Understanding Visual Culture- Part 3- Author, What author?

After reading and making notes on  “What is an Author?” by Michel Foucault and “The Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes. We had to look at the work of Sherrie Levine and Cindy Sherman as their work seems to be derived from the two articles above. We also had to answer a few questions relating to their work and the articles.

Sherrie Levine


Sherrie Levine is famed for photographing, in 1979, the work of Walker Evans. The images of The Burroughs from Alabama were taken in 1936.

Mostly I feel it relates to Foucault’s “What is an Author?”. I have drawn a number of conclusions from Levine’s work such as

  • Her work is merely “re-written” works with ever so slight changes made to them. As Foucault mentions, within the first paragraph, that when we try to reconstruct things such as concepts and literary genres, they can never be as good or as solid as the original work. This is because the “re-writer” doesn’t have the same intentions and knowledge of the original author.
  • As she is essentially seen to be “copying” Evans’ work however it could perhaps be that she is using his work as a historical reference instead. This is in line with Saint Jerome’s criteria for Author-function.

Cindy Sherman


With Cindy Sherman’s work, I saw it was more to do with Barthes article on “The Death of the Author”. In her work, Sherman looks at the stereotyping of women in media. I decided to concentrate on her Untitled Film Stills work created between 1977 & 1980. In these images, she used herself as the subject, showing the various stereotypes of women that have arisen over the years. Stereotypes which have been created over many years by various authors and writers. She created the images in order to make the viewer feel bad about their expectations of women. I also think that by working in this way, she is inviting the viewer to form their own opinions and interpretations of stereotypes.

If the birth of the reader is at the expense of the author, is there still any of Benjamin’s ‘aura’ left?

Of course. Whether you view it as the “reader” or the “author” as the predominant person in an essay or artwork, either person looks at it in a different way or with different intentions. However, from this they gain their appreciation and understanding in a different way.

For some artwork, they are created as more of a passing phase, however artwork by famous and often pioneering artists such as Monet, Lichenstein and Leonardo da Vinci to name but a few, never lose their appeal and with each new generation, a new audience grows to appreciate these works of art.

Does any of this explain or validate the un-regulated nature of the internet?

I feel that it serves to explain the un-regulated nature of the internet. At the touch of a button, you can search for absolutely anything and everything. This lends onto the point that I made in the exercise “Good Taste” (https://kunsworthphotography.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/understanding-visual-culture-part-2-good-taste/) where people can pick and choose what information they want to view or read. The internet can make art more accessible to people and they can choose to delve into it more if they wish. The problems that arise from this, are that when you search the internet for things, you don’t necessarily get the right answer. For example, if you were to search for art by Picasso, some of the images brought up are by people who have created images in his style and are not his own work. To someone researching him for the first time, they could be fooled into thinking that all the images brought up are his own. Also due to the un-regulated nature of the internet, when searching for something you cannot guarantee that your search will even bring up what you are looking for.

Does this invalidate the interest in the artist’s or creator’s intent at the time of making?

No, I think that this is down to individual choice. People who are interested in a particular work of art would probably want to delve into it more and discover the artist’s intent. However, there are also people who would walk past it and just give it a quick glance. If you look at it from the “reader” point of view, it can be seen to invalidate the interest, however it gives the “reader” the opportunity to form their own opinions.

It is also down to the artist and how they have created the piece. They may have made it in such a way as to disguise their intent.



About kunsworthphotography

I am currently studying towards a BA (Hons) in Photography with OCA and I have 2 children, Evie(4 years old) and Connor(3 years old)
This entry was posted in Photography, Understanding Visual Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s