CRITICISM – 3. DESCRIBING SUBJECT MATTER

In order to describe subject matter, critics both name what they see and characterize it. Photographer
presents us the image, and the critic gives us words for the images. Some
photographers choose many simple objects as their subject matter; however, others
utilize more complex objects such as collages and may add three-dimesional
objects.

Most of the objects are recognizable, but some are abstracted in the composition so that
they are “surfaces and textures” and not recognizable on the basis
of what is shown.

” The subject matter of many abstract works can be described only with abstract
terms, but critics still can and should describe it. The subject matter of some
photographs is seemingly simple but actually hard to express.

Cindy Sherman’s works provide several examples. – Simple subject matter. Most of these
photographs are self-portraits of the artist, so in one sense her subject
matter is herself:

Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman

Joel Peter Witkin

Joel Peter Witkin

Joel Peter Witkin

  • His subject matter is sometimes difficult to figure out and always demands attention because it is usually shocking.
  • In a feature article in Exposure, Cynthia Chris characterizes Witkin’s subject matter as sexual, violent, and perverse and itemizes it in this list: “fetus, child, male, female, hermaphrodite, corpse, skeleton, the beautiful, the deformed, the obese, live animal and taxidermic specimen.”

Related Articles:

References / Resources:

http://www.masters-of-photography.com/S/sherman/sherman_96_full.html

http://www.artnet.com/artists/joel-peter-witkin/artworks-for-sale

Barrett, Terry (2006). Criticizing photographs: an introduction to understanding images. Mayfield Publishing Company, California, U.S.A.

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