Category Archives: Exhibitions & Books

Towards Assignment 4 – Martha Rosler

(Unless it is stated otherwise, all quotes in this post  come from Martha Rossler’s 1981 essay, In around and afterthoughts (on documentary photography).  The essay was written later than, but included as a third work alongside, The Bowery in two indadequate descriptive systems in Rosler’s publication, 3 Works (1981). It provides a commentary on the pictures, and can perhaps be seen as a third (inadequate) descriptive system…)


When I first read In around and afterthoughts (a couple of years ago now), I was delighted to be reading something that took me back to being my much younger self, at university in the early eighties and studying a subject that ended in ‘studies,’ a time when all this stuff seemed still to be up for grabs. The familiarity of the language, the oppositional political position, the absence of any sense that if you hadn’t seen a picture mentioned, you would just be able to find it with a couple of clicks of a keyboard, all this felt really comfortable to me.

Now of course, it also reads as a historical document.  In around and afterthoughts is a postcard from a time before the baddies won,  when ‘oppositional’ could be seen as a political and social position when neither monetarism nor post modernism had swept all obstacles from their path. But also, post-crash, there is once again a relevance to Rosler’s work. If Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party, why shouldn’t other figures (and more importantly their ideas) from forty years ago take a step back in from the margins?


The essay opens with three numbered sections, dealing with the development of documentary photography (both in terms of the intention of the photographer, the subjects of the pictures and their expected audience)  from the end of the nineteenth century up to the mid-seventies, when Rosler took her series of pictures in the Bowery.

Section 1 looks at documentary’s tabloid/sensational beginnings, literally shining a light (or a burst of flash powder) on the dark, unseen corners of society and how this came ‘to represent the social conscience of liberal sensibility presented in visual imagery.’ The Bowery – New York’s ‘archetypal skid row’ – and the people who lived there were from documentary’s beginnings grist to photographers such as Jacob Riis’s mill. The intended audience was more privileged than the derelicts in the pictures and the expected response was charity – ‘an argument for the preservation of [the givers’] wealth’ – and limited social reform, ‘giving a little in order to mollify the dangerous classes below’. Documentary became institutionalised (you think of the work of the FSA in America during the depression) and  – even when taken by insiders – workers’ film and photo societies etc – suggested a need for reform of the existing system rather than any radical changes to it and the existing social order.

Section 2 looks at the situation at the time Rosler was writing in the early eighties. In America the response to the depression (Roosevelt’s New Deal) and the post second world war boom had run out of steam; Ronald Reagan had been elected president. ‘The War on Poverty has been called off. Utopia has been abandoned, and liberalism itself has been deserted.’ Alongside this, ‘The exposé, the compassion and outrage of documentary fueled by the dedication of reforem has shaded over into combinations of exoticism, tourism, voyeurism […] trophy hunting – and careerism.’  Even when there is still some remaining element of showing things to expose something awful, there is still only a call for the ‘us’ of the viewers to feel pity (and possibly to donate to a charity) while admiring the bravery of the photographer who has spared us the need to go and see ‘them’ (or in the case of a ‘natural’ disaster, ‘it’) for ourselves. ‘Causality is vague, blame is not assigned, fate cannot be overcome.’

Section 3 – Rosler sees documentary’s purpose as having moved from being about its subject matter to being about the heroic photographer: ‘What has ceased to be news becomes testimonial to the bearer of the news.’ Photographs are presented as the work of individuals; what they depict becomes secondary. They allow the viewer to vicariously experience things that are distasteful, dangerous, or far-flung. They become opportunities to view things seen as ‘other’ rather than as subjects for compassion or charity or reform. ‘Documentary’ pictures can act as art or as advertisement, as substitute for actual travel or as romantic depictions of other cultures, always seen from the perspective shared between the photographer and the viewer.

Along side this there was the reinvention of documentary photography as something that has changed its focus from the social causes of the first half of the twentieth century (seen in the work of Hine and the FSA and Robert Frank)  to point instead towards more personal individual ends. And so Dorothea Lange had given way to  Diane Arbus.

Documentary photography had become spectacle and been severed from its earlier political purpose; viewing it had become a question of connoisseurship (in the gallery) or a test of the viewers’ courage inspiring in them  ‘anxiety and perverse fascination’ when viewed as images in the mass media, providing (in John Lydon’s words as he opened the Sex Pistols’ fourth single) ‘A cheap holiday in other people’s misery.’


