Freud – The Uncanny – 1919

In response to my symposium, Shaun Hydes said it might be worth looking at the Uncanny. I am not sure wether I am going to be using it because my talk already runs 11 minutes, so instead of doing an in depth analysis on the original text I will look at other people’s summaries and go from there.

David Morris’ notes

The German word “unheimlich” is considered untranslatable; our rough English equivalent, “uncanny”, is itself difficult to define. This indescribable quality is actually an integral part of our understanding of the uncanny experience, which is terrifying precisely because it can not be adequately explained. Rather than attempting a definition, most critics resort to describing the uncanny experience, usually by way of the dream-like visions of doubling and death that invariably seem to accompany it. These recurrent themes, which trigger our most primitive desires and fears, are the very hallmarks of Gothic fiction.

According to Freud’s description, the uncanny “derives its terror not from something externally alien or unknown but–on the contrary–from something strangely familiar which defeats our efforts to separate ourselves from it” (Morris). Freud discusses how an author can evoke an uncanny response on the part of the reader by straddling the line between reality and unreality within the fiction itself. In The Fantastic, Todorov goes to some length to distinguish his structuralist approach to this genre from a Freudian psychoanalytic approach; nonetheless, he shares many of Freud’s conclusions, especially in attributing literary terror to the collapsing of the psychic boundaries of self and other, life and death, reality and unreality.

Although Freud never mentions Gothic fiction in his essay, and Todorov partially excludes it from his, critics of the Gothic have drawn heavily upon both of them, often in conjunction with one another. Terry Castle’s article on the “other” in Radcliffe’s novels and Peter Brook’s essay on The Monk are two examples of this combined theoretical approach. Although Margaret Anne Doody does not mention Freud or Todorov specifically, her essay–which describes how Radcliffe blurs the distinction between dreams and reality within her novels–seems indebted to both of them. This emphasis on dreams is also essential to any analysis of Frankenstein, a text which is itself the product of a dream-vision and which seems to capture the very essence of the uncanny.

From this I learn that the Uncanny is something that doesn’t quite sit right, but not because it’s unusual to us, most times it is familiar but something has been added, changed or removed to make it seem strange. This is relevant to the activists work I am talking about in my project, they play with context to make sure the audience feels uncomfortable enough to question what they are seeing. I will now re-read my talk and decided wether it’s worth taking something out to add this point in.

Masayoshi Sukita

As well as photographers who use Japanese Pop Culture for artistic influence, there are also those who physically photograph the popular culture, creating iconic images that are hung up on hundreds of teenagers walls all over Japan.

Masayoshi Sukita has been photographing David Bowie for over 40 years, Bowie is a huge Pop sensation in japan even today, and Sukitas images of him have been reproduced thousands of times and helped define an icon.

2012 marks the release of Bowie and Sukita’s collaboration book. “Speed of life” a photo book with a journey of 40 years of photos.

In their fine bound edition, the authors have opened up Sukita’s archives to assemble a 300-page photo essay which, captioned with their own recollections and memories, traces the development of Bowie’s remarkable career from 1972 to the present day.

Photographer Masayoshi Sukita with David Bowie ,1989.


The exhibition of prints form the book is being held at Shibuya Parco Museum, in Tokyo Japan, Aug 25th – Sep 17th.

My main influences

Pierre et Gilles

main themes: pop culture, religion, modern deities, beauty, fine art

David LaChapelle

main themes: religion, human body, sex, celebrity

Umberto Boccioni

main themes: violence, technology, movement

Looking at my influences and then looking at my own work I have realised that I have quite a painterly approach to my work. I literally see photography as painting with light, using the light like a paintbrush. Whilst I pre-visualise my images like any other photographer, I always start with darkness, and then slowly built in light, for that reason I use a lot of strong ligt contrasting with darkness in my images. The only work where I haven’t done this is my Cosplay images, but even when asked to shoot at LAC I requested the use of a black, dark grey background, but they insisted I used white.

It’s also interesting to note the use of pop culture in Pierre et Gilles & Lachapelle’s work, although Western pop culture doesn’t interest me, Japanese pop culture does and not in the way you might assume, it’s not physical people but fictional characters, hello kitty, Naruto & Hatsune Miku arent real, yet they are each with millions and dominate Japanese pop culture. Japanese modern society is the only one which is dominated by femininity and women and in a world full of pressure and expectations “Kawaii Culture” alows people to escape into their childhood, I am currently reading a book “Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential” which discusses how teenage girls dominate popular culture and how they did it. This could be a root to go down as it is where I want my photography to spread into after Uni, but might have to be avoided due to not being able to go to Japan for research.

It seems that the subject area I am drawn to is pop culture, J-Culture in particular, and the technique I use is quite artistic and constructed, as meticulously planned as a painting.

Dave Niysche: Conceptual Photography

Taken from his website:

In 2002 Dave bought a camera to shoot some family stuffs.

One wintry day he decided to go into his basement and try shooting some studio stuff.

For the next 3 years all he did, aside from work, was shoot. He’d spend 40-60 hours a week in his basement clicking away.

During that time the art world started noticing. He had his first solo show after shooting for only 18 months.

Eventually through this process he found his own voice. Shooting human subjects was never his intention.

He wanted to find a way to bring out human emotions in inanimate objects.

After all these years he is still growing and looking for ways to inject emotion into images.

Dave’s work has been featured in over a hundred magazines world wide (Digital Photo (UK), 
Popular Photography (US), Unique Image (Taiwan), Digi Photo (Romania), Shutterbug (US), 
Popular Photography (China), Australian Photographer (AU) magazines to mention just a few), 
he’s had shows around the globe and is considered a fresh voice in photography. 
His images are immediately identifiable and in the abundant world of art photography these days, 
that’s pretty amazing."

David LaChapelle ‘Jesus is my home boy’

A video of the opening night of ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ in London (13/10/2008) made by Matt Robinson

What i found interesting about this video was finding out that in this shot

the tear which is a reference to the biblical story of Mary Magdalene but instead of washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, the tear on this womans face is seamen. This raises all sorts of questions, is it a reference to her prostitute past? is it about jesus’ apparent relationship with Mary Magdalene? LaChapelle leaves this to us to decode, he always says he isn’t trying to be controversial or shock anyone, maybe it’s because we live in such a sexualised culture this is how it might be in a modern day situation. A lot of people raise issues of sexuality in David LaChapelle’s work, in this case, Mary Magdalene has been depicted naked for a long time, it is meant to reference her sins, as LaChapelle is doing in this image by putting her in red underwear, the colour of the devil.

Maru Magdalene by Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli painted in the 1500's and she is naked

David LaChapelle in Detail

David LaChapelle is an American photographer who got his big break given to him then the legendary Andy Warhol, who offered LaChapelle a job at Interview magazine.

From then on his career got stronger and stronger, being commisioned to shoot for magazines such as GQ and italian Vogue.

After this LaChappelle explored video as an art form, little did I know I have been a fan of LaChapelle’s work for a long time…

Christina Aguilera ‘Dirrty’ Produced by David LaChapelle

Blink 182 ‘Felling This’ Produced by David LaChapelle

Following this he decided to make a documetary about Krump dancing called ‘Rize’.

He has now moved back into more arty work, heres an interview explaining why.