Date of Award
Bachelor of Communications Honours
School of Communications and Arts
Faculty of Education & Arts
The topic of the exegesis is travel documentary photography. The exegesis is based on previous written academic work on travel documentary photography and it is related to my own experience when photographing the people and the landscapes of Kyrgyzstan. In the exegesis I argue that travel documentary photography is highly subjective and ambiguous. There is no such thing as a purely objective representation of the 'Other'. Rather it is and illusion of objectivity that emerges through the eye of the photographer. In travel documentary photography I argue that we make the 'Others' seem less like us than they are because it is the difference that is interesting. Even though one wishes to photograph things just as they are one just cannot because travel documentary photograph is much more complicated than this. In addition, the exegesis looks at the concept of Orientalism. Orientalism is the key discourse in representing other cultures. Travel documentary photography mostly represents other cultures therefore the concept of Orientalism needs to be taken into account. It is what separates the East from West or as Stuart Hall (1992) calls it the 'West' from the 'Rest'. In terms of my project, Kyrgyzstan could be viewed as the 'Rest' in Orientalising discourses. I then used Edward Said's critique of Orientalism and argued that one cannot consider Kyrgyzstan as the 'Rest'. The 'Rest' is a larger entity compared to the 'West' with different people and cultures that cannot be represented as one. Furthermore, coming from the 'West' and documenting 'Otherness' complicates documentary work because of the tourist gaze and the fact that it is a one-way representation by the photographer. As a result, power relations and ethical issues arise which a documentary photographer needs to consider as part of the research. When photographing in Kyrgyzstan I tried to represent the northern parts of the country in as balanced a manner as possible, for example by not only photographing the exotic, but also modem parts of Kyrgyzstan in the capital. Within the genre of travel documentary photography there are limited strategies of representing the 'Other'. Stereotyped depictions include victims, villains or heroes. One may argue that the Kyrgyz people are victims of poverty, and are depicted as such in my photographic project, but as I experienced when traveling there people did not seem to be discontented because of this. Rather they seemed to be a people with dignity and pride, which I argue is also apparent in my photographs. In the exegesis, I argue that travel documentary photography relies on what Muecke calls contingency, or unforeseen events. By contingency Muecke (2005) means what opportunities that arise by accident, kismet. In other words, one cannot know how the photographs will tum out before one has actually been there. For example in Kyrgyzstan I never knew what people I would meet on the streets at the exact time I was there. What's more, even though I wished to represent Kyrgyzstan as a romantic/exotic place it didn't happen because not everything in Kyrgyzstan was romantic.
McPherson, R. (2006). Time in Kyrgyzstan. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses_hons/1455