Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

photography

Pet Costumes & Staging Human-Animal Relations

black and white photo of a dog and cat in turn of the century clothing

from buzzfeed.com

In his 2010 text, Developing Animals: Wildlife and Early American Photography, Matthew Brower considers the constructed nature of wildlife photography and what it tells us about historical understandings of human-animal relations. Brower is the curator of the University of Toronto Art Centre and a lecturer in museum studies in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. Beginning with an analysis of early American photographs of taxidermy, his text examines the practice of “camera hunting” in the nineteenth century, the invention of the photographic blind and Abbott Thayer’s use of photographs to make arguments about animal coloration and camouflage. Brower argues that examining these photographic practices illustrates how they construct a particular narrative of the relationship between animals and humans. Brower suggests that photos of perceived “wild animals” are staged to tell a particular story about the historical constitution of the animal and human-animal interaction.

Browsing Between Cute Baby Animals and Tragedy

Image Credit: klaynexas 3, escapistmagazine.com 

          A post that links to images of cute animals is a common sight on Facebook these days. We share articles such as “13 Pictures of Humans Hugging Animals That Will Make You Feel Better” and “27 Baby Animals That Will Instantly Make Your Day Better.” Within the articles, these images are framed in terms of how they make the reader feel, how they will comfort us and raise us from whatever mental state (by implication, a negative one) we were in when we found them.

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“Rueful Reluctance:” An Unwitting Cat Owner’s Search for Meaning Among Memes


Image Credit: "Nyan Cat-Pop Tart Cat," by Chris Torres

Last week, my neighbor stopped by to tell me that he was moving, and that pets were not allowed at his new residence.  With all due histrionics, he lamented the fact that he was going to take her to the shelter, and that “unless anybody here wants to adopt her, [insert overly dramatic sigh] I guess she’ll probably be put down.”

The Most Democratic Selfie?

 

Image Source: eonline 

"By bringing together and posing a pack of rascals, male and female, dressed up like carnival-time butchers and washerwomen,  and in persuading these ‘heroes’ to ‘hold’ their improvised grimaces for as long as the photographic process required, people really believed they could represent the tragic and the charming scenes of history" -Baudelaire

After last week’s Oscar’s ceremony, a number of critics lauded Ellen DeGeneres’s performance as “warm,” "accessible,” and most interestingly, “democratic.” The gimmick, of course, which earned her the most attention was the big Oscar’s Selfie. After all, what could be more charming than everyone’s favorite celebrities acting like ordinary people; seemingly thrilled at the mere chance to be on television? Thinking about this selfie, and the comment that Ellen was so “democratic” brought to mind the oft touted expression that photography is “the great democratic medium.” In an interesting way, the Oscar’s Selfie is the perfect encapsulation of that saying.

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Sontag on Photography

Susan Sontag: from On Photography to Regarding the Pain of Others    

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Image as argument

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