Broomberg and Chanarin say their work, on show at Johannesburg’s Goodman Gallery, examines “the radical notion that prejudice might be inherent in the medium of photography itself”. They argue that early colour film was predicated on white skin: in 1977, when Jean-Luc Godard was invited on an assignment to Mozambique, he refused to use Kodak film on the grounds that the stock was inherently “racist”.
The light range was so narrow, Broomberg said, that “if you exposed film for a white kid, the black kid sitting next to him would be rendered invisible except for the whites of his eyes and teeth”. It was only when Kodak’s two biggest clients – the confectionary and furniture industries – complained that dark chocolate and dark furniture were losing out that it came up with a solution.
Makes perfect sense to me. The human eye always adjusts to see people’s faces but the technology of photography developed around adjusting to white people only. You can probably dig deeper and look at the cultural institution that developed around photography for what came to be accepted as “what the camera likes” and the aesthetics of palettes and light conditions and such for more normalization of racist standards. Same can probably be said of a great deal of Eurocentric art, aesthetics, and technology in general.
So glad someone identified this tendency. When I did photography, I found my POC friends impossible to light with the reccomendations given by most photography blogs and such. I also found no techniques on how to photograph people with darker skin tones because even DSLRS require different types of exposures for darker skin.
Are these people serious
Yep cause it’s true
Film is an inherently racist medium, which seems unfortunately to bemost discussed by white authors (Richard Dyer, though, does have a lot of good information in White)
But when Spike Lee has to come up with his own methods of cinematography to film black people, something is definitely wrong
Or when I show up as a dark blob in photos with my white friends, or when I’m the only one who’s face isn’t picked up by any recognition technology, then I’d say film and photography are definitely racist media
idk how much we should be taking cues on racism from JLG tbh
Also the filters that get used for photo editing (digital and otherwise). Like, I think loads of pictures are specially developed with this blue tone that really lightens people up (while also making everything look washed out). And all the common tutorials (both on tumblr and elsewhere) to improve the lighting/image quality of screencaps for edits and gifs are totally useless for darker skin tones. I wish there were better fandom resources for this shit because it’s fucking frustrating.
reblogging to add:
“Montré Aza Missouri, an assistant professor in film at Howard University, recalls being told by one of her instructors in London that “if you found yourself in the ‘unfortunate situation’ of shooting on the ‘Dark Continent,’ and if you’re shooting dark-skinned people, then you should rub Vaseline on their skin in order to reflect light. It was never an issue of questioning the technology.” In her classes at Howard, Missouri says, “I talk to my students about the idea that the tools used to make film, the science of it, are not racially neutral.”
Missouri reminds her students that the sensors used in light meters have been calibrated for white skin; rather than resorting to the offensive Vaseline solution, they need to manage the built-in bias of their instruments, in this case opening their cameras’ apertures one or two stops to allow more light through the lens. Filmmakers working with celluloid also need to take into account that most American film stocks weren’t manufactured with a sensitive enough dynamic range to capture a variety of dark skin tones. Even the female models whose images are used as reference points for color balance and tonal density during film processing — commonly called “China Girls” — were, until the mid-1990s, historically white.
In the face of such technological chauvinism, filmmakers have been forced to come up with workarounds, including those lights thrown on Poitier and a variety of gels, scrims and filters. But today, such workarounds have been rendered virtually obsolete by the advent of digital cinematography, which allows filmmakers much more flexibility both in capturing images and manipulating them during post-production.”
and from the original article:
The artists feel certain that the ID-2 camera and its boost button were Polaroid’s answer to South Africa’s very specific need. “Black skin absorbs 42% more light. The button boosts the flash exactly 42%,” Broomberg explained. “It makes me believe it was designed for this purpose.”
In 1970 Caroline Hunter, a young chemist working for Polaroid in America, stumbled upon evidence that the company was effectively supporting apartheid. She and her partner Ken Williams formed the Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement and campaigned for a boycott. By 1977 Polaroid had withdrawn from South Africa, spurring an international divestment movement that was crucial to bringing down apartheid.