The remainder of Rosler’s essay (3 much shorter sections) examines what she was trying to do with her photographing of the Bowery. She begins by examining what pictures of ‘drunken bums’ show (people ‘to be finally judged as vile’) and what they are not (‘a treatise on political economy,’ analysing the pressures which lead to members of society falling out of its bottom). It is this analysis that pictures are inadequate to provide. There will be no people ‘captured’ and displayed as trophies from Rosler’s expeditions into skid row.

The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems is made up of twenty four rectangular framed panels. All of the panels have room for two 6:4 prints mounted on a black background. All twenty four of the panels have a print of typewritten words, photographed and enlarged; twenty one of them also have a black and white photograph taken in the Bowery. None of the pictures have people in them, though they all contain evidence of human activity in the form of shop fronts, abandoned bottles and other slum-area city detritus. This is described as ‘radical metonomy’ – the street standing in for the condition of the people who live there.

Although the work does not form a typology, the installation views of the panels show them displayed in a regular grid. Rosler refers to the way there are two groups of words: ‘First the adjectives, begging with playful metaphor […] A second series begins, of nouns belonging firmly to the Bowery…’ The adjectives occupy the right-hand side of the diptyches; the nouns the left.

Neither the pictures nor the words are intended to be original or offering a new perspective. They are inadequate to the task of making ‘an argument about social relations,’ but in Rosler’s view perhaps they contain ‘the germ of another documentary’ that is not given high status by art of the media, but which instead is ‘committed to the exposure of specific abuses […] a body of documentary works about militancy or about self-organisation, or works meant to support them.’


Reference:

  • Rosler, M (1981) In around and afterthoughts (on documentary photography); essay, widely available online.
  • Edwards, S (2012) Martha Rossler, The Bowery in two indadequate descriptive systems; Afterall, London
Advertisements

Towards Assignment 4 – Joel Meyerowitz: Aftermath

Joel Meyerowitz’ book Aftermath (collecting his pictures taken at the World Trade Centre site in the months following it’s destruction in September 2001) is in every sense, monumental. My copy was dropped of with one of my neighbour by Amazon logistics, and when I went to get it, she appeared from behind her door with an almost comically large parcel. I staggered up the stairs to my flat startled at how much the package actually weighed. It consists of 350 pages, most of which contain photographs. If it was an exhibition it would easily fill a whole floor of Tate Modern. In this way it mimics the enormity of what happened when two aeroplanes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York on 11th September 2001, but it is also very much a celebration of the way ‘ordinary Americans’ responded to an atrocity carried out upon them.

‘This thing’s gorgeous – absolutely gorgeous. It’s a hard thing to say when you’re dealing with this destruction, but it’s gorgeous’

– Joel Meyerowitz, in Reflections of Ground Zero (Ch4 News, 2004)

In the short (and really rather marvellous) BBC/OU animation Edmund Burke on the Sublime, ‘the sublime’ is defined in opposition to the (merely) beautiful. Beautiful objects are  ‘small, beautiful, delicate, delightful, smooth’ (and you could add, feminine and domestic or interior) while the sublime relates to things that are ‘vast, gloomy, dark and threatening’  (and male and related to the great, romantic, outdoors). ‘Beautiful things produce pleasurable feelings; sublime things overwhelm us.’ The sublime object is ‘terrifying’ but still – paradoxically – is pleasurable.

This is precisely the effect that is produced by Meyorowitz’s book collecting his Ground Zero photographs, Aftermath (2006). I have just weighed it on my kitchen scales and it weighs 3.8 kg (more than half a stone); it measures eleven inches by fourteen; to look at it properly, you really need to put it on a table and concentrate. It is a significant object even before you open it and look at the pictures.

And the pictures are great. The LF negatives produce incredibly detailed pictures (and some fold out to twice the size of the open book – 44″ x 14″. Like Gursky’s massive composites (recently on show at the Hayward Gallery in London) you can pore over a single image for quite some time without ever seeming quite to have exhausted it. All of the pictures seem to be striving for something of the impact of classical history painting and many of them achieve it. It is a marvellous record, but – and this is where I think Campany (writing three years before the publication of the book, of corse) gets off track a bit – of the clear up of the site rather than the destruction of the World Trade Centre itself. Destruction fulfills the role of a noun here, rather than a verbal one; the ruins stand in for the act, which is not itself examined.

