Home > Summer research > A day at the Tate Modern, London…

A day at the Tate Modern, London…

For the first piece of research i went to the Tate Modern in London to look at the Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance & the Camera exhibition.


The exhibition consists of 5 themes which include:

  • The Unseen Photographer
  • Celebrity & the Public Gaze
  • Voyeurism & Desire
  • Witnessing Violence
  • Surveillance

These are spread across 14 rooms which give a very deep voyeuristic view into the pieces of photographic work.

The Unseen Photographer

The first room of the exhibition consists of the technology which goes as far back as the early 19th century with cameras being hidden in suit jackets, heels of shoes and even walking sticks.  The idea of people being viewed and photographed in a secretive manner is the first step in the voyeur phase with the subjects being caught unaware that they are being photographed.


Some of the pieces of photographic work includes Walker Evans’s pieces of passengers on the New York City underground entitles ‘Subway Passengers’, the hidden camera allowed Evans to capture the nautral actions and faces of the passengers.  This is an interesting collection as it relates to the modern age with cameras being on mobile phones; which even though we know they are there we still go unaware that the person is actually taking a picture.

The most up-to-date influence of this kind of secret voyeurism is Philip-Lorca Dicorcia’s ‘Heads’ (2000), which used hidden cameras on the streets of New York that were triggered when people walked by.


Celebrity & the Public Gaze

The earliest forms of what is now known as ‘Paparazzi’ started off  as early as the start of the 1990’s.  The advancement of camera technology meant that figures within the public eye could be captured at their most intimate moments with faster shutter speeds and the size of the camera.  The issue of privacy is still a very relevant subject in the world of today. 

One of the key figures in capturing the rich and famous at their most vunerable was Italian photographer Giuseppe Primoli who was one of the most controversial papparazzi photographers of the early 1880s.

For modern day standards, photos including Nick Ut’s Paris Hilton ‘crying’ picture; from when she was being sent into prison, is one of the most volatile looks at how privacy can be captured at its worst.

Alison Jackson is a contemporary photographer who stages her photos with the use of celebrity look-a-likes who are posed into a comic fashion at an intimate moment with which we would not see them in.

 Voyeurism & Desire

 Not all voyeurism is without the subjects permission.  This particular theme within the exhibition looks at the open-ness of subjects in very erotic and questionabally private moments with which we are put into a position of whether we should be looking at these images. 

Helmut Newton’s ‘Self Portrait with Wife June and models’ is a collection of photographs in which we can see Newton taking the picture of a nude model, but with the added position of his wife June watching, as if in a  joint voyeuristically erotic manner.

Perhaps one of the most shocking (in my mind) collection of photos within this theme of the exhibition is Kohei Yoshiyuki’s series of photographs entitled ‘The Park’.  The only way to view these images is with a light shining onto the photograph, which gives a sense of voyeuring on the subjects in a very peeping manner.  This very weird and unusual Japanses underground park-life phenomenon was the catalyst of Yoshiyuki’s series which put him in a position with which he had to become a voyeur himself.

Witnessing Violence

 Out of the themes of photographs, i found this one in particular very interesting.  The idea of capturing a moment or series of moments leading to a dramatic conclusion intrigued me as to how the photographers such as Weegee managed to capture a moment with which should make us feel uneasy but instead adds a voyeuristic element to something that shouldn’t be.

 Larry Clark’s photographs of drug-takers also had me intrigued as to how he got himself into a position to capture something as intimate and self-harming with which the subject is doing to themselves.


 Seen more as being a form of public safety; with the knowledge of being under a watchful eye with which we can be assured of our well being, CCTV has become a subject all to its own with photographers such as Andreas Magdanz using surveillance as its subject with which we would normally never really take much notice of.  This form of turning the camera back onto itself gives an interesting insight into the different environments with which CCTV is placed within to be a watchful eye over every action or movement.

Other photographers and artists who have used the power of the surveillance camera and its powerful stance within society include Bruce Nauman who recorded his own personal studio space with which documented some of his other works in progress and was later made into a 7 screen video installation which was described as to “..puts the viewer into the position of a spy or voyeur invading his private working space.”  This style of personal surveillance definately puts it into perspective as to how within our own personal environment, we can also be a voyeur of it if we wanted to without the need of cameras but with our own eyes.


Overall, this exhibition has given me some influence as to the different styles with which can be incorporated into creating a piece of visual work.  This exhibition featured video (such as Bruce Nauman’s ‘Mapping the Studio’) and photography, which are both mediums with which i have worked with before and would definatley consider using for a production piece.  I feel that this exhibition has many different elements that relate to the theme of voyeurism with the many styles and presentation of the pieces and i should take this and incorporate into my ideas and develop on these.

Categories: Summer research
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