The Rachel Tanur Memorial Prize for Visual Sociology

I wrote a short piece for the Social Science Research Council competition. The prize, which is biannual, invites scholars to address one of Rachel’s images from the online gallery. The second component requires the entrant to submit a photo and a short essay for critique. The final submissions are submitted to the board of the ISA’s Visual Sociology Working Group.

Below is my response to one of Rachel’s images, and my submission. The site, with additional details and images can here found here. 

Liquid Borders and Contested Spaces: An Israeli Street in a Palestinian City.

In 2013 I made a research trip to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The purpose of my visit was to conduct interviews and collect visual data. I visited the West Bank and specifically the Palestinian city of Hebron. One photo I took was at the entrance to Al-Shushda Street, an Israeli outpost in the heart of the Arab city.
The photo is clearly denotative of a middle-eastern space. The architecture and stonework, pastoral colours and blue skies are consistent with much of what we’ve come to know from that geographical region. What is less telling is the nature of the space. The school children on the left are entering a military zone. Equally, they are crossing a border that only they, as Israelis, can. The scopic regime that is afforded to Israel and the Occupied Territories is often limited to a number of clichéd journalistic and documentary tropes. Metonymically, the region and its inhabitants are all to often replaced by the icons of geo-political dispute; objects of separation such as walls and barriers, their scale and materiality reduces the occupation down to a simple dispute over borders.
Like my analysis of Rachel’s photo, ‘Two Cuban Kids Look Through a Window’, this image invites a curious spectatorship. The image was taken because I wanted to record what I saw. As Bourdieu notes, I deemed it ‘photographable’, predicating my decision on moral and aesthetic values. However, the image prompts an investigation of the social and formal arrangements within the field of in/visibility. Indexical to the political tension, the photo echoes the trace of an event (Bourdieu, 1990-6-8).
Against the geography of stable, static places and fixed sovereign borders exist deeply penetrative frontiers and elastic territories. These temporary lines are often marked by makeshift boundaries (Weizman, 2004). Such boundaries are not limited to the edge of political space; instead they blur the distinction between what is ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, or ‘us’ and ‘them’. As a British citizen I was afforded the opportunity to explore this makeshift boundary; I was both inside and outside at the same time while loitering sceptically on the boundary (Eagleton, 2004: 40). Revisiting the photo I could sense the atmosphere, more specifically a friction that isn’t overtly evident in the first instance. A definition of friction is ‘the resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another’ (OED, 2012). Looking back upon the image the friction of a geopolitical dispute is clearly evident. Stones on the ground, pitted dints on the cabin and pink paint splashed against the window all testify to the friction of one sovereign object moving over the surface of another.
Two Israeli flags bookend the cabin and lay claim to the contested space, the coil of barbed wire and improvised fence discreetly attest to its volatile nature.

465 words:
Bourdieu, P. 1990. Photography: A Middle-Brow Art. Cambridge: Polly Press.
Eagleton, T. 2003. After Theory. London. Basic Books.
Oxford English Dictionary. 2012. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Weizman, E. 2004. A Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation. London. Verso

 

Commentary on Rachel Tanur’s Works: Cuban Kids at Window

 

Cuban Kids at Window

Examining Rachel’s work and the responses to her images one can assert that a great deal of analytical attention is focused on zones of indistinction (Deleuze, 1987; Agamben, 1998). Adopting the more positive Deleuzion appropriation, these zones function as ‘loci’s of becoming’ and their becoming is multiple. Market places, stalls and transport terminals inform the spectator of the vitality of informal economies locally; those engaged in local market trading and sidewalk vending become visible through commerce and place. But these visibilities are also subject to Rachel’s (and others) inquisitive and touristic gaze that re-packages it for various modes of analysis and consumption. The point here is that each ‘becoming’ overlaps but also remains distinct from one another (Deleuze & Guattari, 1991:20-24). However, some images provide us with less overtly striking visual content, nevertheless, these images often carry accidental gestures or arresting detail that prick and bruise. Roland Barthes (1981) called this the punctum; yet, this prick or bruise can also be an emotive quality. In the following essays, I use the term atmospheres to signal how an image can be made meaningful through emotive readings. In ‘Cuban Kids at a Window’ two small children are seen to be looking through a window at what one suspects is an object of curiosity. As such, the photo embodies multiple layers of curious looking; first by children, then by Rachel who sees the image and takes the photo, and finally by us, the recipient of the image. The two children, immobilised by spectatorship are unaware of Rachel’s gaze. Their relationship to one another is evidently close and comfortable. In shorts and t-shirts both children peer through an open window, equipped with a fan and verdant potted plants that attest to the warm climate. The little girl leans in to her counterpart mimicking an informal, but warm embrace. This image reflects Rachel’s vernacular mode of address. This vernacular form of photography, be it touristic or documentary, forms part of the material with which we make sense of our world, helping us gain control over our surroundings and negotiate with the particularity of our circumstances (Holland, 1992:10). Examining the image further we can see that Rachel is across the road from the children, as such the framing of the image attests to its spontaneity; the top of the window frame through which the subjects of the photo gaze is out of shot, equally the children’s’ off centre positioning affirm that the image is of an unprofessional nature. While the photo is opportune, the narrative is slow. Rachel does not deal with what Henri-Cartier-Bresson famously termed the ‘decisive moment’, instead she trades in atmospheres rather than the proof of an event or an occurrence. Atmospheres cannot be shown; they can only be produced, prompting the investigation of social and formal arrangements in the field of visibility. As visual sociologists we understand that photography is inherently an analytical discipline (Shore, 2007). Every image is therefore a consequence of a chain of decisions, but also the result of an ethical or artistic judgements towards the object being photographed (professional or otherwise). As such this image underpins the logic of sociological enquiry; it reminds us that we are always looking in on something or someone with a curious gaze.

