Bourdieu’s Hot Tub


I am on holiday, in Eye Kettleby, about 2 miles away from where I live. It has a hot-tub. Yes I’m using short sentences, I’m not trying to channel Dan Brown, but as they say in Dragnet “Just the facts…”. Anyhow, focusing on the hot tub, it’s the first time I’d been on holiday with a private hot tub and seeing as I have a lot of reading to do for my upcoming final exams and coursework I figured that getting stuck into Pierre Bourdieu’s Un Art Moyen – Essai Sur Les Usages Sociaux De La Photographie.

Pierre Bourdieu was a public academic in France. Within the public realm he took on the mantle worn by Zola and Sartre, while public academics aren’t exactly popular or endemic in the UK – we have to make do with Stephen Fry and the Duke of Edinburgh – in France, they are prolific with them taking the place our talking heads in the news whenever and wherever the SNCF feel like downing tools or Sarko pulls another supermodel.

Bourdieu’s book on photography (picked up frankly by my love of photography, and wanting to create a historical record of my life – yes it’s not self-effacment however chances are the marbles will roll round up there sooner, rather than later and having something to bore the grandkids with seems a cracking idea) is an excellent comment on the evolution of photography within a social context looking how “the camera is often the common property of the family group… the social function and meaning of photography are never more apparent than in a rural community, strongly integrated and attached to its peasant traditions… where it supplies the means of solemnising those climatic moments of social life in which the group solemnly reaffirms its unity’.

Where these photographs are used to create a chronicle of the family on specific occasions; weddings and baptisms etc. Within these occasions a focus would exist purely for taking the photos they weren’t taken for the sake of taking photographs. For the petit-bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie proper who would take photographs for the sake of art showing a directed interest into cubism and abstract photography whereas the peasants/proles are unimpressed and prefer realism.

This dissemination of photography is more apparent within the petit-bourgeoisie (junior executives, clerical workers, more generally educated persons without ties to the nobility) who primarily take photographs to imitate art possibly to the level of painting, a traditional reserve of the bourgeoisie proper. As the Encylopédie française notes “Any work of art reflects the personality of its creator”. This statement sums up Bourdieu’s narrative. It has a narrative within the society today as relevant as it was in 1965 and even more so. The proliferation and insertion of cameras into a variety of devices which are common have given rise to the geo-coded photo, especially on mediums such as Flickr.

From this photographs are now able to be taken anytime anywhere, empowering us all, we haven’t however shifted from being the proletariat to the bourgeoisie, we have however stayed true to our class roles with the majority of photo’s being taken by the proles ending up on Facebook with the prosumers(petit/bourgeoisie) ending up on Flickr. But those are just my initial thoughts!

Back to the hot tub!

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Author: Mark Iliffe

Traveller, Programmer, Geospatialist and Motorcyclist

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