Week 3: Reflection

Consider how professions of photography are viewed by non-photographers and the general public.

Drawing on my personal and professional experience, I have found that photography has been considered an ‘easy’ profession and requires little work to perfect. I have, for example, been asked to photograph at friend’s and relative’s weddings, despite not being a wedding photographer, as I am well known for being a photographer. Interestingly, in many of the approaches to shoot these events, there was a tendency to add the comments ‘When I searched for photographers, they all charge too much, would you do it instead, Phil?’ Although never malicious, the comments primarily de-value my images, financial reasons being the primary motivation for asking me to do it, regardless or whether I could actually deliver a good job. The other issue I have always found with asking me to shoot these events for friends and relatives, once agreed, is I stop being a guest at the wedding and am in a sense now an ‘employee’ of the event without an acknowledgement of that fact.

Figure 1. Acid Mine Drainage image used as the cover for a Text Book. Cover image by Phil Hill​*​

Another interesting exchange I have experienced was from a series of images that I shot in Kenya that highlighted a kind of pollution known as ‘Acid Mine Drainage’ (Fig. 1). I was contacted by a South American website who wanted to use my image. I raised a standard usage license and the reply I received was an angry “What! I can’t believe you sent me an Invoice” with the rest of the email outlining his annoyance of being asked to pay for this kind of content, and then questioning how much I cared about environmental issues. Images from this set, have been used for a book cover, Science Photo Library, and on the BBC illustrating Acid pollution, and illegal Gold mining that was happening on the site who had no issue at all in paying for the images.

Considering this from another viewpoint, Simon Norfolk discussed in his Small Voice podcast interview​†​ about how photography in certain circles is very self-congratulatory, and the obsession with turning grand socio-documentary projects into photo books only to be viewed by the 100 or so other, predominantly white middle-class, photographers that buy it. This esoteric approach to photography can only exacerbate the issue of a wider audience understanding what photography is and the value of it.

Do you think this has any impact upon how you conduct yourself as a photographer, or influences your practice in any other way?

Continuing from above. That being said, starting my carnival project, I have found that on approach of the subjects, they assumed a cliche pose, presumably for the local press photographers that were also marauding in the background (Discussed in my week 2 reflection). This actually gave me the opportunity to ‘Break the ice’ and then re-position the subject to capture the images I was looking for. I have questioned the representation my subjects, however after continued discussion, I feel that there is an amount of conditioning that needed to be removed from the ‘performance’ of the subject, allowing me to capture something more. People seem to have an assumed idea of what a photographer is, through the photographers that they have most contact with such as school, wedding, local press, all of which are looking for a particular type of image and pose. It is therefore important to try and work past this, and capture a more authentic image.

Think about and describe how you have responded to changes in technology in your own practice.
Figure 2. Insta_Repeat Instagram profile shows how people are starting to create the same imagery on the platform​‡​

Social media and the internet continues to shape and accentuate this kind of social conditioning, especially as we are more frequently served the same kind of images and information of via algorithms and artificial intelligence learning of our behaviour online. This has been highlighted through instagram accounts such as Insta Repeat (Fig. 2).

Week 3 webinar reflection 10/10/19

I am pleased with the images that I have shot so far for this project, despite some technical issues. After adding an edit of the work on this week’s forum, I have received a positive response for my work, especially the portraits which come out as the strongest part of this project. I was given Photographers, such as, Margaret Mitchell​§​ to look at and found her work to be really useful in Identifying ways in which I can develop the work. Margaret has a real sense of the locations and environments in her work, which really helps to contextualise it. Paul also suggested that I look at clémentine schneidermann’s​¶​ work, and the series she did ‘I called her Lisa Marie’ (Fig. 3 & 4) which again serves to really place the surreal elements of these Elvis Presley fans in a Welsh setting. 

Figure 3. ‘Liz and Steve’ from I called her Lisa Marie by Clémentine Schneidermann​#​
Figure 4. ‘Little Elvis’ from I called her Lisa Marie by Clémentine Schneidermann​#​

After discussing the work on the forum, I decided to experiment with putting some of the images together in a variety of diptych layouts to see how this might change the way the individual images are viewed (Fig. 5). It was suggested that I might look at also creating triptych layouts of the work. Although these were well received during the crit, the way that I have been approaching this project so far is to separate environments, the details, and the portraits. The feedback has highlighted the need to bring some of those elements together where possible. In a sense, this would be useful when viewing each of the images in isolation of one another.

Figure 5. Experiments with Diptych layouts using the images from my Carnival shoots so far. Images by Phil Hill.

Michelle also followed up with this feedback:

Great to see the access you have and the ease with which you are able to work with them. It may be helpful now to consider what narrative you want to explore and whether you can combine the positioning of the figure within the urban and rural landscape  to illustrate something about the individuality of these people? Alec Soth/Anna Fox/Katie Grannan/Lauren Greenfeld all good possible sources of research.

Michelle Sank​**​

Clearly an area that I should be focusing on for future shoots. I also need to consider the narrative that I intend to portray. This is an area that I feel needs much development. I have approached the project so far with a basic knowledge of ‘Social Capital’ and continue to read Robert Putnam’s book ‘Bowling Alone’​††​ on this subject to hopefully begin informing and developing the narrative this way. Paul has also suggested that I read Peter Kropotkin’s book ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution’​‡‡​ which considers the idea of collaboration within societies. A potential area for the narrative to work with my images might be through the lack of communication between newer elements of my home town of Frome moving in and ‘Gentrifying’ the area without thought or consideration of the people who have lived there for generations, the same people who are involved with the carnivals.

  1. ​*​
    Ryan, P. and Hill, P. (2014). Environmental and low temperature geochemistry. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, p.Cover.
  2. ​†​
    Smith, B. and Norfolk, S. (2019). A Small Voice Podcast – 107 – Simon Norfolk. [online] Ben Smith. Available at: https://bensmithphoto.com/asmallvoice/simon-norfolk [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
  3. ​‡​
    Instagram.com. (2019). Insta Repeat (@insta_repeat) • Instagram photos and videos. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/insta_repeat/?hl=en [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
  4. ​§​
    Mitchell, M. (2019). In This Place — Margaret Mitchell. [online] Margaret Mitchell. Available at: https://margaretmitchell.co.uk/in-this-place [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].
  5. ​¶​
    Schneidermann, C. (2019). I Called Her Lisa-Marie. [online] Chosecommune.com. Available at: https://www.chosecommune.com/book/icalledherlisamarie/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
  6. ​#​
    Schneidermann, C. (2019). I Called Her Lisa-Marie. [online] Chosecommune.com. Available at: https://www.chosecommune.com/book/icalledherlisamarie/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
  7. ​**​
    Sank M. (2019) Week Three Webinar: Work in Progress. Falmouth Flexible
  8. ​††​
    ​Putnam, R. (2007). Bowling alone. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
  9. ​‡‡​
    Kropotkin, P. (2016). Mutual aid. [Charlestown, SC.]: [Createspace, Inc.].

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