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Final Exam Paper

Jomack Miranda

4/10/13

Art History, Final Exam Paper

Prof. Katherine Hauser

Word Count: (978)

 

Film and Photography: Two Story Telling Mediums

             Both cinema and photography record reality, yet they do so differently. Photographs, for instance, are snapshots of one moment while film is a continuous stream of footage. In an articled named “Influences of Digital Imaging on the Concept of Photographic Truth,” Julianne H. Newton states that “photography’s most significant gifts to humankind are not the means for establishing THE TRUTH, but rather a means for exploring the world in all its complexity” (13). Film, like photography, is another medium to represent real life, just through the construction of plot. Despite film and photography’s ability to capture reality in different fashions, both tell stories that are just as rich in message.

            The mediums of film and photography are very similar. Essentially, photography provided the gateway for film, seeing that film is simply the sequential layout of pictures. Because of this, both mediums have similar attributes. They display representational forms of objects. They are mediums that record physical life, thus referring to the objects that are in the frame but not materializing the actual object. Yet they have different ways of perceiving truth. For example, people see photography as a trace of time or as a real documentation of a happenstance, despite whether the photo may be staged or not. Humans “tend to perceive photographs—whether created through chemical or digital means—as true” (Newton 10). Upon seeing a photograph for the first time, one attaches significance to that photo. Once the idea is attached to that image it is hard to make it go away. In fact, “…research indicates that once people get a picture in their minds and think of it in a certain way…this is how they are likely to remember it, regardless of learning of information to the contrary” (Newton 10). Truth found in film however is less accepted. Film, even if it is historical in nature, is expected to be a fabrication of events that will tell an interesting story.  A story, by definition, is “the series of hypothetical events as they ‘happen’ in the time of fiction or of factual events in history” (Kawin 59). Essentially, even if the movie is telling a story about a specific event from the past, its audience understands that what it is seeing is constructed. Its reality effect is thus less believable then that of photography.

            In both mediums, however, reality, or truth, can be distorted. Photography that is digitally manipulated either for censorship or artistic purposes, for example, effects one’s perception of the photo. This alteration of photography is an example of what Julianne H. Newton calls the “fluidity of truth”. She states,  “The true revolution is the maturation of human perception of reality…the fact that we know and understand that digital images are only groups of pixels…Digital imaging has clarified—brought into clear focus, if you will—the fluidity of truth” (Newton 13).  Essentially, while humanity views photographs as a window into a specific and real moment in time, its digital manipulation does not hinder this understanding. Instead, it takes this moment in time, this reality, and distorts it, expanding photographic truth. Similarly, the use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) to spice up movie production serves the same purpose. CGI has paved the way in the movie industry, so much so that films are now being produced to provide good visual effects. In an article titled, “Digital Cinema: the Role of Visual Effects Supervisor”, Christopher Cram argues that “achieving a desired effect may necessitate certain steps in pre-production and on-set production in order to provide the right input for digital enhancement tools in postproduction. The scope and power of digital tools are making discussion about visual effects fundamental to the filmmaking process” (Cram 170).  Both CGI and digital manipulations to photography substantiate the fluidity of truth, extending the bounds of the viewer’s imagination.

            Lastly, a difference between the two mediums is how each represents the passing of time. To illustrate this point, one should compare the Netflix episodic House of Cards with President Barak Obama’s ‘hope’ campaign poster from the 2008 Presidential race. Both examples deal with politics; House of Cards demonstrates a political world of deceit and deception while the Obama poster is filled with hope for a new political future, a new Washington. The photograph, which is digitally enhanced, only catches one moment while the film catches many. Yet, while time is frozen in the Obama photograph, as it is with any picture, the poster prompts its audience to envision a desirable future. The use of red, white and blue shadowing on Obama’s face not only presents the man in a powerful and inspirational light, but also shows his stance on bipartisanship. Additionally, because the photo is digitally manipulated Obama appears animated. This animation adds heroic effects that strengthen his message of a new and productive future in American politics. In House of Cards, on the other hand, time is laid out so that the plot moves in real time; the audience finds out details at the same pace as the principle characters. Additionally, in this show, the main character speaks to the camera, soliloquizing his plans to gain power as a congressman. This tool effects how time is displayed on the show because it detaches the audience from action surrounding the protagonist, suspending the plot and then resuming when ready. This ability to both freeze time and resume it, is a characteristic that, of the two, obviously only belongs to film.

