3. Posing as What?
Published: 09.11.2013
in the series Marvin Heiferman
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Montage of Students Posing Awkwardly for What Turns Out to be a Video Camera:


4 comment(s)
Pete Brook
Posted 12.11.2013 at 06:06

I delivered a lecture to students at Nottingham Trent in 2011, so I don't want to be too harsh here. And besides, I've held a pre-determined face to a camera before which makes me as programmed as anyone to adopt a pose/a face for later public consumption.
There's also the fact that these young adults are in an establishment that serves alcohol and—judging by the face paint—are part of an early year (fresher's week?) organised event in which University newbies are keen to appear outgoing and thus forge new friendships. This format of video would be much more entertaining if it were composed of politicians behaving for the camera and bringing questions to bear on their authenticity or trustworthiness. Instead, we're in the throngs of college kids gone not too wild.
More than anything, I applaud the videographer for the concept inasmuch he or she determined the visual result of the project (or should we call it a prank?) and secured the intended mood, namely awkward.
What we are shown is how we are all prepped for performance for the camera. No surprise there. I have a 5-year-old nephew who has already had 3 school portraits made in his short life. But those staged smiles don't compare to the times his uncontrolled laughter is caught on camera.
For me, this video is a call to put down the camera, to shy away. I'm not going to go far as the hyperbolic statements made about this and the Selfie phenomenon among the millennial generation as mass narcissism. But I will say they are boring.
No harm, no foul, though. Images are so cheap to make and share that most people are going to conclude that posing quickly is a low-risk effort in marketing one’s own life. We've always posed for photographs but now we can safely assume they'll surface on our social networks in a matter of hours. We're all involved in identity management.
Christopher Poole, founder of 4Chan and cheerleader for online anonymity, said in 2011 that Facebook was not simply about sharing as Facebook wants us to believe. Mark Zuckerberg has said that multiple user accounts lack integrity but Poole argues it is natural human that we present ourselves to the world differently in different situations. We are complex beings and as such the idea one identity in virtual space mirrors perfectly an identity in meatspace is a bit absurd.
We perform for the camera lens differently too. Some of our identities tacitly avoid the camera (bedroom behaviour, addictions, divisive cultural or religious pursuits). The poses in the video are for public consumption. It seems to me that social networks are about branding the self rather than sharing the self. Photos are a crucial part of that.
There are potential downsides too. Our attitudes toward images changes with time, just as our attitudes to social behaviour change with time. Countless of my friends have been advised by careers-folk, University colleagues and potential employers to clean up their social media presences and remove just the type of images we see in the above video!
How does this all fit in? Well, we know we're creating millions of images everyday. I contend they're used as throw away communication—more about the moment and not at all about posterity. They're about short, sharp statements. Instagram is a self-branding gift; those photographs of aeroplane window-views, babies, coffees, dogs, food-plates and cocktails are a statement of what you are as much as they are what you are doing.
These University students are posing as a statement that says, “Here. Now. Fun. Fun-haver.” They're putting down a marker and, I would argue, they understand that images now circulate far beyond the single physical print used to.

Peter Burleigh
Posted 13.11.2013 at 01:39

The pose has two dynamics. The first is the correct compositional arrangement, the second is the content that can then be articulated through this composition. The self-conscious recognition of the pose as the photographic event is a spectre that haunted photography from its inception—think Hippolyte Bayard “selfie”—playing with time, death and identity. Pose yourself as dead, act dead.

The simple trick of faking a video camera as a still camera, as Peter says, reveals the way in which a pose is struck such that a particular identity can be assumed at any particular moment. If it tells us anything more it is that duration is elastic, flexible, subjective—what we normally experience without any technological intervention. Whereas a technological time—the one of clocks, timetables, and camera clicks, is striated and discrete. Holding a pose for several seconds to have it captured on camera—a framed disruption of time recorded as a spatial representation—is the inevitable fallout of the rehearsal of received images—how we should look at a crazy fresher’s night, or weeding reception, or christening, or first communion etc. That we pose in such circumstances doesn’t necessarily do down the relevance of those life moments, it just indicates that we know how to conform to the rhetoric of the image such that we can point to the representation of the event as indexical. The cause creates an effect, and we emulate that in posing for the camera: having a good time (cause) crazed-tongue-out-of-mouth-angled-head-pose (effect).

Other kinds of photographs of ourselves elsewhere than at home—touristic images—are also telling. The familiar images accompanying travel in the past pictured tiny figures dwarfed by a dominant backdrop have given way to the tourist themselves and no longer the site of tourism being central in the image. This move is a shift from photographs marking the individual as a witness to the world, a repoussoir to the scene, the narrator who is placed conveniently to introduce the time, place and events that surround the taking of the image. Instead, the subject now fills the frame of experience—the self is moving towards being image, and no longer realized as a witness of another external world. The urge to manifest presence in a destabilized world converts us into virtual images, parallel lives, becoming slices of real. And we get drawn into cutting more and more and more slices, documenting and mediating ourselves every step of the way, establishing a parallel, virtual self.

David Campbell
Posted 15.11.2013 at 13:23

Julian Germain's "Classroom Portraits" is a great project that links to the themes here - see http://www.juliangermain.com/projects/classrooms.php

Germain also shot video of some of the portrait sessions and these have been screened as part of a show for The Social - http://www.thesocialnepn.co.uk/portfolio/you-are-the-company-in-which-you-keep/ I don't think the videos are online, but they show the school students sitting and posing for the images, and then their release once they are told the photo has been made. Seeing the students before and after is to appreciate how they hold themselves and pose.

Marvin Heiferman
Posted 24.11.2013 at 00:52

Here's another one, this time it's of Dublin Hipsters, and was forwarded by the folks at Aperture: http://www.featureshoot.com/2013/11/dublin-hipsters-tricked-into-posing-for-video/

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