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Martin Allums

Professor Warpinski
ArtO 250
Photography After Frank The Staged Document
Photography After Frank By Philip Gefter pools all of the different photography styles
that popped up after the 1950s (Robert Franks defining era) together via 6 classifications: The
Document, The Staged document, Photojournalism The Portrait, The Collection and The Marketplace.
The focus of my summary, The staged document, deals with the fact and fiction aspect of photography.
Before the 1970s, Photographs were used as a visual representation of facts. A great example of the pre
1970s era are the 1962 reconnisance photos of Cuba taken by the United States military. These photos
were purely representational; we took them so that we could find the locations of Cubas military and
nuclear bases. While most scenes that were shot were true, we knew exactly which ones were false
because advertising agencies were known for creating staged scenes. Once we progressed into the
1970s however, photographers began to have full creative control over the scenes they shot. They were
able to imply a certain situation onto different photographs by manipulating the environment around
the scene or by manipulating the subject (sometimes both). As such, the viewer then lost the sense of
factuality that images used to have. The premise of the staged document was only enhanced by
technological improvements and programs like Adobe Photoshop; the artist was no longer content with
taking a simple journalistic photo. The prime example Gefter uses in his book to visualize this idea is of
Duane Michals sequence taken in his series of Phenomenological nature, The Spirit Leaves The Body
(1968). While most people knew that all of the images in the sequence were staged, Michal was able to
make the image feel factual by using the natural light coming through the window to accent the subject
and film. It works so well that at first glance, you could easily believe that they are real.
The confusion the viewers can get can go two ways however. Gefter uses the image Iwo Jima,
Old Glory Goes Up on Mt. Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal(1945). This image represented the United States
victory over Japan in World War II, and won a Pulitzer Prize. Despite all of the praise the image received,
everyone believed that the image was staged by Rosenthal because he stated that he took a staged
image. When you look at the image, it does look as if it could be staged because its degradation. The
image has faded over time, so environment around the men give the scene a dream-like feel, and action
shots were not very common during WWII. This image was not staged; the image following it in which
the soldiers were smiling was staged. Another image had the opposite situation. In September of 2002,
The world trade centers and the pentagon were attack by members of a terrorist faction group from the
middle east called Al Qaeda. Just days after ,Edward Keating, a staff photographer for the New York
Times, took a photo of a young boy aiming a gun outside of a store with a sign that said Arabian foods.
There had been arrests in that area as an early strike against Al Qaeda (Aperture Mag). In essense, this
picture captured that moment in time perfectly because it allowed readers to visualize the life stories of
the men in the article. Photojournalists are not allowed to alter a scene in any way, but Keating had
asked the young boy to hold the toy gun (other photographers reported him doing it). He falsified
information, was fired, and the Times released a statement the following day renouncing the photo.
Despite all of the confusion and controversy around The Staged Document, it is still the most
widely used and accepted Photography art style. Gefter goes on to talk about Beate Gutschow, an artist
who dissects images and reconstructs them with elements of other images; JoAnn Verburg an artist who
photograph performance like pictures of scenes that were taken decades ago today; Robert Polidori, an
artist who photographs architecture and reworks the color conditions; Ryan McGinley an artist who
invited guests to be photographed in unconventional scenes; and Eric Fischl. Of these artists, my favorite
was Eric Fischl

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