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in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce during the rapid
development of industries, photography was
born. Its ability to capture movement, construct history, evoke both emotion
and character and create memories helped it become one of the most important
parts of the art world. This essay will depict and analyse how the birth of
photography has impacted upon contemporary art practice and spectatorship
wither it be good or bad. I believe the development of photography and film
have changed traditional art notably. It has changed our ways of viewing art,
giving different people contrasting views on the same works when really the
artist may have had a completely different message to portray. Also, people
rarely seek portraits to be painted due to the cheaper alternative of
photographs. However, I also believe from this we embrace other art movements
which couldn’t be captured with a camera such as, pop art, surrealisms,
minimalisms, and abstract art to name a few. Would these have rocketed to such
a degree without the existence of photography? In addition, I will be exploring
how photography has desensitised us as spectators of the imagery we surround
ourselves with on social media and other entertainment forms. It gives us
instant access to other people’s lives and prompts anxieties in many over
excessive exposure. This causes profound uncertainty in parents whom will worry
about the media and how it will affect their children, also in teenagers and
young adults being insecure in themselves as they see all the photographs of
the ‘perfect body’ or lifestyle. As well as this, exposure of imagery in the
media can also cause desensitisation in the act of seeing disturbing images and
how we as viewers take on these and how the effect us.

John Berger believes that since the
birth of photography it has considerably decreased the meaning of art works. He
taught us that photographs always need to require a narrative and need language
to make sense. Claiming, “the
uniqueness of every painting was once part of the uniqueness of the place where
it resided. Sometimes the painting was transportable. But it could never be
seen in two places at the same time, when the camera reproduces a painting it destroys
the uniqueness of its image. As a result, its meaning changes. Or, more
exactly, its meaning multiplies and fragments into many meanings. This is
vividly illustrated by what happens when a painting is shown on a television
screen, the painting enters each viewers house. There it is surrounded by his
wallpaper, his furniture, his mementoes, it enters the atmosphere of his
family. It becomes their talking point, it lends its meaning to their meaning,
at the same time it enters a million other houses and, in each of them is seen
in a different context. Because of the camera, the painting now travels to the
spectator rather than the spectator to the painting. In its travels, it’s the
meaning is diversified”.

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Media gives us easier access to a whole variety of art work. Facebook,
Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest are some of these websites in which we can
enjoy art and find out information on many different artists. Some would agree
that this has destroyed the novelty of going to visit a gallery or museum and
would prove that photography has definitely changed the world of Art in a
negative way. Social media is more suited to a younger demographic and some
artists are even using this as a way of capturing their audiences through
online cultural and social trends. Instagram is the key social network for contemporary art
today as the image sharing phenomenon now has over 600 million users. It works
for people who are visually driven and want to be able to share and promote
their works. Resulting in it becoming a legitimate contemporary art medium and
movement of its own.
Artist Amalia Ulman used her Instagram account
(@amaliaulman) as the platform for a new performance art, in which created a
new persona for herself becoming a typical LA girl. She narcissistically mimics
lifestyle, poses and aesthetics that these girls typically behold and post.
Ulman was exhibited in the Tate Modern ‘Performing for the camera’ exhibition which
examined the relationship between performance and photography. Traditionalist
artists caused uproar about this as they believe social media based art work
does not belong in galleries and museums and has a long way to go before it has
a regognisable value. Claiming “it was too accessible, too banal to be art”. Again, proving
how there is a change in the contemporary art world and how some people are
embracing it and others are truly stuck in their ways.  

Another way in
which I believe that photography has changed our ways of seeing is how
desensitised we have become to violent images or ones of a sexual nature. These
are often featured in the media or on the news which is something we are
surrounded by on a day to day basis. Media may stimulate aggressive behaviour
by desensitising children to the act of violence meaning that they become less
emotionally concerned and find it acceptable. (Cline, Croft & Courrier, 1973).I think this is particularly
concerning the younger generation as this is what they will grow up with from
birth and begin to get used to seeing such disturbing and emotionally scaring
things. According to Browne and Hamilton-Giachritsis (2005), there is
consistent evidence that violent imagery in television, film and computer games
has substantial short-term effects on arousal, thoughts, and emotions. This
increases the likelihood of aggressive or fearful behaviour in younger
children, especially boys. However, Josephson (1987) disagrees and argues that
violence on screen is extremely different to violence in the real world,
stating that media violence is more likely to make children more ‘frightened’
than likely to carry out such acts. As well as the cynical and fatalistic ideas
that are presented to us through photography it also leaves us with more
opinions, prejudices and ever-growing fantasies. Linking with this, John Berger
comments on a newspaper article where Pakistan refugees are shown in despair
and alongside this is a beauty advertisement. Saying” The shock of such contrasts is. considerable: not
only because of the coexistence of the two worlds shown, but also because of
the cynicism of the culture which shows them one above the other, it can be
argued that the juxtaposition of images was not planned. Nevertheless, the
text, the photographs taken in Pakistan, the photographs taken for the
advertisements, the editing of the magazine, the layout of the publicity, the
printing of both, the fact that advertiser’s pages and news pages cannot be
co-ordinated – all these are produced by the same culture. This shows how
generally the world is accustomed to such imagery and for publicity these real
events are exceptional and only happen in distance. Which in a similar way to
brutality makes us desensitized to seeing such traumatic events and we do no
longer hesitate at them, especially whilst being paired with beauty adverts.”
In the Bangladesh photographs, the events were tragic and distant. But the contrast
would have been no less stark if they had been events near at hand in Derry or
Birmingham. Nor is the contrast necessarily dependant upon the events being
tragic”. Whether this be for better or for worse,
photography still remains the medium in which gives fraudulently deceptive
ideas towards reality. a

An artist who wants to use the platform of photography
and spectatorship to capture the essence of a contemporary society is Daryna
Barykina. Her series ‘bruised behind the mask ‘observes domestic abuse and
explores how it is often disguised and masked but also how truly devastating it
can be in a modern world. She uses photography to create controversial images
that build and trigger conversation. Barykina uses photoshop and retouching
techniques to create the effect of almost gluing herself together in
the mornings and by night there are more broken pieces. This becomes a
degrading cycle day in and day out. By creating these images, the artist was
able to put herself forward into raising awareness of these victims and being
able to help and support them. This proves that photography has impacted the
art world in the sense that it gives people platforms to prevent ignorance in
certain matters or subjects such as domestic violence. I think a project like
this would only have made such impact with a camera as it causes emotional
complexity and engages viewers actively.


engages us as spectators whether it be viewed in books, magazines or online. However
this can go from and innocent gaze to a voyeuristic pleasure in whomever is
viewing. Throughout the history of photography sexual and erotic images have
been made, from conceptual intimate photography to those who are exploiting
illicit and intimate acts without any authorisation. I believe this is an
example how photography has gone too far from a scientific discovery and art to
a medium in which we can abuse. Opposing this, of course, is the question of
who was looking and why? “The conventionalised display of bodies to the
spectator, the fetishing of certain bodily attributes, the come-on look, all
give pornography an exhibitionistic quality, offering the spectator relief from
guilt about their voyeurism.”

Kohei Yoshiyuki created a series of
infrared night time photographs that captured men taking part in a voyeuristic
‘sport’ found creeping up behind couples preforming sexual acts in public in complete
darkness. The men were found trying to get as close as possible without being
caught in the act. To take the photographs Yoshiyki had to participate with the
other men for months. He claimed “to photograph the voyeurs, I needed to be
considered one of them” and ” I behaved like I had the same sexual 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 photograph itself is voyeuristic somehow.
So, I may be a voyeur, because I am a photographer.

images not only exploit private intimate acts through photogrophy but also
uncover many spectators ardently lurking in the darkness, waiting to join
in–and quickly raise issues of voyeurism and surveillance. In “The
Photobook: A History, Volume II,” Martin Parr speaks to the societal
relevance of this series, calling it, “A brilliant piece of social
documentation, catching perf




I will conclude this essay by focusing on the ways in which
both photography and film have impacted contemporary art and spectatorship.
After studying photographers, artists, essayists and theorists, It seems to be
a broad spectrum of answers and opinions on whether the birth of phtography and
film did effect the art world or not. Some artists have the opinion that photography
was a scientific and mechanical process that required no skill or talent. Where
others would argue we would not be where we are in the art world without photography.
Meaning man artists could paint whatever they wanted and whenever they wanted,
due to the camera giving a perfect representation of the original subject. So,
truly there is a mass amount of evidence on how photography changed
contemporary art, and I believe that even the question being raised proves the
point that it most definitely has. Spectatorship has always been a part of contemporary
art but I believe since the creation of the camera it has caused it to have a
negative connotation. It allows us to view a photograph or video and it have
difficultly emotionally affecting us. This is due to more and more violent,
sexual and distressing images surrounding us, it then desensitises us which for
artists whom want to make an impact I believe is becoming especially difficult
for them as time goes on.

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