Teresa Cos – I Was There – Observations on “The Society of The Spectacle”

Teresa Cos

I Was There – Observations on “The Society of The Spectacle”

“I Was There” is the first chapter of a long term (lifetime) project which explores western society and its obsession with success. I started by depicting the worlds of art, fashion and culture, where anxiety and struggle for success, together with the desperate need for recognition and approval are ubiquitous; where people live with the constant fear of being considered losers. The images have been taken in 2010 at Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice Film Festival, Milan and London Fashion Weeks, Frieze Art Fair in London and Paris Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC).

I chose these events because they are globalised examples of a bubble (for instance the art industry) that is on the verge of explosion. As wrote Jean Baudrillard: When one looks at the emptiness of current art, the only question is how much such a machine can continue to function in the absence of any new energy, in an atmosphere of critical disillusionment and commercial frenzy, and with all the players totally indifferent? If it can continue, how long will this illusionism last? A hundred years, two hundred? This society is like a vessel whose edges move ever wider apart, and in which the water never comes to the boil.

If one substitutes current art with current society the equation doesn’t really change, does it? And who are these indifferent players, if not us? I want to keep on exploring and understanding photographically the Hyper reality created by consumerism, where people aspirations are dangerously confused with the models of living that the society of the spectacle is constantly selling us and where need has become desire and admiration envy.

To me, it is fundamentally important to understand these social dynamics because, by creating the idea that through a selfish individualism everybody can finally reach extreme forms of wealth and success, one drastically contributes to the social and economic disparities in this world.




I was born and grew up in a small town called Latisana, in the North East of Italy, a one hour drive from Venice, where I ended up living for six years as an architecture student. It is thanks to architecture that I discovered photography, because it taught me to look at the world through different eyes.

After graduating in 2008, I was in the Italian team of architects and urbanists in the international table of consultation wanted by the French government to produce ideas for the future of Paris. I lived for seven months in the suburbs of the French capital, producing my first important body of work, Banlieue 08/09, that allowed me to be accepted last year onto the Photojournalism & Documentary Photography MA program at London College of Communication, where I graduated with Distinction.

I live and work in London and I am also part of the photography collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine.


Related links

Teresa Cos

Collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine


74 Responses to “Teresa Cos – I Was There – Observations on “The Society of The Spectacle””

  • hi and congratulations!
    I think this is so brilliant.
    It is a fresh and jarring mirror to issues that run rampant and unchecked. This is the high end example but it is a sampling of a mind set that I would agree has permeated society. I also like how the way in which it is photographed is supporting the issue you are presenting. A bright glaring light as if in a interrogation room.

    Also on a personal note (related), lately I have been trying to put some serious thought to what exactly it is I will need to feel successful in photography/in life. Of course I have project and career aspirations, desire for acknowledgement. But I have been trying to define exactly the difference between what society wants from you and what I may really need. So I’ve been trying ask myself -what will I need to have done to feel I lived life well and done the job that I was made to do?
    Looking at the work here makes me think again on how much outside sources and pressures want to answer those questions for you.

    Also another thought that has popped up when reading your bio is addressing an amazing correlation I find between photography and architecture. It seems many in both sects have some level of crossover. I always chalked it up to love of light and lines but there is more to the general mindset I think…

    thanks- Great work and I look forward to exploring it more.

  • Love this selection. I Can’t wait to see more !

  • I should probably give it more consideration and see what others have to say, but my initial reaction is a bit negative. It just seems to me that for this kind of hit piece to work, it’s necessary for the photographer to have a deep empathy, if not love for the subjects being skewered. I feel that with Martin Parr, for example. This just feels cruel.

  • -it definitely is unfettered exposure.
    I’m curious what Teresa would say to this…

  • Teresa..congratulations. Very thoughtful work.

    mw, that was my first reaction too. The direct flash, paparazzi/Fink style, awkward expressions, skewering is probably a fair description. However, having spent some time on Teresa’s site (I do like the larger edit there), and re-reading the statement, I’m coming around to appreciating what is going on here. This essay asks me a lot of questions about my own attitudes and takes on a pretty big topic.

    Not sure if we are breaking any new ground here, but then again, I’m the one who’s often remarking how over-rated the constant search for new ground is. Definetely worth spending some time with.

  • I’m not sure what my ultimate opinion will be, am curious to hear what others think, but I think it is fair to say that this shows the subjects in a bad light.