(The actual collapse of the twin towers lodges in my head as an amalgam of Richard Drew’s Falling Man, the video footage of the planes hitting the towers and the picture of a group of people sitting and talking by the Brooklyn waterfront, seemingly unaware of what it going on behind them (taken by Thomas Hoepker and reproduced in Richard Salkeld’s Reading Photographs on p.91).)

The Channel 4 documentary describes the pictures that Meyerowitz is shown taking as satisfying ‘the need for remembrance of those who grieve, those traumatised by watching the towers fall, whose jobs collapsed with the towers and those who simply lost a beloved landmark‘ (my emphasis). I would place Meyerowitz firmly in that final category – the documentary references him making a series of pictures of the World Trade Centre from the window of his Manhattan studio; these pictures form a pre-credits sequence in the book – and the act of taking the pictures locates him as part of the heroic efforts of

The portraits – presumably mostly taken with the Leica you can see hanging around Meyerowitz’s neck in the Channel 4 footage  – which are interspersed with the large format panoramas of the destruction and chaos throughout the book bestow upon their subjects a heroic stature. And that, I think is what he pictures are about – it’s there in the title – the aftermath, the clear up, the restoration of some sort of order to New Yorkers’ sense of them selves. And of course, they also are about inserting Meyerowitz himself into that narrative as a participant, reconnecting himself to the city and helping it remember itself and its actions.

You can only accommodate, unmodified, the positive, wartime narrative of ‘London can take it!’ by suppressing the fact that we (and my use of ‘we’ here, cannot be totally innocent, speaking as it does of a degree of identification with my parents’ generation) went on to totally flatten cities the length and breadth of Germany and that the German’s could ‘take it’ as well); likewise Meyerowitz’s pictures cannot be reconciled with the ongoing chaos in Iraq or Afghanistan (the Channel 4 documentary was aired on the day Kabul fell) without creating a much more complicated story about who the ‘we’ in question is (in this case specifically Americans – the parallel British narrative taking in the 7/7 Tube Bombings , a point at which London once again was delighted to be able to ‘take it,’ is different although no less partial).

The BBC animation goes on to state that the idea of the sublime was a powerful influence upon ‘Romanticism – the artistic movement that extolled the untamed power of the natural world.’ By invoking this untamed, natural power, Meyerowitz neatly sidesteps any question of the (human-made) politics of 9/11. The pictures are primarily a celebration of the people who went in clear up ground zero, made heroic by their juxtaposition with the sublime chaos unleashed, not by al qaeda (political) but by the collapse of the twin towers (natural). The dead are a secondary presence here (many of the people captured in the large format pictures are of course searching for body parts among the debris); a possible way the Channel 4 footage is more informative than the stills is there in the released rushes when Snow is warned not to go down ‘there’ (into the pit at the base of one of the towers) without putting on his mask, because it stinks of the decomposing bodies buried beneath the rubble for two months by the time of filming.

When I watched two of Sam Taylor Wood’s videos – the 2001 piece Still Life (a bowl of fruit decaying in a timelapse sequence) referenced in part 5 of the course book and even more so A little death (2002) where a rabbit decays over 4 minutes of film time – I was struck by how unpleasant making these sequences must have been – Christ! the stink!

Aftermath removes any idea of something outside the purely visual; the sound of digging and diggers, the smells and the taste in your mouth, the wobbliness of rubble beneath you feat, the heat that melted the soles of workers’ shoes are all missing. You are left with a pictorial vision of chaos, but one that has been ordered by the lens and the skill of the man taking the pictures into something approaching art and the eternal.


This invocation of the sublime (with its commensurate banishment of both the human causes of this horror and of much of the physicality of what was left behind) is precisely what I do not want to do with Grenfell tower for Assignment 4. While it is useful to have an ‘anti-template’, it is also a good thing to have something that may form a positive model. For that, I turned to Martha Rosler and her 1974 work, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems and her 1981 commentary upon that work (or possibly a work in its own right), In, Around, and Afterthoughts (on Documentary Photography).