The title of the exhibition, To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light, refers to the coded phrase used by Kodak to describe a new film stock created in the early 1980s to address the inability of earlier films to accurately render dark skin.
The show also features norm reference cards that always used white women as a standard for measuring and calibrating skin tones when printing photographs. The series of “Kodak Shirleys” were named after the first model featured. Today such cards show multiple races.
Forever reblog with added commentary
Yes! It’s back! I was trying to find this post
Added information. I really really need a book on cinematography techniques for lighting darker skin tones
I’ve posted information about this before, and I want to reblog it again because it’s so important.
People really need to understand what it means that racism is built into so many of our technologies, our education, our lives…too many people seem to believe that racism is about feelings and interactions.
A lot of the photos I have posted of artworks are old photographs that use films that oversaturate dark skin tones or blast them out with contrast. They need to be modified where possible in order for dark skinned people portrayed in the paintings to be visible at all.
Thomas Cooper Gotch (English, 1854–1931), The Lantern Parade, c. 1918. Oil on canvas, 61 x 76.2 cm. Private collection.
Geoffrey Johnson - represented by Principle Gallery
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1991
Hofmann used a Cubist-like, grid-based pictorial structure to impose order upon the wild expressiveness of his high-keyed, opposing colors and rich, impastoed surfaces. His best paintings, like Elysium, created when he was eighty years old, achieve harmony within intensity, and embody both tension and balance. About the title, Hofmann said to collector James Michener, “It’s where old artists go when they die. It’s very clean and simple—only a nest of squares, but they tell everything.”
The Infinite Progression by Jiyen Lee
I went walking once and it was horrible. Imagine walking on a never-ending, infinite stretch of twisting sidewalks, escalators, and bridges, eternally attempting in futility to get somewhere. Jiyen’s digital collages are like a consumerist’s personal Hell.
"Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare"
Baldessari, my other love. (at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA))
Jack Whitten (b. 1939), Black Table Setting (Homage to Duke Ellington), 1974. Acrylic on canvas, 72 × 60 inches. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase with funds provided by Jack Drake and Joel and Karen Piassick. Image via the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Paintings by James Nares
His paintings seek to capture the very moment of their own creation, and are most frequently made in a single brush stroke, using brushes of his own design.
John Maloof was at a Chicago thrift auction house when he purchased, on a whim, a box of photographic negatives that had caught his eye. He had no idea at the time, but he had just discovered one of the best street photographers of the 20th century.
Vivian Maier was born in New York, grew up in France, and lived most of her adult life in Chicago working as a nanny. She had absolutely no photographic education or training. Maier’s work was never shown to anyone during her lifetime, and out of the over 100,000 negatives attributed to her, many remain undeveloped.
Vivian Maier: Street Photos is the first published collection of her work, a tribute to one of the great pioneers of American street photography, that for 60 year, no one knew existed.
Dream Memetics by Chad Alburn
Emerging from a course in Memetics, which examines our modern informational culture as an analog to biological evolution , suggesting that ideas and concepts can be passed on to others in the same way genes are, helping us to adapt when the original idea is proven to be successful in the environment. Chad’s digital collages literally blur the edges of the information presented, presenting a softened, cohesive picture that could only exist through the evolutionary adaptation of art.
“The portrait took nearly 138 hours to complete, and at a rate of 4.25 dots per second, he estimates the piece contains roughly 2.1 million of them”
In 2004 an unconscious man was discovered behind a fast food restaurant in Richmond Hill, Georgia. He had no belongings, severe sunburn, and was nearly blind from cataracts. The man also had absolutely no idea who he was. After months of ongoing evaluation from doctors and psychologists it was determined he was suffering from dissociative amnesia. He adopted the pseudonym Benjaman Kyle and has embarked on a search for his true identity sparking massive amounts of media coverage and even a short film, Finding Benjaman, by John Wikstrom. He is the only citizen in the United States officially listed as missing despite his whereabouts being known. One strange aspect of this predicament is that Kyle now lives completely in limbo: for the past 8 years he has been denied the ability to obtain a new social security number which in turn prevents him from opening a bank account or having a credit card. The government argues that he already has one, but despite the efforts of fingerprint matching, DNA tests, and exposure on television, he simply cannot determine his true identity.