  • Value judgement photography directed by text…….. Rewrite the text for social media networking and it becomes all positive for some sectors of society.
    “Hyper reality created by consumerism” for some it is the reality and are quite comfortable with it all, it is about choice.

    Selfish individualism and art go hand in hand, consumerism is its friend creator, destroyer and keeps it fluid new and alive.
    It is a great time for those involved in the arts, new paths abound, watching aspects post-modernism disintegrate int splintered fragments. Having a chuckle at those who want to go back to modernity without them realising it’s juggernaut mentality……… better bigger, greater, faster,entropic mother of consumerism eternity eternity.

    The Venice Biennales are the old art world desperately trying to survive as it knows itself, resistant to change and a artwork in itself. It chasing it’s wagging tail, continually taking a chunk out of it’s now be-raged and tattered being.An artwork created by many owned by so few as the facade blurs their realities. There are those who aspire to reach the top of that heap with or without talent or any message of intent and happy to be mocked berated scorned upon……..all is good
    Now if we get the occupy movement to become a entry in forthcoming art biennales all will be sweet and they will have a sense of purpose and aesthetic appeal, give it some hyper reality credentils.

    Little art pods spring up and fall in gay abandon ………burn is a photographic pod.

  • ………..books, apps, new fujis, old GF1s, essays, ” I want to be a photographer”…..I want to make money…secret personas, intagrams,………panoses, civilians without an audience, krumicrap we have it all here ………hypercam abounds

  • This is dreadful – I don’t think the photos are dreadful – they succeed at communicating what the photographer wishes to communicate – but it sure makes the places and people seem dreadful, and makes me not want ever to be in such rooms, with such people…

    and yet… if I am ever to get a big show in some place like New York or Paris or Venice… not only will I be there, I will be such a person…

    Good job and may you claw your way to success as you work to complete this life-long essay, which I hope not to see completed in my lifetime.

    Darn. If all goes well for you, will never know how it finally turns out.

  • People just have different values Frosty…some would say that having a plane though it may have been necessary, as overindulgence………… keep the environment pristine …….leave only footsteps and dog droppings……….in social pages these people would be the good guys, here on on here people are saying they are dreadful as does the photographer………. a bias pderhaps

  • are you alien, or part of the world you are documenting? whatever you photograph, you always also look inside to yourself. the pictures show a strange world, at least to me, as I am not part of that world. but the pictures say – as the title of the essay – I was there. I think this is an essay worth following, over time it will become more and more interesting. to see how those people change, the way the pictures are taken will change, too.

    if I was too confusing: I like the pictures, they look like aliens to me, because I am not part (I am an alien in this context), the question coming up for me is – how much of yourself do you show in your pictures – and finally, the pictures make me curious how the whole project will evolve. maybe we will see more you your work in burn?

    congratulations, you made a good start.

  • I don’t really get the intellectual underpinnings of this essay, at least as Teresa describes them. What society is NOT obsessed with success, for example? Why is “Western society” (and what is Western society anyway?) singled out? Okay . . . consumerism, individualism, selfishness, etc. But how do pictures of people ignoring a Nan Goldin photograph at a gallery in London (#7) serve as a critique of this culture?

    So maybe the text could be revised, but the photos — they are mostly of well dressed people looking vaguely uncomfortable at being photographed. The pictures don’t seem particularly interested in their subjects. They are just casual shots of anonymous crowds.

    I don’t get how this is awful or undesirable or worthy of derision. It’s just not that interesting as it has been presented.


    I think the way you cropped the first picture, makes it much more interesting.

  • Yea Thomas it makes it look like a vegan convention………….. taking screenshots of sites sorta shows how same same they really are….lots of text with heading and paragraph templates, a scattered image or two, CCS edit structures etc stuff has to fit a screen or a pad and be friendly which is another word for one dimensional …………sigh that is the nature of the wwwdot world

  • Interesting photography but to me the photographer has fallen into much the same trap that she purports to document. Too much calculated intellectualizing and not enough real substance for me. Others mileage may vary of course.

  • Yea that’s probably the biggest hurdle the essay faces Charles and there seems to be no attempt made to resolve that issue. But there is a start there somewhere.Maybe it is about post financial guilt

  • Interesting; my summer’s road-trip was to be a short-week drive along the southern shore of Lake Erie, visiting Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo and Rochester. Five cities, once spectacular, now in decline. All with amazing art museums, purchased from the profits of steel, glass, automobiles and film.

