Exercise 2.1 (Digital Image and Culture pg: 41)
Bring together a series of 12 images (a typology) in which a particular motif appears again and again. You may use physical found images or images found online. Select an appropriate format to display the images.
Look at the work of Corinne Vionnet and her series ‘Photo Opportunities.’
Something had obviously been nestling in the back of my mind; I’m sure to do with the current political context and the recent issues of the harassment of women in the workplace. Somehow this manifested itself as looking back to the votes for women campaigns.
I think I’d assumed that there was probably an archive somewhere with lots of images of suffragettes and the suffrage movement. Having looked through a number it seemed it wasn’t that straightforward and while several images kept reappearing like the woman with her two children; getting to twelve was more difficult than I thought it would be. In the end it was through Pinterest I was able to find the most images through a single source.
I was particularly interested in the ‘Votes for Women’ placards and sashes as the common motif rather than necessarily the women themselves. In all the images they are prominent and being clearly brandished by the women. I had looked at protest banners in a previous course and found that there is a tendency to use all upper case typography and was surprised to find that although these images are much older the same tradition applies. Just by way of experimentation and because I had already looked at Corinne Vionnet’s work in the last section I decided to create a single layered version. I think there is something quite melancholic about it.
Having collected those images I was curious about where the campaigns led, not so much from the perspective of women voting but of women then moving into the political domain and taking up roles as MPs. So I searched for the first women MPs and again found a fairly disparate result using Google images. It was interesting to note how many of those that came up are held behind a paywall with the likes of Getty Images, Alamy or other picture agencies. I found this quite a challenge as these women are part of our shared history and while I respect the rights of the photographers it really posed an interesting question for me about who has access to what kinds of archives.
The motif of being a female MP might not be immediately evident; I suspect on looking at them they might appear more as society women or possibly writers/actors. They are all single headshots, some looking to camera and some not but I find there is a sense of consistency between them. It may just be that they seem to have an era in common.
These must have been quite extraordinary women for their time and I was a bit saddened to find there doesn’t seem to be a single repository that has their images together. I was eventually able to find all twelve by searching for the women individually, having found their names through the House of Commons Library ‘Women Members of Parliament’ list.
At the same time I was researching the women MPs I found a ready-made typology from the 1923 general election. It was interesting to note the similarities between this and the images I had collected. Most are head and shoulder portraits with the exception of the two full length shots. I’m sure they say a lot about the nature of portraiture at the time.
Having been surprised at how much research I had to do find the images in part one I thought I would repeat the exercise with something more mundane. I was also reflecting on some of my reading around Joachim Schmid and the nature of the post photographic era. Looking back to one of my earlier exercises I decided to search for Spaghetti in the open access archive Pixabay. This immediately generated 375 images. A similar search in Adobe Stock showed 172,944 results, Alamy showed 83,735 and Google Images also found thousands. Even restricting my search to ‘Spaghetti AND fork’ it was easy to find a set of 12 images on Pixabay alone.
I’m not too sure what this comparison tells me at this point but it was fascinating to see the contrast between searching for popular and historic images.