Exercise 3.4 The gaze (p.70)


Produce a series of five portraits that use some of the types of gaze defined. The specifics of how you achieve this are down to you; you choose which types of gaze you wish to address and who your subject might be in relation to this decision. What you’re trying to achieve through these portraits is a sense of implied narrative, which you can explain through a short supporting statement. Don’t try and be too literal here; the viewer must be able to interact with the portraits and begin to make their own connection to the work, aided by the type of gaze you’ve employed.


The Direct Address


The Direct Address



The Direct Address


The Look of the Camera



The Spectator’s Gaze



The Spectator’s Gaze

All photographs except the last one of (the lady with the cinnamon bark) were taken at a mining place in Srilanka.  The first three photographs imply direct gaze where the subjects are looking at the camera.  This type of gaze suggests acknowledgement of the photographer.  Facial expression here is very important.  The subjects look back with different faces and different gazes.  In all three we see a returned gaze accompanied by a friendly smile.  This establishes communication to the muted confrontational role of the returned gaze.

“Frontality is a central technique of a ‘documentary rhetoric’ in photography” (Tagg 1998: 189)

Women look more into the camera than men, children and older people more than other adults, the poor more than the wealthy.  In Srilanka, the people are very friendly thus they tend to look at the camera more.  The workers in the first three photographs looking at the camera here signify naturalness and friendliness.

The fourth photograph implies the look of the camera or the photographer’s gaze.  The photograph subject matter, composition, framing, depth of field, color balance, sharpness etc. all are of result of the photographer’s choice.  I stood in the worker’s place and shot out over his back to capture his hand and work.  This gives the viewer the chance to share the photographer’s interest in what the subject is doing rather than the worker himself.

The last two photographs are the Spectator’s gaze.  We get to know who the worker is by reading his/her gaze while they are paying attention to what they are doing rather than the camera.

In short, all photographs tell stories about looking.

Bibliography / References:

Wells, L. (ed) (2003) The Photography Reader. Abingdon: Routledge.





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