    There is some sort of tie-in here. Teresa…want to go for a drive?

  • it is a tribal thing………….. Damian me lad where are you! ©Murakami the consumer freak and Friday Fantasy…………..

  • mmmmmmn the off my facebook set will get you all

  • Jeff some of the art was not so amazing just purchased and it too is in decline

  • won’t comment on the work, but instead, which to share 2 links to artists reacting to Venice in a way that can be profoundly instructive…

    the first, one of my beloved artists, the extraordinary conceptual artist Francis Alys…here is his project for Venice Bie. when he wasn’t invent…read the text


  • Common Bob your reaction bugger the punter reactions……all i wish to say :)), or not…. …………. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N0ATdDdwKg

  • btw, i love 3 and 13…..

    Imants: :)))…saving words for pages…anyway, both (your links) say (kind of) what i wanted to say :)))…along with Alys and Hamilton….

    i should add about Alys…he was rejected when he submitted for Venice and so did the duet piece…later when he was asked to participate in venice, he sent this:


    and he also let a duck walk around ( i can’t find the vid)….

  • the thing is (i guess what bothers me about the photo essay) is that there IS great work being done which has absolutely nothing to do with the spectators of said festivals/museums openings, etc….

    actually, i’ll take Tina Barney instead….

    ennui done by the young seems, to me, just affectation….

    guess that sums up my reaction…sorry for the lact of poetry or usual bobblack post…

  • What about diamond earrings any likes on that?

  • As innocence on Facebook the images would work great, maybe it is just posted in the wrong place/context

  • Imants, the art south of Lake Erie may be in decline, the collections may have been pared down, but in the time, I’m certain it was 23 Ski-doo. How did the Detroit’s sampling influence Motown, Toledo’s art its glass-blowing craftsmen? What is the cultural anthropological connection between museums and their area’s art history? Venice and the Biennale; New York and the Armoury; Paris and the Salon des Refusés . What will happen in the new centres such as Los Angeles and Dubai? Why do museums act as a defibrillator serving to shock the new in some cities/regions, and not others? Lots to explore, relatively in my own backyard.

  • Charles wrote: “Too much calculated intellectualizing and not enough real substance for me.”

    Or maybe, that’s what makes this brilliant ;)) You could put these on the wall at these same events, and how many would really see them as intended? Or even look? But might buy.

    I don’t know Bob, #3 was a weak link for me. Hmmm, affectation? But isn’t that the point? Sure, you can do this kind of society work many places (Pinehurst #2?;)) but this seems right, the blade curved inward. Love the added twist of it.

    I quite like it. A bonfire of fear and loathing. Do you have to have empathy? For the afflicted, sure, but for the comfortable?

  • And, I would add, this works seems timely, on several levels.

  • I’m sorry this essay does absolutely nothing to me. It must be me because it does seem to have had quite a success with other Burn members.

  • “The real moment of success is not the moment apparent to the crowd.”
    George Bernard Shaw

  • Young Tom: 3 works for precisely for the its oppositional reason that most of the work seems vacuous…first, if you criticize in a work the vacuity and affectations of others, you damn well should make sure the camera is aimed right back at the self, and here it is not, it seems filled with squalor itself: in other words, a young photographer commenting on the emptiness of the art world/film world/world of wealth (ho-hum) without taking a chance at dealing with the emptiness of most of the photoworld itself is, umm, just lazy and also affected, particularly for a young photographer. like shooting ducks in a barrel. On top of that, the photographer (in picture and text) attempts to critique/criticize not only THESE people (does she know any of them personally?) but society writ large. Pretty huge swatch of effort but the effort is mired in cliched depiction of that ‘society’….on top of that the Baudrillard quote is totally decontextualized, self-serving…Baudrillard’ argument was much more interesting and not simply about the vacuity of the pricing/wealth/negiotation of the art world (it has always been like that), just as media and photography world is equally as corporate….i’m part of that ‘art world’ too, though completely uninterested in the ‘notions’ that lay behind the photographers argument…the ultimate insiders argument to critique how rotten the core is….but all of this would not have mattered one iota to me if the picture taking would have been more challenging, been more ambiguous (why i like 3 alot) and more interesting….why i offered her Tina Barney (whom she should study more than the current young snapshooters, party crashers, shoe gazers, glitterati of both the art/society/photo world)….barney’s work is insightful and challenging photographically and intellectually…..and Tom, this work isn’t timely….the materialism of the world, of the upper echelons of society (whatever that means) is as old as the hills…..