Barthes, R. 1981. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang. Deleuze, G and Guattari F. 1991. Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? (What is Philosophy?). New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
Holland, P and Spence, J, eds. 1992. Family Snaps: The Meaning of Domestic Photography. London: Virago.
Shore, S. 2007.The Nature of Photographs. London: Phaidon.

Following on nicely, Tent review and Art Licks Magazine

Hi everyone, its been some time since I’ve made a post – I’ve been working away at the thesis, and while this is not a blog through which I disseminate my thoughts and theories, in the coming months I will be submitting aspects of my writing for review, should people come across it. I’ll also be uploading drafts of previous papers I’ve delivered.

With that in mind, a review of my talk for Tent can be found in the Spring Edition of Art Licks

art licks 1art licksart licks 2

In the photo above, I can be seen, sat down, with an image by Israel photographer, Gaston Zvi Ickowicz - the images from the series are available in the link.

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Additionally, the public talk is on Vimeo – while you can’t see me, you can list to the session and Q&A.

A note one the image: For me, and /i suspect, for the photographer the building and the image represents a political alienation, one which is embedded in the very appearances of the houses, buildings and occasional portrait photographs of those who ‘occupy’ the spaces which Ickowicz photographs. Through his compositional style the viewer is made aware of ‘non-belonging’ and a resolute defiance to contest it. The relationship between the landscape and the object which is being recorded is obvious. Each object within the image bespeaks no visible, practical relationship to the surroundings.

Such buildings and practices are common – settlements are a manifest practice within the West Bank – how Gaston frames them is done in such a way that it invites a curious spectatorship that makes the spectator ask question, necessary questions….

lastly, a bit more info is available via the Talks Tab

 

Tent Talk review 2013 and more

As Christmas is fast approaching it is customary to look back and reflect upon ones activities, experiences and achievements. Well the guys at Tent Mcr have done just that.
The review also features a little bit about my talk and a link to the video if anyone caries to watch/listen.
Link
With that in mind, I too have had a productive and stimulating year. I successfully completed my RD2 (the transfer report to formalise my studies from MPhil to PhD). I presented two papers, one at the IVSA and one at Brighton University, plus my invited talk and discussion for Tent Mcr.
I have applied for AHRC funding re a collaborative community project using visual techniques and strategies as a means of popular communication and critique. Lastly, I have just returned from my short research trip to Israel which has really helped to ground my research and writing (images and report to follow in the NY).

The Christmas period involves marking essays, drafting chapters and another project application coupled with a NYE trip to Moscow.

Gary.

 

Brighton Universities 8th Annual CAPPE Conference ‘Representation, Politics & Violence

Following on from my presentation at the IVSA at Goldsmiths in June, I saw in the new academic year with a co-edited and co-presented paper at Brighton’s Annual international conference at the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics (CAPPE).

The train journey down was chaotic to say the least, and because I was so rushed, I accidentally sat on the wrong train….however, once I got to london, bought a underground ticket that I didn’t need and made it to Victoria to meet Huw, who had just got off the Eurostar from Paris, we could rest, knowing only one more journey lay ahead of us…until we actually ‘got to Brighton’.

Train ticket madness.

The paper was co-written, edited and presented with my friend and fellow researcher Huw Wahl.The paper concerned political visibilities generally, and then specifically in Israel and Palestine with a focus on Huws fieldwork and subsequent images. The paper can be found in full here and the programme and abstracts are available here as a PDF.

The conference was interesting, and I was fortunate enough to see/experience and continue my relationship with the duo behind the Ministry of Untold Stories who, like they did at the IVSA, staged a performance lecture that traversed political theory, activism, performance as activism, underpinned by dialogue and audience participation: a refreshing change from the norm.

