Shulamit’s photo narrative

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The inspiration for this project came from a soils science class that I am taking. In it, we have learned how it can take tens of thousands of years for well-developed soils to form and how human activities can effectively set the soil back to square one. I wanted to represent this in my photo essay, but since few people besides my soils professor actually wants to look at pictures of dirt, I decided to go about it in a roundabout way, by showing what is on top of the soil. The abstract photo essay in Berger and Muhr’s book was interesting, but I did not really understand it – which was probably the point. I wanted to create a narrative that had a definite plot, but that still left considerable room for the viewer to derive his or her own meaning from it. After all, I too am simply a viewer, as I did not take any of these pictures. In this sense, the way this photo narrative was constructed is similar to the way that Barthes approached photography. The visions of the photographers and the subjects were not considered in constructing the narrative. Only my own vision – and whether I thought viewers could comprehend that vision – was important. When I read Ruby and Ross’s comments on my photo narrative, I was a bit surprised because their accounts differed slightly from what I was intending. However, their ideas were interesting and they were perfectly valid interpretations. For this reason, I thought that it would not be a good idea to provide a verbal narrative other than a title, because I did not want to impinge upon the abilities of other viewers to extract their own meaning from it. Also, since it follows a very definite plot, I thought it would be redundant to add a textual component. I decided to title it “Succession” because that is what is going on – ecological succession for the first half and then anthropogenic succession for the second half. It should prod viewers to wonder what is next for this spot of land – and for us.

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5 Responses to Shulamit’s photo narrative

  1. Title: Listening Wind
    This photographic essay speaks to the ability of nature to triumph over all. There may be some pictures that show manmade machines overcome greenery, but the final picture speaks volumes about how nature can never be truly demolished. Even in the photos without greenery, such as the row of houses, one still feels as if he or she could turn the corner and find a forest.

  2. Ross Fasman says:

    Title: Circle of Life
    This photographic essay commentates about the circle of life. Originally you have the moss, which in turn grows into a beautiful, vigorous forest. This represents birth, adolescence, and teenage years, and then adulthood. After, however, the forest begins to decline, as humans deconstruct and use it for their own means. This represents the midlife crisis and the slow degradation that occurs with growing old. Then we are back with the picture of the moss, which represents death after the full circle of life. Eventually, new life will come because the moss began where it started, which represents family and posterity.

  3. Sheila Jelen says:

    The title a came up with for this beautiful essay was outgrowth and overgrowth. I love the way you are quite consciously telling a story, with a plot, in this narrative. I wonder, however, if you have changed your sense of photo narrative as a result of some of the theoretical readings we have done together this semester?

  4. Sheila Jelen says:

    I like “succession” but am intrigued by your decision not to include it in the photo-essay itself. I don’t think that having that word appear at the top of the photo essay would necessarily have foreclosed the possibility of different interpretations. Nevertheless, I respect your judgement.

  5. Shulamit!
    Your photo essay dealt with a lot of the concepts that we talked about in our section pertaining to environmentalism and its portrayal in the media. One of the things that jumped out from your photos was the polarity of human presence in nature (with some exceptions). Either the landscape is beautiful and uninhabited or it’s completely devoid of natural life, but bubbling with people and industry. Finding the line of interaction between humans and the environment was a topic that we discussed using DeLuca and Demo’s reading on being programmed to base our recognition of nature on the pristine sublime. In order for an image to represent nature it must be untouched and undeveloped. This works well for your photo essay, emphasizing the impacts of industrialization on soil by juxtaposing before and after, with the clear connection being human industrialization. The dichotomy establishes culpability without directly (textually) addressing the issue, which is great because the observer can grasp the message easily and of his or her own accord!

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