    i’m afraid the work looks and feels and argues much the same way most of a particularly kind of ‘photo society’ seems to operate….blinded in the headlights of its own flash….

    i do not wish to sound denegrating, and will come off as a hypocrite after my attack against others for the questioning of grogan diarmit’s essay (and that would be a fair and reasonable charge against me for sure), but if the essay had been about the festivals/art world, etc, i would have though, ok, some nice flash, nice TRichardsonesque looks, but seen in before no worries…but the attempt to judge others and a society via this route just smacks me of not only triteness but worse: affectation….

    the rich, the art world, are such easy targets and frankly, find it completely silly to search for depth here….did the photographer tell the folks in the opening frame what she thought of them?…..i wonder….

    like i said, appears particularly affected to me to the point that i feel much more affection for the people in the pictures than the photographer herself….and her own wealth, does that too not lead to the same disparities she laments?….

    see what i mean?

    anyway, just my 2 cents

  • TOM,

    Well that’s a twist that I like but not sure if that was really the photographer’s intention. I just wish the piece had more, that she had really worked it out, really gone for the jugular. A few party pictures doth not make a manifesto about the state of art today, imo. In fact I feel there are some stronger pieces on her website – why weren’t those included here? Perhaps also just focusing on art fairs, vs trying to lump fashion, architecture, film, etc might make for a more cohesive piece. The shots of the art looking back at the viewers (or non-viewers as seems to be the case) are the strongest imo. Otherwise the people could be anywhere rich people go (say a high end fundraiser, a hotel opening, etc etc).

    The good thing about the work is it raises questions and discussions. So hopefully Teresa you can take away from this and continue on stronger.



  • Bob and Charles, thank you for good thoughts. Much to think about. This is the kind of discussion on Burn that I like.

  • I keep coming back to my first impression, which I think is at least a little consistent with Charles’s critique about over-intellectualizing. It seems to me that the photographer began with the idea that attendees of these art shows are horrifically shallow and then went out and shot them with the intent to make them look as ridiculous as possible; to literally cast them in a bad light. I have nothing against exposing the foibles of the wealthy, I’m all for it actually, but it’s so easy to make people look bad through photography that when it’s done with such clear intent, I’m more likely to find my sympathies lie with the victims, which is the exact opposite of the photographer’s intent. Occasionally an artist comes along that can get away with, even make a virtue of, being mean spirited, but that’s rare and it’s generally something one should try to avoid.

    That’s where I think empathy, or perhaps even love, comes into play. If these people really are so sadly empty, we should feel sorry for them, not want to rub their noses in it. If they really are so distressingly shallow, that should be apparent in the images without any need for the photographer to tip the scales with harsh lighting or sniper photography.

    Allowing it to seem that the photographer is out to get them could possibly raise more questions about the photographer than about the subjects.

    The trick is to make us see that they are pitiful without giving us reason to feel pity for them.

    How to do that? Well, that’s not for me to answer, but I like the idea behind the photos of the art patrons not looking at the art that’s right in front of them. I’d look for more symbolism like that.

    Anyway, that’s my two bits…

  • Imantz – please note that I did not say the people and places are dreadful. This is the message the photographer seems to convey through her photos. Had other photographers, myself included, shot the same people and places, they would not have looked so dreadful. And there was a little intended satire in my comment that I am not certain you picked up on.

    As to Alaska and airplanes, I don’t think I have ever heard anyone the least bit familiar with this place, conservation minded or otherwise, criticize the ownership of a good little bush plane as overindulgence or a threat to the environment. Plus, when you think of airplanes, you probably think of something much more expensive to purchase and operate and more polluting than was my little 7GCBC.

    Ah, what a beautiful little airplane! And I had to crash it and ruin it!


    And now you, Imantz, have brought all the pain of that loss back to me – just when I thought I had gotten over it.

    Well done!

  • young tom :))

    and you know how hard it is for me to ‘not like’ an essay…or, being more honest, to admit in public ;)…i do like A LOT of the work on Teresa’s website….and still like 3 and 13 here, a lot…i also love that much of Teresa’s work is driven by a strong conceptual foundation (love elephant loop, the book in what we wear, and the kapoor (one of my favorite sculptors) zen project looks interesting….even more frustrating (this esssay) after having seen her work (and its strength) and that her work is really an on-going dialog with the art world and contemporary practice….as i said, a real irony and misstep considering her own relationship with that world….but, something necessary to chat about….