Reference:

research point – barthes’ ‘the rhetoric of the image’

Read ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ and write a reflection in your learning log.
• How does Barthes define anchorage and relay?
• What is the difference between them?
• Can you come up with some examples of each?
• How might this help your own creative approaches to working with text and image?

– IaP coursebook – p.79

My final assignment for Context and Narrative drew heavily on Barthes’ essay by using it to provide a model for a ‘made up’ image in the form of the pasta advertisement, juxtaposed with a poem. In planning the image I engaged quite closely with the text, but I shall try to recap here. It is certainly a text that warrants careful re-reading.

Anchor and Relay:

Both are terms relating to text associated with images, a practice so widespread that it is difficult to find ‘pure’ uncaptioned images anywhere. Images are viewed as ‘polysemous’ with a huge range of possible interpretations and meanings. Text can dominate this plurality of meanings when the image ‘duplicate[s] certain of the text by a phenomenon of redundancy’ (anchorage) or else the text can be used to ‘add fresh information’ to that contained within the picture (relay).

So:

  • Anchorage – Text answers the question ‘What am I looking at?’, narrowing down a number of possibilities to that expressed in the associated text. The image becomes a single thing, with an approved reading supplied by the words. In other words the text dominates the process of producing meaning for the viewer. This is the most common way that text is used with images (in newspaper captions, advertisements etc) and represents a reduction of the possibilities of the image.
  • Relay – new, extra information is provided by text (or speech in the case of comic books or films) which augments and moves on the content available in the image itself. Instead of dominating the image, text works in a complementary way to the content of the image.  Image and Text play equal parts in a narration, organised as a series of syntagms (ie in a sequential, progressive way).

Anchors lend themselves to certainty, shutting down options and seem directly related to an indexical reading of the photograph as a direct objective trace of a real object; they specify which set of connotations are sanctioned for the use of the viewer. Relays offer more scope for interpretation and work on the part of the viewer, expanding the possibilities for both connotation and more complex narratives. Relays also  – at least tacitly – acknowledge the possibility of the existance of a narrator, telling the story, while anchors present a story as existing, a latent presence within the image.

Some Anchors – Labels on pictures of food in menus or above the service area in take aways; newspaper captions; labels in family albums; simple descriptive titles.

Some Relays -Dialogue in films (or caption cards in silent films for that matter); Allusive titles relying on knowledge not contained in the image (classical painting based on Greek or Roman myths, say); captions where the information relayed is not present in the image.


I could use this, immediately, in revisiting my (superceded) early idea for assignment three. I had hoped to be able to show my thought processes as I chose where to be at set points in my journey to work in order to be able to make the simplest transition to the next stage.

Starting at Walthamstow Central, sitting in the 3rd coach from the rear of the train allows me to step straight into the way out at Oxford Circus, where – after I go up one level on the escalator – I can then get the easiest, least congested path to the Westbound Central Line Platform. Then if I wait by the waste bin, opposite the peeling paint, I can get on the next train after arriving at White City, disembark and go straight up the stairs.

There was way too much information to get across here, to leave it entirely to the pictures. There is a lot of discussion online about the limitations of the philosophy of ‘show – don’t tell’ in visual story telling; indeed Barthes questioned the idea that we are becoming a more visual/less verbal culture in the original essay in 1964. If I could have added text in some way – sometimes anchoring by reducing the chaos of what you were looking at to a manageable chunk of information; in others adding relays such as recordings of (or the script for) announcements about the next station – I maybe could have got it to work.

I think I will try this, using a mixture of new pictures and audio recordings to augment the slideshow version of that assignment for exercise 4.5…

Reference:

  • Barthes, R (1964) Rhetoric of the Image from trans. Heath, S. (1977) Image Music Text (Fontana Press, London

I have spent a fair amount of time working through the search results produced by using the search string  – Barthes Anchor Relay – on google. It is interesting how everyone seems quite certain of what an anchor is; thinking on relay – mostly still centred around Barthes’ identification of it as a feature of cinematic or comic strip narrative –  is much more diffuse.