After catching a screening of Finding Benjaman at the Tribeca Film Festival artist Miguel Endara (previously) was inspired to help in any way he could, which meant making art. Endara embarked on this portrait of Benjaman using stippling, a tedious technique which involves a pen, patience, and an obscene amount of dots. The portrait took nearly 138 hours to complete, and at a rate of 4.25 dots per second, he estimates the piece contains roughly 2.1 million of them. The hope is to spread awareness for Bengaman’s plight and to help raise money through the sale of prints to support a petition to get him a new social security number.
Todd Robertson hung up his photography career nearly 20 years ago, but one of the Gainesville man’s images seems destined to live on as it speaks to one of the nation’s most heated and enduring social issues: race relations.
No one who sees the photo soon forgets it: A small boy, about 3 years old, dressed in a child-sized Ku Klux Klan robe and pointed hat, reaches out to touch his reflection in a riot shield as the African-American trooper holding the shield looks down at him.
It was a fleeting moment away from the main action during a Barrow County Ku Klux Klan group’s rally on Sept. 5, 1992, in downtown Gainesville, and just before the little boy’s mother pulled him away.
Robertson, a 1991 graduate of the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, was trying to make it as a freelance photographer then, shooting for Gainesville’s The Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other north Georgia publications.
The photo might not have been published; an editor told Robertson the staff photographer’s images were fine and they wouldn’t need his freelance shots. But once a managing editor saw the photo, the paper published it in its Sunday edition, on the front of the local news section.
Robertson’s image then picked up some notice. It won a photography award, and other newspapers, including some European tabloids, picked it up from the Associated Press wire, Robertson recently recalled.
The anti-racism Southern Poverty Law Center also noticed, and featured the photograph (with Robertson’s permission) for many years on the cover of one of the center’s publications.
“The raw, untutored curiosity of that child and the sympathy in the face of that trooper just spoke to what we are as human beings before our minds are poisoned,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the law center. For years and years we have gotten calls and letters and emails about that photograph. It says something about what it means to be human.”
Recently, many people have discovered the image through Facebook and other social media.
“It’s been around a lot, but it’s seemed to pick up new legs after all these years,” Robertson said in a telephone interview.
A recent online article by The Poynter Institute’s David Griner has generated even more interest. Griner tracked down Robertson to Gainesville, where Robertson works with his father in the family business, Area Decor. The company makes and installs commercial and residential cabinets and countertops, Robertson said.
“I tried my best to make a living at (photography),” Robertson said. “I was a freelancer at the time. I was trying to build a portfolio. It’s kind of a secondary thing to me now, which kind of surprises people.”
Now married and the father of 12-year-old twins, Robertson still owns cameras, but mostly takes just snapshots, he said.
Robertson’s Klan photograph is a lot more than a snapshot, though, said Sidney Monroe, co-owner with his wife, Michelle, of the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe, N.M. The couple moved their business from downtown New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The gallery specializes in black-and-white prints, emphasizing documentary photography and photojournalism.
Robertson’s photo is in color, but it belongs with the Monroe Gallery’s other great images, said Sidney Monroe, who hopes to reach an agreement with Robertson to sell prints of the photo in the gallery. The photographers represented in the gallery include outstanding current and young photographers, as well as great names such as Ruth Orkin, Robert Doisneau, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White and Neil Leifer.
“When we saw Todd’s photo, it immediately resonated with us,” Sidney Monroe said. “The image is very arresting, but also because it is sort of symbolic, and ironic because the Ku Klux Klan is still there, real as day. There’s just so much in that picture.”
The photo, Robertson said, contains a still relevant social message.
“It shows that hate is learned,” Robertson said. “Those kids didn’t know the difference between that day and any other day.”
The photographer got the name of the trooper in the photograph — Allen Campbell, now retired after a career in the Georgia State Patrol. Campbell turned down interview requests last week, but said he would meet with reporters Tuesday.
Robertson couldn’t get a full name for the little boy in the photograph.
“The only name I ever got was Josh,” said Robertson. “I’d kind of like to know what happened to him.”