  • Using snippets of thoughts(in this case the words of Jean Baudrillard) as the basis a body of work leads to a lot of back peddling.

  • Defend all you like but people’s perceptions of planes is about indigence even if it isn’t the case.This essay piece is about a photographers perceptions of the contemporary art world filled with assumptions.

  • FWIW … 1, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14

  • I WAS THERE is the first chapter of a long term project which explores western society and its obsession with success. lets hope she doesn’t want to be successful

  • I liked this, I really did.
    Would liked to have seen more and see where it will lead. Starting from the art world etc. was a choice of convenience I presume, since teresa is familiar with it. What will be the next parts of society put in front of the lens is still to be seen. But I really liked it.
    And I’m not sure why there’s all this talk of meanness and affectation. With all due respect I didn’t see any of that, there’s a specific point of view but that’s valid I suppose. For me, Tom Hyde’s first comment put it so well that there’s no much I want to add.

  • Btw, I forgot to say: congratulations teresa.
    (…And Gordon Lafleur’s first comment too is on the spot I should add.)


    you asked why certain pieces on her website are not here on Burn…this is a common question, and a constant problem….for us it is more than a full time job to handle what is submitted to us…we literally cannot be private detectives and figure out what the photographer did not send us…in other words we are not looking at a photographer website and then doing the submitting for them…each decides what he or she will submit to Burn, and then we go from there…sometimes, if i know the photographer and their work and have seen it for some reason in its entirety, then of course this is another story…and of course the best way…

    we could work as Visura…more time spent in the beginning with each photographer…a thorough investigation of what they do…the only problem with this is that like Visura we would not be an often freshly updated magazine…essays would be up for weeks just because of the time it takes to do so…

    our approach has been to do the best we can with submissions online and then put all of our super “finalizing” efforts into Burn 01, 02 etc…in other words , lets look at a lot of work, and then lock it down for real in print…even now, working with submissions, is a lot more work than you imagine….

    getting photographers to work in their own best self interest is one of my main goals as a mentor…few have any sense of this…this is always a surprise to me…however, a reality….if it were easy to just get photographers to put their own best foot forward, then i guess i would not have a job to do here….

    conclusion: if photographers don’t show us their best work, it is unlikely we will publish it..

    cheers, david

  • I am certainly grateful you feel you have this job :)

  • David,

    One of the best pieces of advice you’ve given out, buried somewhere here in BURN or Road Trips, was that when shooting/editing work, pick what you consider your best image and then make sure all of the others measure up to (or best) that one. A tall order (and I’m pretty sure you were being somewhat rhetorical) but I’ve kept that in the back of my mind and will for the rest of my career. It helps in easily whittling down images to the core, and letting go of sentimental reasons for hanging onto some. Perhaps why I’m having such a devil of a time editing the piece I’m working on for BURN (not to mention the fact that I keep adding photos daily)!! :) :)

    Best as always,


  • or one could make a video like this

  • I’ve been coming back to this essay over the past few days because I simply don’t see in Teresa’s work the cynicism that is otherwise indicated by so many of the above comments. I’m also a little surprised that on a site where broad- and open-minded insights are the norm, there has been a collective jump to the skewering and judgement of Teresa’s subjects. I also challenge the notion that Teresa isn’t pointing the camera at herself, and illuminating her own concerns and self-doubts head-on.

    Where has it ever been considered self-grasping the idea that attending an art exhibit or festival premiere party is selfish and self-promoting? Why are people assuming the subjects photographed here are necessarily artists, patrons or hangers-on? And, so what? Making connections for an emerging photographer is essential and as important to one’s career as learning photographic techniques and the art of editing. For those not following Frostfrog’s (Bill Hess) DAH workshop experience, I’ll remind you that David stated making connections is as indispensable as passion and hard work to one’s career. Makes sense to me.

    Attendance at any of these events show a level of participation and expenditure of energy. It may be for the ugly notion of self-centred promotion, but it could also be for the sheer enjoyment of seeing new artists and approaches. I love witnessing the involvement of those here on Burn who contribute their energy to essay criticisms and general Dialogue. Equally, I’m a little impatient of Burn essayists who don’t give us the benefit of their time in order to respond (language and writing limitations excepted), especially knowing that the probability of being published here is something like five hundred to one. It is an indication of the necessary involvement and connection-making for any emerging photographer.

