Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs by Howarth

This essay is the one that sparked my idea about Mann employing her gaze on her children as a response to her father’s distant approach to fatherhood. It really struck me as being ‘true’  and even though I think the assessors will say it is too much of a stretch (as my tutor did) for some reason I feel strongly in going with it.  I have done some more research and have hopefully made the connections more academic and plausible (see assignment 4).

Also, looking back at this essay after my tutor’s feedback, I saw more connections and that is that both Arbus and Mann were accused of exploiting vulnerable subjects for their own purposes. Sontag equated this with Arbus trying to deal with her privileged upbringing.  So my connection is that both women were dealing with issues from their upbringing and as a result both produced work that was not necessarily well-received by the public.


Howarth, S. (2005) Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs. London: Tate Publishing.




Photographs void of meaning?

The coursework asks us to ponder the notion that photographs might not be used as a means of expression or communication.  I don’t think there is such a photograph.  At the most simple, the photograph is a communication of someone’s interest.  They took the time to shoot the image, so there must have been something there.  At the most complex there is of course the constructed image where meaning is in everything from the lighting to the props, etc.

I guess photographs that are errors or taken by small children could be considered in this way (no meaning).  But even photographs such as these could be deconstructed by a keen photography student to have some kind of meaning.=)  Something along the lines of ‘the innocence of child play’  or ‘the chance photograph.’ As humans, we are wired to categorize and make meaning, so I think all photographs carry meaning, whether it is the same to different people or even wrong because the impression of the viewer in making meaning is a part of the deconstruction of texts.

Exercise–Elliott Erwitt’s tiny dog

How has Erwitt structured this image? What do you think the image is ‘saying’? How does the structure contribute to this meaning? Make some initial comments.
Erwitt has clearly gotten down on the ground or cropped the top part of this photograph to focus on the tiny and smartly dressed dog.  Next to the dog is a set of slim legs bedecked in long, black leather boots and at first glance, next to those legs are another set of slim legs…but upon further inspection it is clearly seen that they are the legs of a much larger dog.
The juxtaposition of the long, slender legs with that of the short, pudgy dog create a sense of humor in the image.  One wonders why that little dog is dressed that way and why the woman is out walking these two vastly different animals. Had we seen their full bodies, it would not have been as effective (thus humorous) since the eye plays a trick on you with the way Erwitt structured the image.
It can also be a comment on the ridiculousness of rich culture and their pets.  The way the small dog is dressed is made even more ridiculous by the dog eye level shot and the presumably Great Dane standing leg to leg with their mistress.