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Summary: Primary Sources in Subjectivity

Multiple primary sources explore the portrayals of subjectivity in photography. For the purposes of this course, four primary sources were examined in depth. Each approaches subjectivity from a different angle.

#iftheygunnedmedown is a tweet campaign which emerged following the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police. When news of the killing first broke on social media, this photo was the one accompanying the announcement that the 17 year old was killed. The hashtag began as an online protest, asking about the selection of photos used in media, specifically involving minorities. Posts take the form of two photos, questioning which of the photos would be used in the media if they were victims of police shootings. One photo tends to be a racially charged snapshot, juxtaposed with another photo of the same person in other situations lacking the stereotypes. The photos used to represent minority victims of police brutality in media, as well as many other forms of crime, are biasedly selected, portraying a simplified, inaccurate version of the person.

#feministselfie is another hashtag campaign, but its focus is entirely different than #ifthegunnedmedown. In #feministselfie, people supporting feminism post selifies that may or may not meet the expectations of standard selfie-taking practices, which privilege traditional standards of beauty. Putting forth that selfies are a mode of empowerment, #feministselfie posts take many forms, simply stating that all selfies, and therefore, all people, can be accepted and empowered by their own bodies.

Noah K. Everyday looks at the individual, day-by-day representation of one man. The presentation of this project takes the form of a photograph taken of his face every day. These photos are scrolled through in video format, where about six photos per second are shown. Each photo is shot from a standard ID photo level, showing his face and the tops of his shoulders. In each photo, he maintains a neutral expression, even as his clothes, hair, and background changes consistently. The video format draws attention to how Noah is seen and sees himself on a daily basis.

The Awkward Years Project asks for submissions from viewers were they take ownership of their “awkward years”—i.e., adolescence and teen years. Many people feel ashamed of photographs taken during this time of their life, and the blog attempts to reverse this feeling of embarrassment. These submissions take the form of “before and after” pictures, where one is typically an unattractive photo taken during their teen years, and the other one of the same subject more recently. Each photo set is paired with a written description discussing the physical and emotional changes represented by the photo set.

About betsybrey

Betsy Brey (BA and MA, University of Minnesota Duluth) is a PhD candidate specializing in game studies at the University of Waterloo department of English Language and Literature. Her research focuses on the narratological impacts of game mechanics. In particular, she researches mechanics and storytelling in metagames, virtual reality, and role-playing games. She works with the IMMERSe research network and The Games Institute, where her research has been funded with a Mitacs partnership. She is also the Editor-in-Chief for FirstPersonScholar.


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