Shoot - Exhibition Notes - The Photographers` Gallery



Shoot - Exhibition Notes - The Photographers` Gallery
12 OCTOBER 2012 – 6 JANUARY 2013
“The symbolic meaning
of this specific way of
shooting oneself is
apparent… this mortal
duel engenders an
image. Looking at his
portrait afterward, the
shooter sees he trained
his gun on himself...
The whole attraction
plays with the thrill of
being one’s own
executioner; a quick
peep into the vertigo of
self destruction.”
Clement Cheroux
Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Photo-shot, fairground at Porte d’Orléans, Paris, June 1929,
© Jazz Editions / Gamma / Gamma-Rapho, Courtesy of The Photographers’ Gallery, London
The camera and the gun
The Passing of time
Editing and sequencing
Re-appropriating images
Photography and death
For more information please
contact: Jai Tyler, Education
and Projects Organiser
[email protected]
These notes have been written
by Jai Tyler, Education and
Projects Organiser at The
Photographers’ Gallery
Look at the analogies between the camera and the gun
Analyse the title of the exhibition Shoot! Existential Photography
Ask: Who is the artist, when images are re-appropriated?
Question: When taking a photograph are we freezing time or highlighting
the passing of time?
Page 2 of 6
The pre-visit sheet focuses on main themes in the artists’ work via discussion
points and an activity.
The activity sheet provides things to think about and activities to do in the
gallery using work by exhibiting artists.
Post-visit activities suggest follow-up work and projects which link with the
main themes explored.
Note: we recommend that you make a pre-visit to the exhibition before
bringing a class.
For more information, please contact: Jai Tyler, Education & Projects
Organiser, [email protected]
In the period following World War 1, a curious attraction appeared in
fairgrounds; the photographic shooting gallery. If the punter’s bullet hit the
centre of the target, a camera was triggered. Instead of winning a balloon or a
toy, the participant would win a snapshot of him or herself in the act of
Shoot! Existential Photography investigates the numerous analogies between
taking photographs and shooting. Showcasing vernacular and vintage images
alongside contemporary pieces, the exhibition will trace back the history of this
image making process from its days as a popular sideshow to its reappropriation by various artists.
Page 3 of 6
“Like guns and cars,
cameras are fantasymachines whose use
is addictive.
However, despite the
extravagances of
ordinary language
and advertising, they
are not lethal… The
camera/gun does not
kill, so the ominous
metaphor seems to
be all bluff... Still,
there is something
predatory in the act
of taking a picture.
To photograph
people is to violate
them, by seeing them
as they never see
themselves, by
having knowledge of
them they can never
have; it turns people
into objects that can
be symbolically
possessed. Just as the
camera is a
sublimation of the
gun, to photograph
someone is a
sublimated murder –
a soft murder,
appropriate to a sad,
frightened time.”
Susan Sontag
Christian Marclay, Stills from Crossfire, 2007, Audio-visual installation on four screens, 8 min 27 s,
loop. Courtesy of the artist, White Cube and The Photographers’ Gallery, London
Existentialism is a philosophical belief that knowledge is gained through direct
experience rather than through reason.
Read the exhibition introduction [above] and discuss what ‘existential
photography’ could mean in this instance?
Read the quote by Susan Sontag [left]. Discuss the similarities between
a camera and a gun
Write a list of analogies between a camera and a gun
− Language (shoot, load, canon, aim, trigger)
− Activation (pressing or pulling)
− Use of a viewfinder
− Stalking of a subject (animal or human, paparazzi)
This exhibition features several artists interested in the relationship between
the camera and the gun. Before visiting the exhibition ask students to research
at least two of these artists in depth and feedback to the group.