Andreas Gursky at the Hayward Gallery

people looking at art


The picture at the top of this post is – of course –  a composite, made up of parts of three images. While partly this has been done to remove a woman walking through the sequence from right to left, blocking at times the three single figures on in the left half of the final image, it is also a thing I’ve become more and more intrigued by as I’ve moved through level one here, and a thing I’d like to explore further, though probably not during IaP. but who knows?

Four Portraits by Thomas Ruff – National Portrait Gallery, London

at the national portrait gallery – october 2017

There is a landing at the back of the National Portrait Gallery, half-way down the flights of stairs where you are confronted by four enormous heads, three facing you and a fourth on the wall to your left.  Tying-in to the big Whitechapel Gallery retrospective of his work, these four photographs are a small subset of Thomas Ruff’s 1980s’ series, Porträts (Portraits).

I looked at the four women’s faces for a while, and watched other people looking at them; then I went home and found the interview with Ruff referenced at the end of this post. All quotes from Ruff come from this interview; all commentary is mine.


In a way I wanted to blot out any traces or information about the person in front of the camera. I also wanted to indicate that the viewer is not face-to-face with a real person, but with a photograph of a person. Quite often people at the exhibitions say, “Oh, that’s Heinz, that’s Peter, that’s Petra,” because they’re looking through the photograph, confusing the medium with reality. By blowing the portraits up to a colossal scale, I forced the viewer to realize that he is not standing in front of Heinz, but in front of a photograph of Heinz.

At first, I thought the lighting glaring off the – presumably not non-reflective – glass in front of the picture was annoying. But then I began to see it as a further distancing strategy: no matter how close you come to them, either through their sheer monumental scale – I reckon each woman would be about thirty feet tall if these were full-length portraits – or just physically as you are drawn closer and closer, you never get quite close enough to resolve who the person pictured is. And further, as you step in,  you are aware not only of the frame that surrounds each print, but also of the white border around each photograph, drawing attention in turn to the ‘frame’ determined by Ruff as he set up his camera. You are definitely looking at pictures, not at people.


I don’t think that my sitters build stone walls, but rather that they say to the viewer, “You can come this close, but no further.” Maybe my portraits are anachronistic because even though they show every detail of the skin, clothes, and hair of the sitter, they still don’t try to show any of his or her feelings.

Based on Ruff’s discussion elsewhere in the interview, I take ‘anachronistic’ here to refer to the early Victorian view that photographs made ‘automatically’ or without the agency of an operator, inscribed indexically by  ‘the pencil of nature’ rather than the bulb-release of the artist.

The pictures seem to exist somehow outside of history, but Ruff is quite clear that their making was heavily influenced by the zeitgeist of the time of their making in the early eighties. He was working in pre-reunification West Germany; Orwell’s 1984 was being examined as if was a prophecy rather than a cautionary tale written nearly forty years earlier and surveillance imagery was everywhere; in the aftermath of the Baader-Meinhof group’s campaign of bombings and kidnappings, people – and particularly young people, like Ruff and his subjects – in the BRD were continually being asked to produce their identity papers.

It may be that because the ideas contained in Bladerunner are once again in the air (the original was released in 1982; it was the first surround sound film I ever saw, in Aberdeen, the day before I saw Elvis Costello on the Imperial Bedroom tour) but they to me, they look like replicants (Philip K Dick’s term for androids) or maybe, since Ruff is German, Kraftwerk’s robots.

Which in turn moved me onto the Krautrock bands’ (and other groups of European musicians’) attempts to make music that was not rooted in American music – the blues in particular –  instead using repetition (think of Jaki Leibzeit’s drumming with Can or pretty much anything by Neu!) and the rejection of overt emotion (Kraftwerk – the difference between ‘fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn’ contrasted with the Beach Boys’ ‘Fun, fun, fun’…) in playing and performance. Is the repetition of the typology in the work of the Bechers happening in the same space as the drumming of Jaki Leibzeit for Can? Is the tension between extreme revelation  of Ruff’s enormous ID pictures somehow linked to Kraftwerk’s cold, yet fascinating and engaging music?

‘Theirs [Arbus and Avedon’s] is a glib, New York version of sentimentality, one that thrills itself with the hysterical belief in antagonism and grit as truth, but that’s sentimentality all the same. Provocative as their pictures may seem to be at first, people love them – perhaps counterintuitively – for that titillating myopia, because they corroborate, rather than challenge, our baser preconceived notions.They never make the more evolved leap to a form that genuinely tries to create a unique means for people to perceive one another.’