            Film and photography are two ways to tell a story, but because they represent time differently, their effectiveness at doing so is different. Generally, in a film, the story is a construct, while in photography the story is told through one moment, leaving more room for interpretation. The Obama poster and the Netflix show, House of Cards, exemplify how subjects from both mediums tell stories through the differing representations of time passing.

Link to Obama Poster: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_%22Hope%22_poster

 

 

 

 

 

Comparitive Essay

Jomack Miranda

4/29/13

Imagining the Modern World

Comparative Essay, Option 1

Word Count (699)

 

Somebody’s Watching: The Motif of Looking

            It is common knowledge that in the presence of people, humans tend to manipulate themselves to appear acceptable. Through glass, a voyeur exposes the secrecy of a man’s gaze in image A while in image B, the onlooker is prompted by sex to buy a Nikon camera. While different artistically, both pictures exhibit the motif of the act of looking, highlighting how the presence of a voyeur manipulates human action.

            Inside an art store, the photographer captures a couple through a window, dividing the image into inside and outside scenes. The inside scene holds something that both characters desire. The man is surreptitiously fixed on the painting of woman, seemingly a courtesan, while his wife is describing an artwork that the audience cannot see. The man is holding his wife’s arm so she does not notice that he is ignoring her. Outside the window, life is asexual. For example, the wife is conservatively dressed; she is wearing a thick woolen coat, complete with hat and gloves. The courtesan, however, is completely naked. The man’s gaze is a manifestation of a desired fantasy. Moreover, the vintage nature of the photograph, exemplified by its black and white filter, establishes the man’s gaze as inappropriate. The painting’s taboo nature is further exemplified by its flowery and intricately designed outer frame, which clashes with the static nature of the rest of the picture. Also, the frame of this artwork serves as another window of perspective. The man is a voyeur to an artificial sex scene. The audience thus sees the man living in a world of order and conservatism, but embarrassingly escaping to a world of sexual fantasy via the painting of the naked woman.

            The Nikon advertisement (image B) engages its audience in voyeurism in order to sell its product. It contains three viewpoints of observation: a view from the outside looking through the window, a view from the camera’s viewfinder and the photographer’s view behind the camera. The first two viewpoints stand in contrast. Like image A, life outside the window appears uninteresting. Yet, while both pictures do this, the inside and outside realities in image B seem to interact more. The people on the outside, marked by square boxes around their faces, are willing voyeurs to the possible pornographic circumstance within the apartment. The women on the bed, who are highly sexualized, pose for the camera and the people beyond the window. The colors of the bed sheets and the women’s underwear both have reddish-orange tints. Redness, a sexual color, guides the audience’s eye around the picture. The advertisement does not cut off at the borders of the camera; one can see the fingers of the photographer as well as a blurred outline of the rest of the room. This tertiary medium of perception highlights the superficiality or staged nature of the picture.

            Both pieces explore a voyeur’s perspective, yet because they are from different time periods, the two photographs have different consequences. In each picture there exists a different level of conservatism. In the candid black and white photo, the man should be paying attention to his wife but rather fixates on a painted naked woman. The Nikon advertisement, however, uses that which is inappropriate in image A to sell its camera. In the advertisement, the whole picture is engaged with itself, the voyeurs are fixed on the women and the women on the camera. Because the women are looking through the camera at the audience, one can see how sex has become a more open topic of discussion.  

            Through an exploration of voyeurism, one finds how each photograph depicts a unique level of acceptance of sex. Today’s vision of sex, as exemplified by image B, is not as rigid as it was, perhaps in the time period that image A was taken, yet both present a sense of discomfort. A difference between both shots is that image A depicts a man acting covertly without knowledge of a camera watching him while in image B, the action within the picture is constructed for the camera. Despite this difference, the two comment on the realities of humanity and how the idea of society watching manipulates human performance.

hw for 4/24

1) BRIEFLY – according to Hussain why should we not value freedom of speech vis-à-vis (in relation to) the Danish cartoons?

