Most of the books Ive read about the sociology of photography focus on very specific kinds of photography that is, what might be called professional or artistic photography. This kind of photography comes in many styles and serves many purposes but you could group them as commercial photography ads mostly , artistic photography though, admittedly, as someone said, advertisements are the art of capitalism and since photography and capitalism grew up Not sure where to start with this one. This kind of photography comes in many styles and serves many purposes — but you could group them as commercial photography ads mostly , artistic photography though, admittedly, as someone said, advertisements are the art of capitalism — and since photography and capitalism grew up together this is true on many levels and photography as surveillance police photography, journalistic photography and so on. Now, while there is nearly an endless number of remarkably interesting things that can be said about all of these kinds of photography, one of the areas that is often missed is the most popular kind of photography of all — amateur photography.
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Most of the books Ive read about the sociology of photography focus on very specific kinds of photography that is, what might be called professional or artistic photography. This kind of photography comes in many styles and serves many purposes but you could group them as commercial photography ads mostly , artistic photography though, admittedly, as someone said, advertisements are the art of capitalism and since photography and capitalism grew up Not sure where to start with this one.
This kind of photography comes in many styles and serves many purposes — but you could group them as commercial photography ads mostly , artistic photography though, admittedly, as someone said, advertisements are the art of capitalism — and since photography and capitalism grew up together this is true on many levels and photography as surveillance police photography, journalistic photography and so on.
Now, while there is nearly an endless number of remarkably interesting things that can be said about all of these kinds of photography, one of the areas that is often missed is the most popular kind of photography of all — amateur photography. This book is mostly about just that — the kind of photography that you and I might take.
The first thing to know is that Bourdieu is interested in how different classes of people distinguish themselves from other classes of people. Mostly they do this by having interests that are hard for other groups to imitate.
So, if you are upper class you can afford the time to become very interested in, say, classical music. You can know everything there is to know about the transition from classical to romantic music say, or the various forms of church chanting that early serious music developed out of. Having money you will be able to afford to not only buy records, but to attend concerts. This makes a huge difference.
There is no record that is quite the same as a good concert performance. So, even if you have a really good sound system, a concert hall is going to be able to out-do it. Having access to this kind of environment means developing interests on what is the most fruitful and fertile possible ground.
It also means getting to hear a wider variety of music than you might otherwise. Like Mahler, say. They are more likely to like difficult music. This distinguishes them from other people who are probably more likely to like what might be called the light classics. And the upper classes are much more likely to have had all of the opportunities necessary to gain an appreciation of this kind of music than other classes will have had. Many of the things that they find worthwhile — serious music, serious art and so on — require real effort.
Sometimes years and years of effort. No, but you are infinitely more likely to have heard of Mahler and perhaps even know some of his music if you are from the upper class than those from other classes are. What is interesting here is that the things that generally get used as a basis of social distinction are very often things with very long histories.
Interesting factoid — in Australia buckets of money is spent to encourage people to learn Asian Languages Asia is our future but there are still more people in Australia who are studying Latin than there are people who are studying Chinese.
And so it proves. This book comes from research Bourdieu did in France on who actually takes photographs and what do they take photographs of.
What he found was that it was much more likely that you would take photographs if you were a clerk than if you were a senior executive. In fact, if you were from the upper class you were likely to see photography as a bit vulgar. Oddly enough, you would also tend to be more likely to see the artistic merits of photography too — lower classes tending to see mostly the technical aspects of photography — but distinction would be much more likely to come to you as someone from the upper class via drawing or painting than from photography.
This helps to explain the subtitle of this book — a middle-brow art. The thing is that photography is seen by almost everyone as being kind of easy. The world is out there — you stick a camera in front of the world and press down on a little button and, well, no matter who does the pressing you get pretty much the same photograph. Not much room for distinction.
Bourdieu also found that the most frequent kinds of photographs that were taken were family shots. And mostly these were taken as a means of group formation. In Australia the two big ceremonies are probably when a person turns 21 and their wedding. Now, guess which of these two that you are most likely to hire a professional photographer to record.
Why is it so obvious that the wedding is going to be the one? The point is that a wedding is really about two groups, two families, coming together to make one group — as symbolised by the couple.
And this group formation needs to be documented. This symbolic joining of the groups is made most clear with the birth of the first child ever wondered why there are so many photos of the first child in the family and so few of any of the next ones? One of the normal things you take photographs of is your kids. This is because it is important for group formation that this is reinforced and you do that by sending grandparents and god parents and so on photos of little Johnny.