Erik Kessels: In almost every picture
#7 (1936 – 2010)
Sylvia Ballhause: Shooting Himself
(2008), Shooting Myself (2008),
Shooting Range (2007)
Patrick Zachmann: The Last Shot
Agnes Geoffray: The Female
Shooter (2005)
Niki de Saint Phalle: Fire at Will
Emilie Pitoiset: Just Because (2010)
Jean-Francois Lecourt: Shots (1985 –
Steven Pippin: A Non Event
Christian Marclay: Crossfire (2007)
Rudolf Steiner: Pictures of me
shooting myself into a picture (1997)
Page 4 of 6
Ria van Dijk, Photo-shot, Oosterhout, Netherlands, 1978, Polaroid, 10.8 x 8.8cm, © Erik Kessels.
Courtesy Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Courtesy of The Photographers’ Gallery, London
Please note:
• Shoot! Existential Photography is a charging exhibition, with student
rates. Visit our website for more information:
• the Christian Marclay work on the fifth floor is not suitable for under
• the shooting gallery on the fifth floor is not available to under 18s.
• When visiting the exhibition please begin on the fourth floor and move
up to the fifth.
Initial questions and discussion points:
What are your first impressions of the exhibition?
How does colour play a part in the exhibition?
Find the artists that you researched in depth before coming to the exhibition:
Does seeing the work exhibited change your opinion of the work or the
way you look at the work? If so, how?
Focusing on Erik Kessels: In Almost Every Picture (1936 – 2010):
Look closely at the range of photographs presented here. There are
many similarities but what differences can be found?
What is the effect of having each photograph surrounded by a coloured
picture frame?
Read the quote below and discuss how these photographs show the
passing of time:
“To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s)
mortality… Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all
photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
Page 5 of 6
Susan Sontag
Focusing on Christian Marclay: Crossfire (2007):
Describe how this installation makes you feel.
Discuss how the installation would differ if there were no sound.
The exhibition is made up of several artists and works. It presents vintage and
vernacular images alongside contemporary pieces:
Do you feel that this exhibition comes together as a whole? Why? Why
Is there an overall difference between the work shown on the fourth
and fifth floor? If so what?
Looking back at your discussions and research before visiting the exhibition as
a group ask:
Have your views on the link between the camera and the gun changed?
If so how and why?
Did seeing the work in an exhibition change what you thought of any of
the artists? If so how?
In the exhibition several of the artists used images given to them by other
people. In the case of Erik Kessels, In almost every picture #7 all of the
photographs in this exhibition were taken by Ria van Dijk.
Discuss as a group: Who is the artist, Ria van Dijk, Erik Kessels or,
perhaps, the bullet that hit the camera shutter?
Research other artists who have re-appropriated images.
Question: Does the original artwork have to be altered or changed in
some way by the artist in order to make it theirs?
The images of Ria van Dijk show clearly the passage of time, placed in
chronological order we see the subject’s wrinkles appear, fashions change and a
walking stick appear by her side. By taking a photograph we capture a slice of
Research other photographers or artists that record or work with the
passing of time:
− Nicholas Nixon: The Brown Sisters
− Phillip Toledano: Day with my father
− Eadweard Muybridge
Page 6 of 6
As a group read the quote below:
“In front of the photograph of my mother as a child, I tell myself: she is going
to die… Whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is this
Roland Barthes
By capturing a photograph are we freezing time or highlighting the
passing of time?
Discuss the connection between photography and death.
Practical Activity
Try making a series of self portrait photographs using a self timer or trigger
release. How much control can you have? Discuss what kind of control people
would have over their portrait taken in a shooting gallery. What factors impede
their control? What kind of a photograph is produced? Is it a positive, negative
or ‘neutral’ self portrait? Discuss.
Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 18.00
Thursday 10.00 – 20.00
Sunday 11.30 – 18.00
If you are planning on bringing a
group larger than 10 to
the Gallery, please contact us.
A limited number of tours
for school, college and
community groups are available at
£50 per group of up to 30 people.
Visit our website or telephone for
more information.
+44 (0)20 7087 9300
[email protected]
16 – 18 Ramillies Street,
London W1F 7LW
Nearest underground:
Oxford Circus

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