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Mandy Martin, Puritjarra 2, 2005. For further information on MANDY MARTIN, refer here: http://www.mandy-martin.com/
If there are diverse kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing place, then we need to learn to value the different ways each of us sees a single place that is significant, but differently so, for each perspective.
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photography, place, visual culture « Previous | |Next »
April 21, 2009

A deep seated assumption in our culture is that literature can somehow be taken to “stand for” culture at large. This assumption holds that it is literature or, more specifically a literary culture, that should be given pride of place.

Moreover, it is an axiom of recent poststructuralist theory that language is a privileged category, our key means not just of communicating, but of knowing, of being human, of constructing and manipulating social reality. Australianness or Kiwi is therefore equated with language or the novel.

True, landscape painting--eg., the Heidelberg School in Australia --- is held to embody nationality, and this contests the privileging of language and a literary culture. When it comes to sense of place it is possible that seeing precedes saying. If this is the case, then it is also possible that when we are talking about the underpinnings to collective or national identity, it is visual representation, not writing, that provides our privileged entry.

09April03_New Zealand_041.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, Golden Bay, South Island, New Zealand, 2009

Photography, however, has not been considered to be an integral part of a sense of place, collective identity, or sense of being-in-the-world. If we adopt the perspective that visual representations or visual culture possibly provides a better or alternative representation of a national being in the world than language, then photography has, so to speak, lived in the shadows, largely forgotten, even tough thousands of photographs have been taken since the late nineteenth century. Film has replaced landscape painting.

Yet we look at our history of a particular place through archived, largely black and white photographs since memory is not a reliable guide of what once was. What we are left with are the pictures – simple, graphic, unmediated representations of self-in-place which express what is surely the most basic human mode of existence “here I am here in this particular built environment”. The photogrpahy goves us an indication of the built environment as it then was, and the clothes that indicate the gender and class of the 'I".

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:10 PM |