    Being “out there” requires engagement which may be too uncool for some; exposure should not be selective. Linking to Teresa’s site takes us straight to her news page, with a c.v. list of accomplishments first, and her essays second. This suggests to me “I Was There” is very much a case of pointing the camera at oneself; her direct, on-camera flash reflects back on us, and makes the viewer question his/her own involvement in the participation and connectivity to the world of creativity and the world-at-large.

  • This reminds me of Lars Tunbjork work, but without the cynicism and acid edge. Other than that, I wholeheartedly concur with Jeff above.

  • Jeff, speaking only for myself, I looked at the photos before reading the text and noted that the subjects mostly looked awkward and uncomfortable in front of the camera, or blinding flash as was probably the case, and I figured that was a conscious decision on the part of the photographer to portray these nicely dressed subjects inelegantly, quite differently from the way we normally see them, quite differently from the way they see themselves.

    Then I read the text which focuses on success, or more pointedly, the illusion of success, in which people, presumably the subjects, inhabit an ultimately empty world of Baudrillardian proporportions where a “desperate need for recognition and approval are ubiquitous; where people live with the constant fear of being considered losers,” the implication being that these photographs would blast through all the pretension and show that the people who are so desperate or approval are, indeed, losers marching obediently to nowhere in a sad world devoid of all value or meaning; that the photographs, or the photographer would, so to speak, burst their bubble.

    Perhaps I read it wrong, at least to some extent (everybody always does), but since you asked, that was the basis of my read on it. And although I don’t much like how this was pulled off, I have nothing against the basic idea (as I interpret it). I kind of like it, actually. So I offer what I hope to be constructive criticism. Please feel free to hit me with counterexamples, but it seems to me that the greatest artists typically have the greatest compassion for their subjects and that if these people are indeed living in constant fear in an empty world, then they are deserving of compassion; and I don’t see any of that in these photos. If I’ve read it all wrong,Teresa, I’m sorry, but sometimes learning how people read us wrong can be valuable.

    As someone said, others mileage may vary. Jeff, I didn’t see what you saw regarding self-centered promotion (and I don’t see it in the text either). And I didn’t see the awful, hideous people Bill saw. Or the attack on sacred cows that Bob saw. I saw what I saw and now I try to see what others saw. Who knows how much we bring our personal baggage to these things? A lot, no doubt.

    As for David and his encouragement to network, on other occasions he’s said that none of that matters in the least, that the quality of the work is all. I can see how both of those things can be true.

  • Jeff/MW:

    my reading was exactly as MW’s…both the pics and the text…the text here is the anchor….and i didn’t at all see this as an attact against ‘sacred cows’…how did you interpret that MIchael?…the art world is far from sacred to me…my reading/reaction was very simple one. I liked 2 of the pictures, found the others predictable and fashionable. Linked with the text, I found the project superficial, trite and part-and-parcel of a current vein of thinking that attempts to critique the art world/haute culture/wealth and yet does so with very little insight or challenge. As I said, I found more affection for the people in the pictures (given style of photography and the text) than the project or the author’s musing. Again, it just strikes me as youthful affectation. I’m not disturbed by it, angered by it, put off by it, it’s just a simple essay that i have seen a ton of times without the rigor or insight of, for example, Parr’s love of his subjects or Arbus’ sense of the bizarre or Barney’s care and experience with the society. I actually find the dismissal of any ‘group’ not only superficial and empty (particulars matter, not generalizations) but just way too easy. All that said, there is much of Teresa’s work that I like and find interesting. there are no sacred cows for me, other than my family and close friends and i’d be the first to stand up for work that skewers anyone and any group if done with a sense of insight and with a sense of self-reflection. Maybe I sounded too harsh, but for me, it just isn’t terribly interesting and the critique of that world should at least measure itself by the critiques done by others. I would say, if I hadn’t read the text, I wouldn’t have had the reaction i have. sticking strictly with the pics, my sense is a simple one: #3, 13….the rest, ok, pictures of people at openings/festivals/museums/galleries…i’ve been bored to tears and depressed at openings (including my own) and excited and happy at others…and that, invariably, has nothing to do with the ‘society’ of these kinds of events….Jeff, you of all people should know that.


