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This post continues from Reflection #1 at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/reflection-1-photographing-the-unseen/

The ninth Assignment suggestion (above) is ‘Need’. The intension is to photograph graphic displays (mainly advertising, but perhaps including graffiti) to convey the experience of living/working in a modern city where:

displays have a constant, unremitting purpose that revolves around need: to induce the feeling in the inhabitants and urge them to fulfil it. Such advertising, each skilfully competing with the next, each offering to fulfil a need, can lead to a kaleidoscopic, fragmentary perception or experience of a city (above).

The Assignment could be classified as ‘cityscape’ but does not necessarily ‘move or penetrate into forbidden and invisible urban geographies’ (Clarke, 1997: 82). In other words the Assignment does not pose the dilemma, common to many photographic city projects, of a choice between ‘avenue’ or ‘alley’ or ‘Stieglitz’ and ‘Riis’ i.e.

Where [Alfred] Stieglitz (b. 1864) favoured the avenue – broad expanses of urban space where the eye is free to roam at will, either upward or indiscriminately – [Jacob] Riis (b. 1849) limited himself to the alley and the court (Clarke, 1997: 82).

A good example to look at in this regard is William Klein’s ‘Life is Good & Good For You in New York’ (Klein, 1956). This book:

Abounding with billboards, signs, and hard-sell messages of every sort, his pictures are, in fact about media as much as they deal with people who are targeted by them (Fig 2).  Everything within his frames grabs at your attention, the more incongruous, grotesque, or disjointed the presence, the better (Kozloff, 2010).

The image referred to as ‘Fig 2’ above is shown in Figure 1. Klein’s images (and his motive) are more ‘sociological’ than architectural or historical. This is why Klein’s work is relevant to this Assignment which deals with ‘need’, something that is sociological, intangible. The final images will attempt to make the viewer aware of the unseen consequences in the mind of the inhabitants of this aspect of city life. However, another style to be aware of is that of New Objectivity as exemplified by for example Otto Steinert (b. 1915) founder of the Subjective Photography movement:

Rather than exploring external realities, the Subjective photographers investigated the complexities of the individual inner state. … They … worked in a darker, edgier style exemplified by disorienting and expressionistic works, such as this hallucinatory view of a silhouetted figure moving swiftly through a shadowy urban landscape [see fig. 2.] that evokes the dream world of the subconscious (Metropolitan Museum of Art, s.d).

While such New Objectivity photographers:

often insisted upon a static, crystalline clarity (the precise organisation of light and shadow), as the epitome of photographic medium-specificity, their post-war counterparts found the blur and grain of photography more seductive than its hard line (Baker, 2012: 15-49).

Both the approaches or styles, that of ‘precise organisation of light and shadow’ (‘Steinert’) and ‘blur and grain’ (‘Klein’) grapple with the same ‘condition’:

The postmodern condition, perhaps, is that every city will begin, as far as the photograph is concerned, to look the same. Every image will be untitled; the postmodern city will not so much be a place as a condition; and to capture that condition will be the challenge of the camera (Clarke, 1997: 98)

Klein’s photographs are high contrast, almost graphic, black and white and I’m not suggesting that that exact style be followed. However, the experience of viewing the pages of ‘Life is Good & Good for You in New York’:

comes to seem almost one of being on the run, of stumbling over obstacles, ending finally in visual fatigue. The big city often does that to its denizens, bombards them with feckless montage (Kozloff, 2010).

The idea and way of showing the city as a place whose denizens are bombarded with ‘feckless montage’ is what I take from Klein’s book. The page spread from Klein’s book that Kozloff  (above) uses to illustrate his point is seen in Figure 3. Another photographer in the ‘blur and grain’ tradition is Daido Moriyama (Baker, 2012).


The Assignment ‘Need’ will photograph dwellers and workers in a modern city as they navigate the myriad visual stimuli (‘advertising’) that impact on them, often subliminally. The style employed is broadly a choice between that of New Objectivity and ‘blur and grain’ (above); the Assignment could be photographed in black and white or colour.

This post continues in ‘Reflection #3 — Photographing the unseen’ At: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/reflection-3-photographing-the-unseen/


Baker, Simon (2012) ‘Daido Moriyama: In Light and Shadow’ In: Baker (ed.) Daido Moriyama. London: Tate Publishing. pp. 15-49

Clarke, Graham (1997) The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Klein, William (1956) Life is Good & Good for You in New York. Paris: Editions du Seuil. [online] At: https://vimeo.com/70192410 (Accessed 20.10.14)

Kozloff, Max (2010) ‘William Klein and Radioactive Fifties’ in Life is Good & Good for You in New York (Books on Books). New York: Errata Editions (no page numbers)

Metropolitan Museum of Art (s.d) Call [online] At: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/266349 (Accessed 20.10.14)

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Klein, William (1956) Page spread from Life is Good & Good for You in New York At: http://fansinaflashbulb.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/l1052975.jpg?w=640  (Accessed 20.10.14)

Figure 2. Otto Steinert (1950) Call [Gelatin silver print] At: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/266349 (Accessed 20.10.14)

Figure 3 Klein, William (1956) Page spread from Life is Good & Good for You in New York At: http://www.photoeye.com/auctions/img/7604/Large_H1000xW950.jpg  (Accessed 20.10.14)