Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Unjoyful laughter and the non-likeness of photographic portraiture
Author: Leister, Wiebke
ISNI:       0000 0004 2671 4765
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art, London
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2006
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
This research investigates photographic portraits that can be considered as potentially non-mimetic images. It uses the portrait of laughter in theory and in practice to explore a ́non-like ́, iconic relation between a photograph and its model. In opposition to portraying a specific laughing sitter, here the photograph is more informed by what the viewer brings to his or her subjective encounter with that photograph. Among other subjects, my research compares portraiture to clownish performance. Hence, the photographic portrait shifts register, becoming less a likeness of the sitter, rather a portrait of the viewer ́s process of interpretation. As an extension of our understanding of the genre portraiture, I am using and testing the German term 'Bildnis', trying to find a clearer understanding of portraits that are Non-Likenesses. My main case study looks at 19th-century photographs by the French physician Duchenne de Boulogne. Duchenne researched emotional expressions by capturing the moving face twice: with medical electrization and with photography. Based on muscular contraction, he also established a theory distinguishing 'true' from 'false' laughter. Starting by isolating one photograph from the context of Duchenne ́s medical work as a leitmotif for my studies, considering it as an image in its own right, my research raises questions regarding the relation between model and photographer in photographic portraiture. It investigates what is commonly thought to be the Photographic – the photograph ́s referential status as an index in opposition to the meaning arising from its surface. In re-considering Duchenne ́s photograph within photographic histories, theories of representation aesthetics, and in relation to other photographs, I aim to lift his image out of its strictly utilitarian context as a record of an experiment. Expanding the discussion on its genres and applications, this change of context opens up a new emphasis on content and encourages its interpretation as an imaginary photograph. This claims to be not just image-informed, but also informed about the nature of images in general and photography in particular. Methodologically, the first part consists of a visual investigation into the depictibility of 'unjoyful' laughter as a 'non-like' photographic image. The second part re-stages the play of questions and answers arising from the studio practice by re-contextualizing them within a specific theoretical and historical framework of portraiture. Ultimately being two separate practices, both parts inform and reflect upon each other in approach and subject matter, deepening and widening an understanding of the medium of photography as a multi-faceted research tool.
Supervisor: Richon, Olivier ; Pacteau, Francette Sponsor: German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) ; RCA
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of Photography ; Photography