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Photography Of Objectification Essay

1537 words - 7 pages

From a philosophical perspective, there has been constant interest with the human body as an essential tool much revered as or thought of as a mere machine. French philosopher Rene Descartes extensively argued in his animal-machine theory that the human body did also function like an automaton, much like an animal’s body, with replaceable parts to cater and adapt to malfunctions. Through art and photography, this reflection about the essential role of the human body eventually manifested itself. The idea of focusing on the body as a main object (hence objectification) or focus point in a photograph started in paintings long before the invention of cameras as a probable consequence of the ...view middle of the document...

Henning starts off this chapter by tracing back to how 19th century photography was being used to classify people into types. In an era where social interaction was sparse right before the development of buses and trams where social assimilation was made possible, this ‘typological’ approach to photography was a convenient generalization to help mass of strangers in the city seem more familiar. Photography also served social control purposes and indeed the practice started off with photographs being used by police and prison records seeing as archives helped the identification of recurrent offenders. Henning cites photography historian John Tagg who focused on how photography helped surveillance and discipline of prisoners, even the technical way the picture was taken was elaborately thought of, as Tagg notes “the body isolated, the narrow space, the subjection to an unreturnable gaze” which all highlight the scrutiny that takes place whilst the picture is being taken. Gradually, French photographer Francis Galton introduced a technique for superimposing a number of photographs faces of people with shared characteristics to reveal supposed hereditary physical characters in certain groups of people.

Hence this idea of resorting to eugenics in photography acerbated the objectification of humans within the context of social discipline. These practices where not confined to the nineteenth century, today this idea of classifying in photography revealed itself in other fields.
Indeed, even erotic imagery started off by depending on the classification of types. It works through classifying it’s the women into recognisable types: pornographic images and publicity offer women as available objects of fantasy by attaching certain meaning and a certain sexual ‘readiness’ to them. In the end of the 20th century, feminist critics were the ones to really coin the term objectification. In a way, the chapter reveals the syllogism in the meaning behind this objectification: men look at women as sexual objects, women watch themselves being looked at and the woman turns herself into an object of vision. Thus, in a sense, these photographs carry a double-objectification in which the female body is used as leitmotiv. Furthermore, photography tends to convey the visual pleasure permitting the concepts of voyeurism and fetishism to emerge. The chapter considers the concept of voyeurism as applicable not only to sexual objects but also in relation to the depiction of colonized and disable people as a spectacle.
Photographic images of women were also debated over the portrayal of bodily aspects that were normally not displayed publically. Russian literary Mikhail Bakhtin pointed out that in the medieval feudal societies, carnivals were the only occasions where bodily excess was celebrated: eating, defecation, copulation, pregnancy and death were openly represented and considered humorous. Gradually though, the incongruous body of the carnival was displaced by the...

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