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Stuart Hall Library Reading Group Discussion Post, 10 November 2011

art of listening lback

Thanks to everyone who attended this month’s reading group. A recording of the discussion will soon be available via the library website. You can also listen to recordings of our previous reading group sessions.

We discussed Les Back’s ‘Listening with the eye’ from The art of listening. (Oxford; New York: Berg Press, 2007) pp.97-115.

The text was chosen because it presents an alternative view of understanding photography, and provides a good example of the way in which different disciplines approach a particular practice.
More information on Les Back here:

The discussion was probably the most impassioned we’ve had so far at the reading group; members felt that there were real critical and ethical issues at stake in the sociologist’s approach to photography. Back considers the possibilities for dialogue between the researcher and the ‘subject’, arguing that images can, ‘contain voices that present yet inaudible. We have to listen for them with our eyes’. (Back, 2007: 100)

One theory was that the About the Streets project, which took place in Brick Lane, London in 2002 and was being described in the chapter, was more about exploring the ethics of sociological enquiry than engaging critically with photography as an art form. Others enjoyed the open, human-centred approach to the narratives of the people who posed for the photographs. Some took issue with what they saw as the ‘naivety’ of the writing, and the perceived lack of critical analysis in the text. What became clear was that the standpoint of each individual evoked a particular, strong response to the text, which lead to an intense and exciting discussion.

Next meeting: Thursday 8 December, 6.30-8.00: Raqs Media Collective. ‘X notes on practice: stubborn structures and insistent seepage in a networked world’ in Seepage. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2010. pp.101-116.
You are welcome to visit the Library to make a photocopy of the text. If you are having any problems obtaining a copy, please contact us and we will make this available to you. Email the library for further information or to book your place: