#Phonar Session 6 – Sara Davidmann Reflection.

Initially a painter and working with sculpture, Sarah Davidmann got into photography in 1999. Aware that “photography was the way to go”, she began by just taking snaps. With the “dreadful stereotype of transgender people” Davidmann produced the body of work Crossing the line, 2003 shooting mainly in film and sometimes digital for convenience of showing people her images right away. Conscious of the importance of the collaborative element, Davidmann allows her models to see photos straight away and allow them to delete particular ones they didn’t like – authorship on her part but allowing her participants to interact. For some of her images, Davidmann shot from a high angle on her model lying down reflecting the “perspective that is placed on them”. Robert and Me, me and Robert was created when Davidmann became conscious of the imbalance between her naked model whilst she was behind the camera, worried about “taking something from somebody through photography”. They worked together to produce a number of photographs, experimenting with who had power in the image through who took the photo, if one of them was naked and more. Davidmann also challenged the imbalance of power through Eve. Adam and the Garden of Earthly Delights where for every photo she took, she allowed her participant to take one of her. When Davidmann discovered a family secret, she was asked by her Mother to keep it to herself but by doing so she was going against the transgender stereotype she had tried to break. Ken. To be destroyed is a body of work about her transgender uncle after uncovering a number documents and letters about him, with the idea of creating a conversation with her photography family album.

Through Davidmann’s talk, something I found interesting is actually hearing her thoughts and reasons for using the equipment she does. Davidmann explains about shooting with the Mamiya RZ meaning working primarily in film. This also allows her to produce high quality large prints. However, she does keep a digital SLR to hand as it allows her to show her models the image straight away. Considering today it is all about becoming digital, I think this shows how we can use both mediums to our advantage. Davidmann talks about her preference of the quality of film prints, although we cannot edit them in the way we can edit digital. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Should photos be created the best they can be when actually taken, rather than spending so much time in post-production, creating a picture, idea or message that wasn’t necessarily there? Then of course this leads onto the huge debate of authenticity of images. Does this mean that film prints are more authentic than those which are digital? Nonetheless, I like the way Davidmann shoots with how and what she wants, while still incorporating digital for her advantage. She also speaks about how she needs equipment she is comfortable with and can use without thinking – “an extension of self”. I found this interesting because I know in myself, working with unfamiliar equipment can be concerning and time consuming. Being confident with your equipment is efficient and effective and with your subject recognising this, it can make the situation more comfortable for both. Or could it highlight the imbalance of power, with the photographer essentially having more knowledge and direction with what they want and make their subject do this for them?

Davidmann has challenged the problem of power through her own bodies of work and I personally think she has successfully made her models feel involved. Such as allowing them to see their photos straight after the photo shoot so they can delete any that they don’t like – Davidmann appreciates how important it is for her model to want their image out there and be proud of it. Is this something all photographers should consider? Should the model have the right to tell the photographer which photos to delete – what if the situation arises where the photographer loves a photo but the model does not? The model may not always see themselves how a photographer does. Why does the photographer have the right to shoot and keep the images they want and who says the model can’t choose which they do and don’t published. Because essentially, the photographer does have the power – even through the body of work Robert and Me, me and Robert Davidmann admitted she still always seemed to have control despite the different approaches they used to challenge this. Why is it that we feel we have to challenge the power of the photographer? Is this appropriate for certain genres of photography, but not necessarily for others?

Finally whilst talking about the idea of having a conversation with her photography family album, Davidmann spoke of ‘spaces’ in family albums as we only seem to photograph happy events. “Family albums are key ways in how family histories are told but they do not tell everything”. We tend not to include hard times or things considered unacceptable into our albums. We look at photo albums to remember the good times, to bring back memories and feelings of nostalgia – would we want to remember the hurt and upset of a hard time? I think if things weren’t included in a family album, they may want to be forgotten and although this is essentially ‘hiding’ parts of a family history, it allows us to enjoy and appreciate the good.

Sara Davidmann’s talk can be heard here.


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on November 6, 2014.

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