  • This essay seems pretty random to me. In this day and age with all the tumblrs and hipstamatics all over the place, does it still count as some kind of a story? I don’t know.

    “Observations on the Society of The Spectacle” is a pretty bold declaration of intents to start with. All the full blown flashed images doesn’t live up to it, imho.

    Maybe it’s just too early to tell. Hopefully once the project gets the ball going, everything will work out.

  • Hello everybody,

    I am really glad that the images provoked so many reactions, good and bad.

    The 14 images published on Burn belong to a series of 69, collected in a book and thought to work as a sequence. It is always complicated to edit these kind of projects without losing the feeling that one carefully tries to evoke. I think this is one of the most difficult things a photographer needs to learn.

    I invite you, if you’d like to, to look at the digital version of the book http://issuu.com/teresacos/docs/iwasthere/92. At the end there is also a longer essay that explains in depth what I was trying to achieve and my awareness towards the always delicate position of a photographer towards his/her subjects.

    This doesn’t mean that those who had a negative critique of the essay will change their minds, of course.

    The only thing that I really want to be clear is that there is a reason why the series is called ” I Was There”: I WAS THERE TOO! And I’ll have to be there in the future. The main reason why I started this project is because, as a young photographer that deals with her dreams and aspirations and realises how important “networking” is in our society, no matter which profession one chooses, I wanted to understand what surrounded me in this sense. Would it have made any difference having a self portrait at the end of the book?

  • Hee hee!

    This is so great. So much going on visually, and the subject matter made me alternately smile and wince.

    To be honest, in my experience this crowd appreciate a good joke, and would probably find this hilarious.

    More please.


  • I trust the hors d’oeuvres were nice.

  • Teresa
    Thanks for joining in, and for the link. It is great to see this in an expanded form. I must wait until I have more time to explore, and read the text. You have clearly put a lot of thought and energy into this project.
    One line in your text jumped out at me “five minutes of conversation with the right person can change your whole career/life. Ain’t that the truth!

  • The text seems to be a bit of an add on to a procession of images that parade like an indoor version of street photography. You realy need to engage the audience very early on give them direction spell it out. Good photojournalists and editors grab their audience this just goes on and on. Good luck with it

  • MW –

    “Perhaps I read it wrong, at least to some extent (everybody always does).” I go along with this, and perhaps I wrote it wrong, too, because I did not state nor mean that I saw “awful, hideous people.” What I said was that the photographer makes the places and people SEEM dreadful. The images gave me a feeling of “dread” – hence “dreadful” of entering such rooms, among such people, but being given a feeling of dread by a set of photographs is not the same as judging the people to be awful and hideous. I also lumped myself in with the people in the pictures, because, certainly, I have done a few shows and would hope to do more in the future and in major venues. I do not consider myself “awful or hideous” and I do not consider those who have come to my shows in the past or will to any that I might have in the future, to be “awful” or “hideous.”

    Without a doubt, Teresa’s pictures did give me a feeling of dread and, upon review of these and those in her link, that feeling of dread remains.

    Teresa – thanks for jumping in and making the link. Like Gordon, I will give it some exploration. And Gordon, it took me awhile, but I did answer the question you left me. If you did not see it, yes, that was a Piper Cub.

  • Ehhhhh… but that’s what i was talking about. There’s a whole book already!

    I think you just provided a sub-par/incomplete selection of your work. Why didn’t you submit the fabulous image on page 47, for example? It adds more color to the palette.

    I like it!


  • Teresa:

    thank you for the book link. much much more interesting. 3 and 13 (from above) still are among the stand outs, but the relationship between the attendees and the environment is probed and examined and juxtaposed much more fully and interesting. in the book (link) above, the story and the project itself becomes entirely different than what we’ve seen here at Burn (pics/text). This project (link) becomes really about the event itself and the negotiations (including the emptiness/sadness/whiteness (as in Beckett, not color)) of mass events (be them art/museums/film fests/parties etc). The book no longer looks like an examination of the people and society of said events (as describe above here) but really about the events themselves as subjects….the book project is strong and speaks to me for the opposite reasons that the BURN essay version/text does not….

    for me, an important lesson on why projects (as intended by the artists) cannot be truncated/cloven as they lose their meaning and take on an entirely different one….

    why in my own work, i never publish ‘edited’ versions of what I feel the projects are about, as they just don’t make sense….

    thanks so much for sharing the full and realized project.


