Friday, 3 May 2013


This Friday, London’s Tate Modern will be launching its most audacious photography exhibition depicting scenes so intrusive that it is disturbing. From death to sex, the 250 photographs spread over thirteen rooms are images that are by no means meant for the public eye. Not only does the exhibition expose our current society as voyeurs, but also as exhibitionists which has become interdependent in fueling this big bad mean machine of increasingly obsessive surveillance and voyeurism.

In a present-day society that gets its kicks from YouTube videos and Facebook photos, the outrageously intrusive exhibition will be exploring the line between surveillance and voyeurism and how technology, in this case the camera, appears to have fueled a human phenomenon that has always been present. Further to this conclusion, the exhibition is particularly relevant in today’s political climate, which has seen CCTV surveillance in the UK increase dramatically. Exposed will include works by amateur as well as press photographers to illustrate the privacy debate surrounding the rise of technology and social media in particular as well as surveillance.

Exploring the twisted thrill obtained from seeing something we shouldn’t, Exposed examines our world dominated by social media and surveillance through paparazzi and CCTV style images as we are lead down the dark seedy path of ajar doors, open curtains and night vision cameras as we stumble into people’s living rooms, bedrooms, park benches…the exhibition puts up private images for public consumption, be they of famous people or of the lay man secretly indulging in wearing his wife’s stockings alone at home. The surface layer is torn away leaving images of clandestine meetings and the most intimate of situations.
The images will make up the much-awaited taboo-bordering exhibition, using photography from the late nineteenth century to the present day. The exhibition will include shots from iconic street photographer Weegee Walker Evans’s iconic photograph of Marilyn Monroe, to Paparazzi shots of a sobbing Paris Hilton as she is taken off to prison, JFK’s assassination, as well as Tom Howard\’s electrocution of Ruth Snyder in 1928. From an artistic perspective, Exposed denotes the art of ‘secret photography’, where in most cases the photographer snaps away at an opportune moment creating an illusion of an ‘absent photographer’. The scenes depict ones of suicide, such as one young man’s, Amos Gexella, stuck between life and death before jumping off a building in downtown Johannesburg in the mid 70s.
Technology has made it easier to feed our enjoyment of voyeurism to the extent that it has become an obsession. However, today the voyeuristic phenomenon has spawned an interdependent relationship with exhibitionism, further fueling the machine. Most of us are all too happy to jump to the nearest computer to tell everyone on Facebook about the latest happening, be it the colour of our underwear or to post our latest holiday snaps, or worse, to video ourselves and publish it on YouTube for the entire world to see and comment on. Not only does this exhibition expose others in tricky or taboo situations, but it also puts up a mirror in front of today’s society: not only are we a society of voyeurs but we are also quite plainly a society of exhibitionists, which has largely contributed to the rise of our obsession. This obsession which mingles with surveillance and threatens to get out of hand must be questioned. The moral boundaries need to be defined order to evaluate the implications this has on our freedom as individuals, which is one of the aims of the exhibition.

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