Hussain states that we should not value freedom of speech in relation to the Danish cartoons because they are obviously discriminatory and have not place in media.

2) In one or two paragraphs, compare one of the cartoons to the image of the falling WTC victim.  In your succinct comparison take into account that these are controversial images.

            The first thing that catches my eye about the difference between these two photographs is the presence of text in each. The wtc victim one has no text, forcing the audience to focus on the man falling to his death. It makes the picture that much more painful to look at. The Danish cartoon, on the other hand, uses text to label the man in the picture and to identify the author. I do not know what the text in the upper right corner means. Another point of comparison is on the basis of medium. The wtc victim picture is a candid photo and the cartoon is well—a cartoon, complete with grainy colors and degrading stereotypes of what the prophet Muhammad must have looked like. This difference in nature, the candid versus the cartoon, serves each photo with a different purpose. The wtc photo captured a horrific event that will never be forgotten. The cartoon ridicules and offends a religious prophet.

 photo links: 

 

hw for 4/22

blog: 1) Briefly note the aesthetics of the Dan and Terry video – how would you describe the men, setting, overall aesthetic in a sentence or two?

The setting is very intimate, but yet raw at the same time. The way they are able to speak to the camera adds humanity to their stories in which a lot of people in this country and around the world are disconnected.

2) Do you think Muller’s critique of the video is effective, why/why not (provide SPECIFIC EVIDENCE to support your point)?

I do think Muller’s critique of the online “It Gets Better” video is valid because while it can offer critical advice to people in need, it is still within the larger social construct. Such a construct upholds pervasive homophobia. Muller states, “The virtual community of the It Gets Better project cannot be viewed as an autonomous safe haven, untouchable by the violent aspects of the ‘real’ world, because virtual and physical realities are forever impacting each other” (Muller 273). The Internet is simply an extension of the people who use it, the same people who are active in the real world.

3) How does Gotto think YouTube differs from other modes of filmic representation?

Gotto thinks that because YouTube creates what he calls a “public sphere”, it is extremely personalized. Furthermore, YouTube offers a great range of documentaries from people all over the world. The project “Life in a Day” is great example of how to bridge peoples’ stories together and create a community of online video material.

 

 

Hw for 4/17

The Manovitch article states that professional entertainment and other forms of commercial media “colonize” the identities of people by crafting templates, such as Facebook and MySpace, which enable the display of personal information. Hilderbrand, however, states that while web 2.0 introduced sites like Youtube, which democratizes media, it opens up the possibility for more copyright protection. Based on these two stances, I think Hilderbrand is more optimistic; his article spends a lot of time discussing the pros of YouTube’s accessibility and the wealth of content that it displays.

 

To address the second question: Facebook is a great example of how a tactic and a strategy can appear the same. For example, Facebook attempts to give its audience a place to display information about them to the world (if they so choose). However, not only does the strategy attract Internet users to the site, it allows them to customize the information they display. The user can choose what pictures to post, messages to leave on peoples wall. Thus, the online identification can be similar or differ from the physical person. It’s entirely up to the person using Facebook. 

Hw For 4/15

Tufte talks a lot about how PowerPoint is presenter oriented and works to sometimes distance its audience from the material. He explains further that PowerPoint presentations can “replace serious analysis with chart junk, over-produced layouts, cheerleader logotypes and branding, and corny clip art” (Tufte 4). Finally, Tufte argues that bullet lists are too difficult to read, sometimes resembling complex computer code in the way it is presented. Essentially, Tufte states that PowerPoint can really make any presentation easy to fail.

 

According to Bumiller, PowerPoint can create the illusion of knowledge and expertise in a certain subject. The program “stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making” (Bumiller). Bumiller actually doesn’t have anything positive to say about the program. Despite this, I do think there some positive characteristics of power point. I think PPT is used extremely well when the points being put up on screen are simplistic. The point of a slide is to guide the audience to an understanding, to give them the abstract ideas. Also, the fact that you can use pictures makes it an effective tool for business and educational settings.