As a starting point for further thought, this rejection of American culture seems worth noting. I am of a similar age (or a bit younger) than Ruff, and I remember The Clash being ‘bored with the USA’ and all the other rejections of ‘Rock‘ by the musicians I was picking up on during the late seventies and early eighties. There’s something to explore here, some balancing European photographic tradition to be examined as parallel to the American one developed and sustained by MOMA and Szarkowski…


More immediately though, one of the things that is becoming apparent to me as I work through IaP and receive (somewhat unfavourable) tutor feedback on my assignments is that it is easier to produce art-style pictures of people that you don’t know. Also, as I have already quoted Grayson Perry as saying – if they’re not smiling, it’s probably art (with it’s counterbalancing ‘if they are smiling, it probably isn’t’).

Ruff has already discussed the way that photographing older people  – he uses the examples of Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus – whose story could be said to be written on their face, can lead to a sentimentality of approach separate to the question of whether they are smiling or not (although generally in both Avedon and Arbus, they are not) , before he adds photographing your children into the mix:

All parents want their child’s smile as proof that they’ve done a good job of parenting and that the child is happy. My [Ruff’s] portraits look so Apollonian because the sitters provide a perfect surface onto which the viewer can project anything, bad and good experiences alike. They’re neutral and friendly, like Buddhas. They’re vessels you can fill with all of your wishes and desires.

This is close to Gombritch’s idea (discussed in Bate) of sfumato, or of leaving space for the spectator to project their own self into a picture of a stranger by reducing individual identifying detail in the picture, but it takes it a bit closer to what I was trying to do with some of the photographs in assignment 2. I used pictures of my children, on holiday, and  – in two of them – they were looking happy! 


‘[Ruff’s subjects were] people between the ages of twenty-four and thirty-four, and life hadn’t yet left any signs on their faces. They weren’t babies, but they hadn’t had too many bad experiences, either. They were in that state in which everything is still possible.

I had thought this too, looking at the pictures at the NPG. I had even gone on to think about the difference between the four pictures on display here and the (fascinatingly and variably readable) pre-execution mug-shots taken in Soviet prisons during the great terror that I had sat and watched sliding by as part of the Images of Conviction exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery last year.

What I had not thought about was how this meant that I would be unable to make a similar portrait of my generation, now as today (when we are moving through our fifties) our faces are too battered, too readable for this approach to work. ‘Sentimentality’ would have reentered the picture space. This raised the question in my mind of whether James (who is fifteen) was old enough to be pictured in this way as a blank canvas, devoid of my sentimental projections as his father (Alice, at four-and-a-half, definitely is not).

I set up Ruff’s 1987 standard portrait lighting (you can see the two diffused strobes, placed right and left, slightly above the eyeline, reflected in the pupils of his subjects) and stood James in front of the most neutral of the living room walls. I told him ‘to look into the camera with self-confidence, but likewise, that [he] should be conscious of the fact that [he was] being photographed, that [he] were looking into a camera.

Unlike Ruff, I did not use a view camera (you could make a significantly larger-than-life print of these from the files produced by camera though) but James did a grand job of being my subject I think; I will include the first picture of the three above in the revised set for Assignment 2 I put in for assessment, next year, replacing the one of him buffeted by the wind on the boat as we headed north. I would not use the profile (too obviously a mugshot reference, and so adding prompts for a reading) but may also put in the picture of the back of his head. We’ll see.


I will go to visit the full retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery next week, I think. There will probably be a longer, update piece…

All quotes have been taken from an interview with  Ruff by Gil Blank, originally published in Influence Magazine (Issue 2, 2004) and accessed online at Gil Blank’s artist’s site on 12/10/17

on the portrait chapter in Bate – a resusable reference

I have read this chapter again and again. I have referred to it on numerous occasions here and in my log for Context and Narrative. A summary of what is in it will be of benefit, I think…

After starting off with a potted history of the development of portrait photography in the nineteenth century, Bate gets onto the two topics I’m going to discuss here: What are the elements of a portrait photograph and how do we read them? and What is it that we do when we look at pictures of people and why do we like to do it? Continue reading