2013-09-12 16.03.03

 

 

 

 

And as always, a trip to Brighton is never complete without the habitual trip to the beach while we waited for our pre-booked & cheap, but hugely inconvenient train home…

2013-09-12 19.12.47

 

IVSA – Goldsmiths – The Public Image

2013IVSAconfposter_0bcdf52703552861ea557f64c389df5cThe IVSA (International Visual Sociology Association) held its annual conference at Goldsmiths College, London, UK in July 2013.
The event was inspired by Michael Burawoy’s concept of “public sociology,” whereby the focus of the IVSA conference entered this notion around the  concept of the “public image”, and the ways that visual sociology can meet Burawoy’s challenge to bring a sociological understanding of social life to a vibrant, active and diverse public.
Public sociology endeavours to bring sociology into dialogue with audiences beyond the academy, an open dialogue in which both sides deepen their understanding of public issues.

The themes covered aspects of: activism and engagement * walking and seeing the city * surveillance * public and private images * resilience and urban change * social networks and virtual image worlds * new visual methodologies * rethinking visual theory * urban visibilities and invisibilities * visual ethics * visual sociological publics.

I was fortunate enough to present a paper on the very engaging and innovative panel ‘The Aesthetics of Activism: Strategies of Visibility – Panel 31.1′. The panel sought to develop upon the notion of ‘public sociology’ by engaging in a conversation as a way to think through the role of visual production in processes of information and counter-information, the making, taking, and recuperating of spaces, public demonstrations and collective insurgencies.
The panel ran all day (the only one to do so – though I may be wrong) and also hosted the only ‘performance lecture’ by the Ministry of Untold Stories.

My paper focused on the role of the photo-essay as a means of visual activism, examining the practice of photovoice and workshops to enable a visibility that a) otherwise would not be made possible and b) functions with duality, as a mode of address and a means of producing political visibility as well as engaging with marginal groups.

My abstract is as follows:

Visual activism and the Photo-essay in the Occupied territories

Written in relation to After the Last Sky, WJT Mitchell (1995) notes how ‘extraordinarily limited’ the image of the Palestinian is. Obscured from the dominant field of vision, Mitchell suggests that ‘visual facts’ which everyone knows in theory, but is rarely seen in practice – the Palestinian woman, the domestic space and children are subsequently constituted as ‘icons’ of an unseen reality that underpin Edward Said and Jean Mohr’s project. As a photo-essay, After the Last Sky has been referred to as a ‘nation-making’ text that sought to produce a new type of visibility concerning the Palestinian. With this in mind, my paper will focus on an online photo-essay facilitated by the Israeli activist photography collective, Activestills in 2012. Based in the Bedouin village of Susiya, located in the Southern Hebron Hills of the Occupied Territories, the photography collective worked in collaboration with the female villagers to produce a series of images based on their own lives. Thus, firstly, I will explore how the photo-essay challenges the universal legibility of an individual photo, interrupting the visual order by which the Palestinian is most commonly framed. Secondly, by focusing specifically on the collaboration between Israeli citizen and unrecognized Palestinian, I will identify how visual activism promotes a widening of the space in which politics can be conceived and performed. By creating new visibilities, in a political process that Jacques Rancière defines as a ‘sense-making practice’ (2006), visual activism tackles the issues of democracy creatively, not as a goal but as a practice that is democratic in its very development. 

The paper was well received and resulted in great intrigue re my PhD thesis. The paper was specifically written with the conference call in mind, but has now become a chapter in my PhD thesis. The conference also afforded me the opportunity to meet up with some old colleagues from the ISA in Buenos Aries, specifically those who make up the ‘Visual Sociology Working Group‘. Since we last meet the group has been upgraded from a thematic group to ‘working group status’- a marker of the good work being done in and around the group and a validation by the ISA that this specific area of research is gaining ground.

Lastly, it should be noted that London was blessed with sunshine for those 3 day, as the view from the opposing terrace after the inaugural wine reception can confirm.
2013-07-08 19.15.12I look forward to next years call!

DJ Listings 2014

Hi all, first European booking of 2014 has come in, for all my German friends, you can catch me in Hamburg where i’ll be spinning at the classic night, For Dancers Only  on the 1st Feb 2014.

Equally exciting is the new flyer for my up-and-coming visit to Zurich (October 25th 2013) which looks pretty decent!

gonzo 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For reference, here is last years – a bit trippy – try and find my name…zurich 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

TENT MCR – October 8th, 2013.

I’m honoured to announce that on October the 8th I’ll be presenting an informal talk and Q&A session for Tent MCR at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester city centre (subject to confirmation).