  • oh, and just a quick qualification:

    1) by ‘whiteness’ i don’t mean the color of the people (or even the color of the walls/light, but that too of course) but by Beckett’s use of the world ‘white’ in his prose pieces…and the way he puts people in space (particuarly post Unnamable), so that the the white walls/ceilings/sky become the real character and consciousness of the work, of our thoughts…same too in the book version of I Was There

    2) i like many of images in the book version as well and all the empty and enviornmental pics serve the people well, so that the people themselves become more like the ‘art’ and the space viewing/rejecting them (something not apparent in the short version)

    3) i did not mean to suggest that BURN/editors made the 1st version we saw short/edited: that is the decision of the artist and something which is an important consideration, i know Burn/David/Diego publish and and all essays in the way the artist wishes them to be viewed…

    anyway, very pleased to have seen the longer version…a significant and game changing difference…


  • Sometimes other form of media just are more appropriate ……the photographers’ mentality of one size fits all is pretty flawed http://dl.nfsa.gov.au/module/1057/
    Bob it is not a matter of having an edited version it is about creating a different version for the wwwdot world. Ideally that should be instigated from the outset,factors such as image sequencing, size, density/saturation come into play. As you know a book and a essay on the net are two very different beasts and a simplistic translation that is occurring here just doesn’t work

  • hi imants:

    yes, of course, a book, a print, something hand-made,something tactile, is incredibly different than an electronic presentation, but that is not what I am referring to and was certainly not the stumbling block for me. I do agree that the use of text and images (or incorporation of other media) for the web vs. exhibition or real-life prints or hand-held book is very different and should be conceived of differently, just as a ‘projection’ is different from a print, online slideshow, book. I know this full well, since everything i do with pictures involves text and also some form of tactile gesture (scratches, tape, cut outs, text, rips, etc), and this is much more difficult to translate on the web unless an entirely new approach is made (for example a film/movie/collage, web-based concept etc.) It was also interesting to see/hear the different reactions to ‘loomings upon an horizon’ when i showed it at a projection/artist talk i did last week, in which some Burnians were there to see the work off the web and blown up on a wall through a projector. but these two are different from the handmade book i made, part of which i gave to marina prior and even a book (in the hand) is still different, a translation of something made by hand. None of which i’m talking about.

    In Teresa’s case, at least for me, my ‘problem’ (and i use this word lightly and lovingly, as a critique/feedback, not as disparagement) with the presentation here WAS a question of editing/sequencing, presentation about the pics + text, cloven from its entirety (same with the text, which is considerably longer and argued differently in Teresa’s book). So, here, it is a question of fullness that made a big difference and not whether or not it was presented in a web-friendly manner. Hell, the first time i saw ‘solitude of ravens’ was on a gallery website, before i saw the actual book, and it made just as big of an impact….

    for me, and i know this is where you and i differ, is not about the media, but about the message that is conveyed, ultimately….the medium can surely be the message (the basis of art to begin with, let alone conceptual work), but in a case where the ‘message’ here is about traditional sense of the image (which it is here) conveying that message, how an author choses to sequence, include/exclude defines that message….the same series of pictures (here) translated through, say, a web friendly approach (film/video/voice/quick cuts, long cuts, dissolve, games, whatever) would not necessarily worked any better….

    how one tells a story is part of the story itself (of course), and here the how is not book/long essay vs. web pubication of small essay is not the stumbling point, atleast not for me…

    it lay in the pictures/sequence chosen and their relationship with the short text above…

    either way, it is an instrumental lesson (whichever side viewers come down on Teresa’s project) to see if one works ‘better’ (long or short), or if one version changes the ‘meaning’ and the ‘strength’ of the project…those questions can only be answered by individual viewers….

    but for me, the difference between the 2 (long and short) is like the difference between night and day and has nothing to do about how ‘many’ pictures are shown (length) or whether it is a 14 pic web presentation of 100 page hand-held book…..

    it is about the message convey BY the choices made….


  • No Bob for me it is about the message and here the message does not fit the media, that is what I have stated all along the two need one another,sometimes there are just better ways to get a message across. Just as with the Arab spring sure we got a message of change on the net but the real message was out on the streets and participating. Verbal contact in real time as opposed to audio that could be dismissed at a touch of a button.

  • p.s. having looked at the extended version, Iam doubly impressed.
    Nice and thorough, and some really good, subtle visual puns.

    Refreshingly brutal!

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