Informing Contexts, Coursework - Gazing at Photographs

This week we have been discussing voyeurism in photography and I have grown an interest in the use of this term when considering images which are not of a sexual nature. In Train Your Gaze, Roswell Angier posits that voyeurism is not necessarily about sex, but is about the a separation between the seer and seen.

The basic condition of the voyeuristic scenario is distance, an essential separation between seer and seen. Despite this distance, which by definition is unbridgeable, despite the un-requite-able nature of the desire that drives it, the voyeur’s gaze is a privileged one. (Angier, 2007, p.61) 

Currently, I am creating work in communities which are not my own, and I gain pleasure from viewing the lives of others, which are so different from mine. I would consider this to be voyeuristic in nature. In the past, I have made work as an outsider, looking in, and have attempted to convey this ‘otherness’ in my images. For example, in my series Distance, I intentionally aimed to illustrate the emotional and physical separation I felt from my surroundings when living in Japan. With my current work however, I am aiming to bridge the gaps between myself and my subjects, building relationships with those I am photographing and a deeper familiarity with the landscape. In doing this, I believe that it makes my practice less voyeuristic, but I also understand that the relationship between the viewer of my photographs, and the subjects they depict, will not change. The viewer will remain as a voyeur.

As I create windows into communities of which I am not a native member, I feel a responsibility to represent them as fairly and accurately as I am able. There are many photographers who I look to as models for this. When photographer Stephan Vanfleteren spoke of the Belgian city of Charleroi, the subject of his series of the same name, he described it as “Love at First Sight” (Vanfleteren, 2015). His images are compassionate, and represent Charleroi, and it’s residents, with warmth and respect.

Photographer Lucas Foglia is another practitioner who has created in-depth series about marginalized communities. I look to him as an example of an artist who works seemingly harmoniously with a community which is not his own, gaining the trust of its residents and representing them in a positive light.

Whilst I cannot completely remove the element of voyeurism in my practice, or in the gaze of those who view my images, by approaching my work with an admiration for both the landscape and people I am photographing, I hope to create work which represents this region in a manner that both I, and my subjects, feel comfortable with. 


Angier, R. 2009. Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography. [Kindle e-book]. New York: Fairchild Books.

Foglia, L. 2017. Photographer Lucas Foglia’s Website. [Online]. [Accessed 22 March 2018]. Available from:

Panos Pictures. 2015. Stephan Vanfleteren: Charleroi. [Online]. [Accessed 22 March 2018]. Available from:

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