“Step right in folks to witness the most amazing things your eye balls have ever witnessed, ponder in awe at the horrors that behold the tent of visual culture”

There are many things that irritate me about the world of visual culture and society in general so I have decided to isolate one specific thing for the purpose of this blog post. What really irritates me is how many visual practitioners use ancient techniques  harping back to ye olde times by exploiting civilizations voyeuristic nature in order to gain some form of notoriety. Television is easily the biggest culprit, from Channel 4’s seemingly innocuous Embarrassing Bodies to the Extreme humans season it ran last year; Television will wheel out the oddest and most unfortunate human beings on the planet to be gawped at by millions supping on tea and biscuits and declaring “Oh that’s disgusting” or “How terrible”. It’s nothing more than a 1900’s freak show. The only difference is the tents have been replaced by square boxes in the corner of peoples living rooms.

Photographers are not immune to this either, however often they are slightly more subtle in their approach (which doesn’t make it any better). I will not get into the Pieter Hugo debate as so much has been said about it on line previously, but I will mention the work of Morten Nilsson, and his piece Dancers as it is what initially sparked this half hearted rant. I spotted Dancers whilst browsing some photo blogs and initially I didn’t really think much about it. Interesting looking people… dancers, high key light, blah blah. However the more I flicked through each image the more I realised that this is just another bloody freak show.

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There is no comment on the time and effort these dancers who, most likely, have devoted their lives to something they care about and wish to succeed in. No comment on the physically demanding nature of dancing, no comment on the trials and tribulations of competing. All I see in this work is a bunch of mannequin-esq human beings placed in front of a super strong ring flash to emphasize every last plastic looking detail on the subjects face. Sure there is an artificial nature to what these people do and of course there is a ridiculousness to it all when put in context of wider issues, but so what. It’s just like pointing out that it’s all a bit camp. Everybody knows that! I just feel that as photographers we need to work harder to make work less about “oh look at that thing/person/freak” and more about “shit, I hadn’t thought about it like that”.