Another thing that is important to take photographs of is your holidays. Bourdieu says somewhere that a holiday needs to be photographed for it to be real. What is really interesting here is that what must be photographed ends up being a very limited number of things and most of these things are defined by group formation.
Well, the interesting thing here is that these people tend to be people without families — more specifically, adolescent males. As Bourdieu points out, as soon as these people get into a relationship they generally stop mucking around with photography. But if they do continue they tend not to be the ones who take family photos. All a bit like the difference between tourists and travellers.
The thing about photography, though, is that being a photographer looks — from the outside at least — like a pretty good life. But professional photography does look like a way into the middle class — it is a well paying profession if you can get a start. And what Bourdieu found was that the kinds of people who did get a start tended to be from the upper classes.
They had the contacts to take photographs of people most likely able to pay. But for the middle classes — as Bourdieu mentions, the clerical workers and so on — being an amateur photographer might just let you have a life of independence. The chances may not be high, but they are high enough to tantalize. The problem with Bourdieu is that he starts hard.
The three moments of the scientific process are therefore inseparable: immediate lived experience, understood through expressions which mask objective meaning as much as they reveal it, refers to the analysis of objective meanings and the social conditions which makes those meanings possible, an analysis which requires the construction of the relationship between the agents and the objective meaning of their actions.
Still, if you are going to read this skip ahead a little way until he starts talking about weddings. The writing becomes much more clear and the ideas incredibly interesting. In the case of the wedding, the picture that captures for eternity the group that has been brought together, or rather the bringing together of two groups, is necessarily implied within a ritual whose function is to consecrate, that is, to sanction and to sanctify the union of two groups effected through the union of two individuals.
Today the hierarchy is reversed. Page 23 Nothing may be photographed apart from that which must be photographed. Page 30 The family album expresses the essence of social memory. Page 30 The tourist of outsider can cause astonishment by photographing everyday objects or local people at their habitual occupations.
Page 40 …thus the rate of participation in camera clubs drops sharply after marriage. Page 41 The chosen and deliberate refusal of photography reaches a peak among the most senior executives and professionals, as well as among craftsmen and shopkeepers, while, on the other hand, the intention to take photographs is particularly strong among manual workers, junior executives and, especially, clerical workers.
Page 42 Likewise, it is the implicit definition of the quality of the practice that determines the type of equipment which each class holds to be necessary: while among manual workers the modal practice does not require additional instruments, among senior executives it presupposes a whole range of equipment. Page 44 In fact, photographic practice is distinguished both from practices which are expensive but require no intellectual training such as tourism and practices which are economically accessible but only to those who have had the necessary training such as going to museums.
Page 47 …the members of the upper classes are shown to be both more predisposed than others to grant photography aesthetic value as such, and less inclined to accord it value as an activity.
Page 83 Photographs are certainly taken just as much — if not more — in order to be shown as in order to be looked at. Page 88 Photography, far from being perceived as signifying itself and nothing else, is always examined as a sign of something that it is not. The legibility of the picture itself is a function of the legibility of its intention. Page 92 It is no accident that passionate photographers are always obliged to develop the aesthetic theory of their practice, to justify their existence as photographers by justifying the existence of photography as a true art.
Page 98 While the profession recruits a large number of its members from subjects of middle class origin, for whom it represents a profession more or less equal to that of their class of origin, it is especially characterised by the high proportion of subjects of upper class origin. Page Photography assures those who engage in it, if not of upclassing, then at least of the hope and promise of upclassing.
Page Because photography is more capable than the theatre of providing a living, it tends to attract boys, while the theatre attracts girls. Page
File:Bourdieu Pierre Photography A Middle-brow Art.pdf
His Photography: A Middle-brow Art concentrates mainly on those who take photographs, according to what social and psychological patterns, with what predictability, and why. And that is my focus here. Faced with meanings situated outside the sphere of legitimate culture, consumers feel they have the right to remain pure consumers and judge freely; on the other hand, within the field of conscrated culture, they feel measured according to objective norms, and forced to adopt a dedicated, ceremonial and ritualized attitude. Sphere of legitimizable; incorporating cinema; photography, jazz and chansons; with competing authorities of legitimation, claiming legitimacy critics, clubs.
Photography: A Middle-Brow Art