Tent 2Tent 1The abstract for the presentation can be found on the Tent MCR website and is also at the bottom of the page.

Tent is a great forum and loci for the development of creative ideas and the establishment of networks specifically related to photographic practice.

Constituted at a local level, Tent engages with the regional community offering innovative platforms for discussion, participation and knowledge exchange that is accessible to all.

With that in mind, I hope to offer an insight into how I found my way onto a PhD, how I became interested in visual culture, politics and conflict, and concluding with my current area of research.

The Abstract:

Over the course of this presentation Gary Bratchford, A current Visual Culture PhD student at MIRIAD (MMU) will identify and examine how the visual, in terms of representation, and visibility, in terms of power, work to shape our understanding of conflicts and occupations in recent times.

Bratchford will informally speak about the visual representation of contested spaces asking, in general terms how the spectator is invited to consider, through the indexical signs of human presence the history and legitimacy of the mark left upon the land, and what impact that might have upon the engagement and reading of the image.

The talk will conclude by examining the role of contemporary landscape photography, specifically related to the politics of visibility, space and belonging in the Occupied Palestinian Territories during and beyond the Second Intifada (uprising of 2000).

Bratchford will talk about paper presentations, his research model and how he arrived at his current topic, having initially studied Film Studies and History, while drawing upon his professional experiences outside of academia.

This informal presentation will be particularly useful for undergraduate students of visual studies, interested in how an area of interests can be developed from undergraduate level, into a PhD.

Buenos Aries – ISA International Forum 2012

banner_forum_2012_850-1752012-08-03 15.34.12

I was invited to speak at the Second International Sociological Association (ISA) Forum of Sociology which focused on Social Justice and Democratization, held in Buenos Aries, Argentina, 1-4 August, 2012.

Specifically, I was invited to participate in the Visual Sociology(TG05) research group (Which has subsequently AND I might add, successfully upgraded to a ‘working group’). A Set up in 2009, the Visual Sociology groups aim and purpose is to encourage high quality research on the visual as a field of sociological inquiry and as an investigative tool. The research groups information and area of work can be accessed via the following link:

http://www.isa-sociology.org/tg05.htm

My paper was one of five to be presented presented on the Thursday morning session under the theme “Visual activism in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories: New media technologies enable witnesses and visual citizenship”. However, the Visual Sociology sessions continued throughout the day.

The conference included 3592 participants with the registration statistics and geographical  location of each attendee validating the reach and scope of the Forum :http://www.isa-sociology.org/buenos-aires-2012/registration_statistics.htm

My paper abstract can be found here with my actual paper currently under revision for publication. After my paper has undergone the review period I will upload a PDF. If you have any questions please get in touch.

Finally, it should be noted, that the photo of me and the old lady was a fantastic moment. Having made my presentation I met with two colleagues to explore the city. Crossing the street, I felt a tap, standing next to me was an elderly lady who needed assistance crossing the road. Fluent in English (making up for our collective lack of Spanish), the elderly woman was a total charmer. Naturally both myself and my colleague Steffen (Germany Sociologist of Childhood) offered our arm, ensuring a safe passage across what can only be described as a manic road (you have to witness it to fully grasp the chaos).

In exchange we chatted about this and that, rounding it off with a fantastic photo which she gleefully accepted to be part of.

Acknowledgement: German Sociologist and ‘fuddy-duddy’ spotter Lars Alberth for taking the photo.

Welcome

teaGary Bratchford

Email g.bratchford@mmu.ac.uk or garyphdmmu@gmail.com

Twitter @GaryBratchford

mmu.academia.edu/GaryBratchford

Hello and welcome to my site, where I will post up my progress, my outputs and elements of my photographic practice. I’ll also put up future DJ appearances and events.

 

I am a PhD researcher at the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD). This work focuses on the visual representation and mediation of anti-occupation activism, carried out by Israeli and international visual activists since the Second Palestinian Intifada, and specifically from 2004 onwards. in short, its a brief overview of my current and forthcoming research activity and anything else that is remotely interesting and related to me or my work… and of course, a little bit of music.

My PhD is driven by a desire to explore the visual culture that is embodied within activist practices and the mediation of marginality to local and international audiences.

With a background in visual studies, specifically lens based practices, I developed an interest in the visual representation of conflict and the construction of various political and social narratives mediated through imagery, text and symbolism in popular culture, press and politics.

Prior to my PhD I taught Film and Media and also worked as a festival planner and grant writer for Spearfish Ltd. Aside from delivering events and festivals, I worked with private and public sector agencies to promote classical and contemporary European art and culture. Working with some of Europe’s leading cultural institutions and art agencies, street artists and photographers on a number of projects, my interest in visual culture and my own practice as a photographer has helped to support my own development as a researcher.