Following from the idea to look at my own home at the centre of the community I live (see post), I have created a series of images in response to the listing of the property after our land lady took the decision to sell the house.
I have written about my reasons for photographing the house previously, however to understand some of the context behind my reasons for conducting the experiment, it is important to note here again that the house is in a state of disrepair and out of our reach in terms of south east property prices, perpetuating the fractured community that I am looking at.
Don’t miss out on this beautiful two bedroom mid-terrace family home located on Leavesden Road. Throughout the property provides ample living accomadation [sic] and period features. Here at Brown and Merry we strongly advise early viewings to avoid missing out!
Brown and Merry are proud to present this attractive mid terrace, with the benefit of private off street parking to the rear. The property comprises of kitchen/diner and lounge with period features and storage cupboard under stairs, upstairs you will find bathroom with shower cubicle and bath off the landing and two double bedrooms in addition to access to loft.
The property is located 0.4 miles from Watford Junction Station, and benefits from gas central heating, double glazing and period features.
Call now to avoid disappointment!!
Figure 2. Online description of the property (Rightmove, 2020).
The edit of the work has coincided with week 4’s readers and images. Looking at the photographs that the estate agent used (Fig. 1), the dominant reading is to show the home in the best light in order to make the sale for the best price – as you would expect them to do. Our learned knowledge of how an estate agent operates, is in the way that they exaggerate and embellish the facts. We understand this is the way of things, in the same way you do not fully trust someone selling a car, or negotiating your next phone contract yet still take part in the process.
The use of a wide-angle lens in the corner of the rooms creates a sense of space and the images appear on the site in low resolution which has the effect of hiding a multitude of sins. It is the description of the house (Fig. 2) that provides additional context to the images and highlights to the intent of the agent (and by extension the homeowner) stating “Don’t miss out on this beautiful two-bedroom mid-terrace family home” (Rightmove, 2020). Barthes states that speech and text provide the full terms of the informational structure of how we read the image world (Barthes, 1977, p. 38), and here the use of language creates a construction that suggests that the home is in a better state of repair than it is, and the images provided do not necessarily refute this.
This leads to the oppositional reading of the images. Living in the home for 5 years means that I have a clear understanding of the many nuances that this home has. I can look at the description of the “beautiful family home” (2020) alongside the agent images with the ability to look through them to see many issues of the property that would suggest it is vastly overpriced. Additionally, I am most likely viewing them in the room in which they were taken.
My bias is clear. The home has been valued at the very top end of the market currently, outside my own ability to afford it and remain within this community. It is important to understand that I am not suggesting that I live in abject poverty, I do not, but the very nature of living in a long-term rental property that has never been properly maintained means that the condition of the house is vastly lower than if we owned it ourselves. This is in a sense a comment on the rental trap.
A negotiated reading of the images could be from the people viewing the property with the hope of buying it. This is not something that I can confirm, as a renter, I am outside that chain of dialogue. However, if i was to speculate, those interested in the property would view the images online together with the description and consider it a viable home to view. Once viewed, many of the issues would be quickly apparent; the described beautiful home would require a new kitchen, bathroom, windows, secure exterior doors, and so on that at the top end of this price range, represents a larger investment of time and money than the advertisement would suggest.
I made the decision to photograph the poor state of the house as a direct contrast to the way the estate agent would ultimately present it (Fig. 3). This was inspired by Jack Latham’s approach of using police evidence imagery as part of the narrative for ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ (Fig. 4) and my own experience of working on the Panorama shoot (See post). Here, my ‘evidence’ images represent more of a construction compared to Latham’s use of the police archive, with the agent imagery taking the role of the archive. My intention was to use the aesthetic of the evidence image to play with the dominant reading seen in the agent images. The use of film and black and white encourages the reader to override the agent’s dominant reading and replace it with mine. My oppositional reading becomes the dominant reading in this context.
To show this in my edit, I have looked at putting the images and text together in a number of ways. Firstly, I wanted to see how my new images would work with the original text of the agent listing in order to subvert the dominant reading described by the agent, in an obvious and confrontational way. I have placed my images first and the text second (Fig 5), however I feel that considering the outcome, it would create more of a shock to the reader if the description id first and then be presented with my oppositional imagery (Fig 6).
Figure 6. Phil Hill (February, 2020) Agent images juxtaposed with my ‘evidence’ imagery. [Click to enlarge in gallery]
Personally, I feel that the juxtapositions work better. They are subtler and require more of an examination of the pair together. I present the agent image and then one of my own images which requires the reader to investigate, comparing and contrasting two conflicting views of the room. There is potential to further develop and add some kind of caption to further extend and create a sense of the context and intent that I am aiming to get across.
Using the FSA Hole Punched to ‘Kill’ The images
My last edit was to re-introduce the idea of the ‘killed’ (Taylor, 2017) image that was used by Roy Stryker when rejecting FSA images (See post). I copied one the hole-punches from a rejected FSA image by Arthur Rothstein photograph (Fig. 7) and added it to my evidence imagery of the house (Fig. 8).
This was also to consider the role of the ‘ostracised’ that I have been looking at through the lens of Barthes and his notion that we also need to consider those excluded from society and community in order to understand the functions of it (Barthes, 2012, p. 81). And Dexter Dias, who suggests that those who cast out members of a community, ultimately leads to a more cohesion (Dias, 2017, p. 124) which is an area that I feel warrants more investigation.
Figure 8. Phil Hill (February, 2020) Edited ‘evidence’ images to include FSA hole punches. [Click to enlarge into gallery].
My images represent a view of the property that shows it in a less than positive way. The agent would potentially reject these in their selective view of the home. The hole-punch also adds to the images’ reading by creating a point of focus instantly creating a sense of censorship, which is also from a learned knowledge of the world that we share (Fig. 9).
I am unsure how I am going to move this experiment forward as potentially I have taken this area as far as I can at the moment. These images primarily only really exist for me (Barthes, 1981, p. 73), this is an event that resonates because I am the one who is affected by the sale. If I am to develop this, I would need to consider how these are read by others.
Barthes, R., 1977. Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana Press.
Barthes, R., 1981. Camera Lucida. 1st ed. London: Vintage.
Barthes, R., 2012. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism). Translation Edition ed. New York: Columbia University Press.
Dias, D., 2017. The Ten Types of Human. 1st Paperback Edition ed. London: Windmill Books.
Latham, J., 2019. Sugar Paper Theories. 2nd ed. London: Here Press.
Parasite. 2019. [Film] Directed by Bong Joon Ho. South Korea: Barunson E&A; CJ E&M Film Financing & Investment Entertainment & Comics; CJ Entertainment; TMS Comics; TMS Entertainment.
Rightmove, 2020. Rightmove: 2 bedroom terraced house for sale. [Online] Available at: https://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-68153202.html [Accessed 15 February 2010].
Rothstein, A., 1939. Untitled photo, possibly related to: Blue Ribbon No. 2 Mine, one of the largest gopher holes, Williamson County, Illinois. [Art] Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress).
Taylor, A., 2017. Holes Punched Through History. [Online] Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/02/holes-punched-through-history/518115/ [Accessed 17 February 2020].