Authenticity of the snapshot

In order to develop my work I need to explore how the cheapness/random nature of the snapshot makes it appear for real, even if it isn’t. This exploration started from a conversation with Jon Levy in which he bought to my attention the differences between the photographers I have been looking at.


These two images may seem very different at first, but in some ways they are similar. The both in their own ways make a comment on society, one on modern iconography and the other on woman’s role and popular culture. However David LaChapelle’s image on the left is meticulously composed and lit, everything is in it’s place and controlled, whereas Mariko Mori’s on the right has a low production cost and has elements of randomness in regards to the setting. Is one more ‘honest’ or ‘reliable’ than the other? They both have their points of validation:

David LaChapelle:
When seeing a piece by an established name like David LaChapelle the work has expectations and recognition before it’s even seen. In regards to the relatable nature of the image for the spectator, the popular culture imagery helps us refer it to our real life, we know this is Kurt Cobain and his wife and is an image representing his death. Then we have a second element which makes the image even more relatable, the use of classic painting imagery, the iconic pieta symbolism between Mary and Jesus. Enforced by Kurt’s Jesus like appearance and Courtney Love’s blue draping dress referencing Mary. The whole image is a series of references, popular culture and religious references which instantly make us recognise the imagery. This does not make the image true, but it puts the spectator at ease they can pick out imagery they have seen before. Through the representation and iconography LaChapelle has created authenticity in his image.

Mariko Mori:
Mori’s image is more random. The only thing she has control over is herself. The idea of doing this myself terrifies me, but I think the nature of her work makes the image more authentic and relatable. The public are unaware they are involved in this image and Mori had no way of knowing how the end image would turn out in terms of her surroundings. This real setting makes it transfer over quickly to reality even though Mori is doing something quite fantasy like. nother contributing feature is the camera she has used, the film is grainy the colours are muted in comparison to LaChapelles referencing what we know as cheap film, the unperfections are what give is authenticity and make it relatable to us in our lives. Through the use of location and equipment Mariko mori has created authenticity in her image.

My task will to be to find what I’m comfortable with, I don’t want to simply attempt to replicate these photographers work. I need to get out there are practice where my comfort zone is between the two. I am not a commercial photographer like LaChapelle and I’m not a performance photographer like Mori.

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