist environment; gang warfare was all around. The direct confrontational approach of his cholera image is reminiscent of gang members confronting authority and could reflect McCullin’s early relationship with his neighbourhood.
By contrast, Bourke-White came from a comfortable, affluent environment with a stable caring family. Bourke-White’s image above and others from the same study demonstrate this caring, non-confrontational view. Again her images reflect her cultural background and upbringing and are differentiated from McCullin’s by their culture even though both came from similar, Western societies.
In general terms, to link the culture and background of the photographer to the resulting images we need to analyse those images in the context of Urry’s statement in the Tourist Gaze where he states [3, p3] “The gaze is constructed through signs”.
In the context where Urry makes this statement he describes the example of two people kissing in Paris denoting “timeless, romantic Paris” so we can assume that he is referring to signs in the Peirce’s triadic model rather than Saussure’s dyadic model of semiotics where the sign refers to the relationship between the signified and the signifier. Utilising Peirce’s model requires an interpretant to impart meaning to the sign.
Fiske [10, p42] refines Peirce’s definition of an interpretant by defining it as the sign that is created for the interpreter by the original sign of the document or, in this case, of the photograph. Note that Fiske argues that it is created not just by the original sign but also by the experience and culture of the interpreter and, also, that the interpreter can refer to both the final reader (viewer) or the original writer (photographer). Fiske also stresses that the interpretant “is not fixed, defined by a dictionary, but may vary within limits according to the experience of the user”.
Looking again at the cholera images of McCullin and Bourke-White we can see that at the first order of signification according to Barthes, denotation, the two images are similar, both show a scene which can be described in exactly the same way e.g. A relative holding a cholera victim on the Indian sub-continent.
At the second order the two images become discrete. Connotation is one of the three ways in which signs interact in the second order and is when the sign interacts with the feelings and background of the interpreter, driven by the interpretant, which, as we suggested earlier, is created, at least partially, by the culture of the interpreter. The confrontational pose of McCullin’s subject partially overrides his grief and, together with the observer in the background, connotes intrusion, aggression and blame. Conversely Bourke-White’s image connotes empathy and sympathy.
These second layers of meaning are explained by Fiske [10, p86] “denotation is what is photographed, connotation is how it is photographed …… largely arbitrary, specific to one culture”.
Given that the connotation is largely driven by the interpretant and that the interpretant is first noticed in the scene and then interposed in the image by the photographer we can see that the culture of the photographer is critical to which interpretants are utilised and hence the connotation of the image.
Also of the second order of signification is Myth which Barthes uses, not to suggest fictional histories but perceived truths about a culture or how a culture perceives itself. Hall  suggests thinking about culture as “shared conceptual maps … and the codes which govern the relationships of translation between them …To share these things is to see the world from within the same conceptual map”. In effect these codes are analogous to the Myth of Barthes and Hall suggests that concept of culture is sharing of these codes (or myths) .
Again an observer brought up in the myths of a culture is more likely to understand which codes are valid and which are fictional perceptions or false stereotypes. Effectively this presents different opportunities for those inside and outside the culture of the scene but again it allows the culture of the photographer to affect the decision-making process.
The final second order of signification in Barthes’ analysis is Symbol which is often replaced by Metaphor or Metonymy. In each case the symbol is dependent on the viewer’s understanding and, as such, is not fully under the control of the photographer who may or may not make the same associations. However we have argued that two out of the three second-orders are potentially driven by the culture and background of the photographer.
Bate  deliberately paraphrases Eco and Burgin when he suggests that the differences between the actual photograph (the signifier) and the real scene (the signified) are what photography brings to the viewer. Now we see that the culture of the photographer enables the photographer to introduce or create many of those differences by activating the relevant codes.
This mechanism is similar to that described by MacCannell when he describes the Second Gaze and how it enables the photographer to utilise his understanding of the tourist-local interaction to introduce codes or symbols into his tourist images.
Here the mechanism can best be described as a “Reflexive Gaze” or a “Cultured Gaze” as the photographer utilises reflexive elements from his cultural background to modify the message of the image.
Solomon-Godeau  suggests that “we frequently assume authenticity and truth to be located on the inside … and, at the same time, we routinely – culturally – locate and define objectivity in conditions of exteriority”. By utilising the Reflexive Gaze the photographer can activate the cultural signifiers whilst remaining distant or impartial.
In summary we can say that the culture of the photographer can affect an image, particularly its connotation, by noticing and using culture-specific interpretants which might not be accessible to photographers of different cultures. By consciously utilising this “Reflexive Gaze” the photographer can demonstrate empathy with the subject while simultaneously demonstrating objectivity and truth.
 This viewpoint is disputed by, amongst others, my tutor in her article at .Rather than go into detail here as to why I concur with Sontag’s viewpoint I have expanded this argument at http://www.gaslight.me.uk/blog/archives/4783
 Barthes later changed his view and suggested that denotation was not of the first order but instead that “it pretends to be so”. This does not impact on the current discussion
- Sontag, Susan (1979) ‘On Photography’, 3rd Ed, London, Penguin Books,
- McCullin, D., 2002, “BBC Radio 3 – Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with Don McCullin”. Accessed August 2014
- Urry, J. (2002) The Tourist Gaze. 2 ed., London: Sage
- Gillespie, Alex (2006) Tourist photography and the reverse gaze. Avaliable online from http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/38652/[Accessed August 2014]
- MacCannell, Dean, 2001 Tourist Agency. Tourist Studies 1(1):23-38.
- Salgado, S., . 1994. “Sebastião Salgado,” an interview by Ken Lassiter. Photographer’s Forum, September 1994, p. 26.
- Chambi, M., 1936, Available online from http://www.martinchambi.org
- Cohen, Erik, Yeshayahu Nir and Uri Almagor, 1992 Stranger-Local Interaction in Photography. Annals of Tourism Research, 19:213-233.
- Don McCullin , Sleeping With Ghosts : A Life’s Work in Photography by Don McCullin (Photographer)
- Fiske, John (1982): Introduction to Communication Studies. London: Routledge. Available online at https://www.academia.edu/2237045/Introduction_to_Communication_Studies
- Chambi, M., The Perennial Light, Available online at https://readymag.com/u14729800/8183/
- Hall, ed. l997c Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices.London: Sage and Open Press. Available online from http://www4.ncsu.edu/~mseth2/com417s12/readings/HallRepresentation.PDF
- Solomon-Godeau, A. (1984), “Inside/Out” in Public Information: Desire, Disaster, Document, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
- Nan Goldin (1986). Nan Goldin:The Ballad Of Sexual Dependency . New York: Aperture. 1-144.
- David Bate (2009).The Key Concepts. Oxford: Berg.,
- Lutz, C., Collins, J., (1991), The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes, in Visual Anthropology Review, Spring 1991
- Boothroyd, S., (2013). The Pain of Looking. Available online at http://weareoca.com/photography/the-pain-of-looking/
- Lutz, C., Collins, J., (1991), The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes: The Example of National Geographic, Avaliable online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1525/var.1918.104.22.168/abstract
- Don McCullin, Woman with cholera, West Dinajpur, Bangladesh, 1971
- Margaret Bourke-White, Infectious Disease Hospital.Kasur, West Punjab, Pakistan, October 1947
- Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936
- Sebastião Salgado, Mexico, 1980
- Martin Chambi, Organist, Chapel at Tinta, Kanchis, ca. 1934