Hunters and Farmers

I am not sure that I completely subscribe to the ‘Hunters’ and ‘Farmers’ analogy from Jeff Wall (Wall in Horne, 2012). If all images are constructions, which I do believe, then this is surely a spectrum in which all photographies fall and even within the distinct extremities of the continuum, even the hunters subjectively construct the reality of the actual (Berger, 2013, p.8) , which is based on the real world.

As such, I do not feel wholey comfortable subscribing completely to either title, however, I believe that my work is rooted in this actuality. I do not consciously or emphatically try to deceive with my work, however this is not to assume that what I do is not a construct with every decision that I make creating a version of reality, although naturalistic in its appearance & indexical in its traces, I am starting to appreciate that representation can only be a part of the whole narrative, an informed – if you will – overall opinion of what I am trying to say. If I was to consider which end of the spectrum that my work falls, it would inevitably be on the side of the hunter as I tend to look for the photographs that I want to create in the actual, my work is less about the gradual constructions and more about the constructed actualities. On the face of it, my practice does little to tend to my images over time, however perhaps this ‘tending’ could be through the development of personal style and aesthetics in the way that I approach my image making, it is easier to suspend disbelief when viewing my images because they are based in the real world.

As I reflect on this, I realise that my work on this end of the continuum is still rooted within my own comfort zones of how I take pictures, which is founded on my commercial practice as an editorial photographer. During the presentations, we have been continually asked to consider the importance of the reality of the image to determine meaning (Cosgrove, 2020) so moving forward, it would be good for me to play with this notion and create some work that consciously moves further toward the ‘Farmer’ end of the spectrum.

With this in mind, I am thinking of returning to two areas that I identified in some earlier research, the term idiorrhythmic came up when reading a text by Barthes and the reference to how we can live our separate lives but co-exist within societies and communities, Barthes considers this view non-paradoxical and considers that for a proper Utopian community to function there would be a removal of identifying information to distance ourselves from ‘spaces of Manipulation’ (Barthes, 2012, p.101). I wonder if the people that I am aiming to include in my look at the local community need to be ‘real,’ or could this be part of a constructed reality that plays with this notion of the spaces of manipulation and links to why I chose community as an area of interest for my photography and my fractured sense of connection to the place that I live.

Figure 1. Desert Places by Robert Frost (1936).

Another related area to Barthes notion of living together and apart is through the metaphor of the desert which Barthes uses in his text and also unpacked in the analytical paper of his work ‘Roland Barthes, the individual and the Community’ (Stene-Johansen, et al., 2018), from here links can be made to this kind of monoclastic living balancing isolation and attachment (2018, p.16). Robert Frost’s poem ‘Desert Places’ (Fig. 1) is also referenced here and an area that I wish to explore (Frost, 1936, p.44).

How are my images consumed?

My work has always sat in the printed media category, in that for the majority of my commercial life I have worked as an editorial photographer primarily for the airline publication sector, with other magazines and newspaper imagery too. So far, I have treated the work that I have produced for the MA as a kind of extended editorial shoot with the intention of displaying it in printed media, or its online equivalent. For example, after the last module, I produced a postcard series of the project to be distributed to a range of magazine and online editors (Fig. 2&3) with some interest in the work and a few shares on social media platforms. As is the way with publishing lead times, timing has been an issue for some of the publications that I sent my work, citing that my images of the carnival needed to be published to coincide with the next carnival season in the autumn. My intention here is to follow up in the spring to see if the work can be published later in the year.

Figure 2. Postcard Series created to market ‘The Wessex Grand Prix’ (Hill, 2019).
Figure 3. Postcard cover and graphic for ‘Wessex Grand Prix’ (2019).

The topicality of the project lets it sit comfortably in this editorial category and would be considered professionally as an interesting look at British culture in the southwest region of the UK. The context of any kind of publication would omit much of the intentions that I set out in the creation to the work, in terms of the fractured sense of community that inspired to look again at the Carnival culture.

I have been testing the limit of this view through the submission of the work to dummy book awards, such as the Mack First Book Award (Fig. 4). At this stage, I am not sure whether my work sits comfortably within this category. 

Figure 4. Wessex Grand Prix Book Dummy cover (2019)

Reflecting  on my decision to create a postcard series was primarily from a marketing perspective. In our digital image world, I wanted to let my project stand out from the plethora of emailed submissions that these editors would inevitably receive. Viewing images in an online gallery form can be very linear, as you are bound by the sequence and flow of the gallery in which they are presented with the knowledge that the job of the photo editor is to produce a narrative that fits with the intent and the editorial guidelines of the publication, this could be considered quite limiting to the potential of publication. This presents a slight irony in that the postcard mailer, which traditionally was a primary way of marketing for photographers, allows me to stand out. Presenting my work in a tangible medium also allows it to be laid out in full and viewed in a way that may work better within the context of the editor that I send the work. 

The postcard and the book dummy that I have started to explore also marks a departure in the ways that my work can be consumed, albeit an esoteric one. Simon Norfolk, for example has remarked that the world of the Photo book has become a self-congratulatory loop, where photographers are celebrating other photographers belonging to the same clique, and the same can also be said of the gallery and award system (Norfolk, 2019). Any move into other ways that my images are distributed and consumed should consider the esoteric and have an awareness that any meaning that could be derived from it needs to be viewed by more than a small group of taste makers. 


Bibliography

Barthes, R., 2012. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of some Everyday Spaces. Translation ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

Berger, J., 2013. Understanding a Photograph. London: Penguin Classics.

Cosgrove, S., 2020. Week 2 Presentation: Is it Really Real?, s.l.: Falmouth.

Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.

Hill, P., 2019. The Wessex Grand Prix. [Photography].

Horne, R., 2012. Holly Andres, ‘Farmer’ of Photographs. The Wall Street Journal, 3 February.

Norfolk, S., 2019. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers [Interview] (12 June 2019).

Stene-Johansen, K., Refsum, C. & Schimanski, 2018. Living Together: Roland Barthes, the Individual and the Community. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

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