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Friday, 22 March 2019

Some thoughts on the Accusatory Mode in Photography

'The most common critical positions on the Ray’s a Laugh series are those that accuse Billingham of producing “artless” work or complain of its grotesque subject matter, those that accuse Billingham of exploiting and/or fetishizing his family, and those that worry about class tourism and poverty porn. 

This overwhelmingly negative middle-class art writing is so hegemonic that alternative counter-readings are needed to address its failure to acknowledge that Billingham’s photographs might actually contain beauty, or that there might be other viewers of his work besides the middle-classes.'

There are serious points to be made here on both sides, but the point made here by Hatherley is that the accusatory mode in photography, the shorthanding of images as exploitative and ugly, is a form of moralising that has its origins in middle class views of the body and the working class. It's a form of control in other words, an example of a moralising patriarchal/colonial/male gaze if you like, and you get it everywhere.

There are more ways of seeing than this.

From Frances Hatherley's phd on the work of Billingham, Jo Spence and Carol Morley.Sublime Dissension: A Working-ClassAnti-Pygmalion Aesthetics of theFemale Grotesque

1 comment:

Stan B. said...

I always thought Billingham's genius was the ability to supersede his immediate environment in order to visualize such poignant and dynamic images, under what were certainly not the easiest or best of circumstances, both on a personal and emotional level.