Work in Progress Development

Since the need to be inside, there has been a shift in the way that I have to approach my work.

I had been exploring the idea of the documentary aesthetic after reading John Tagg’s discussion on the subject: “that a photograph can come to stand as evidence, for example, rests not on a natural or existential fact, but on a social, semiotic process” (Tagg, 1988, p. 4). Here Tagg notes that the photographic image as ‘truth’ has become a learned part of our culture, it is a mythology that is underpinned by early documentary photography and the semiotic process being referred to is tied closely to how the images were black and white, such as the FSA photography of the 1930s, of which Tagg notes: “The ‘truth’ of these individual photographs may be said to be a function of several intersecting discourses” (p. 173), where even these early images are not part of some empirical fact but a tool for state and media bias, where Susan Sontag also acknowledges this by stating: “The FSA project, conceived as ‘a pictorial documentation of our rural areas and rural problems’ was unabashedly propagandistic” (Sontag, 1979, p. 62).

Figure 1. Evidence experiment. Estate agent vs my images of our rented house (Hill, 2020).
Figure 2. Untitled photo, possibly related to: Mr. Tronson, farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota by Lee Russell (Russell, 1937).

Since the start of the module, I have come back to the FSA project multiple times, especially when considering the idea of truth and representation. For example, when photographing my home as ‘Evidence’ to highlight the differences in the imagery and rhetoric of how an estate agent portrays our home, for the sake of our land lady (Fig. 1), and taking this a bit further by utilising the idea of the ‘killed’ image that Roy Stryker applied when rejecting images (Fig. 2). I had also begun to collaborate with others in my community by providing them with a camera and black and white film to create photograph of their own interpretation of community. My thought process behind this experiment, that the images of my collaborators would hold more ‘truth’ in black and white and play with the authenticity of the narrative, and the idea of fractured community and connective decline by placing these more ‘authentic’ images next to my own study of the community (Fig. 3). However, I think that this part of the work definitely needs more development and I have decided to shelve the idea during the lockdown period as I am unable to effectively work in collaboration and properly direct this part of the project. I am however still asking people to collaborate and create work whilst in isolation and may come back to the idea once we have returned to normality.

Figure 3. Mark and one of Jame’s images in a sequence experiment (Hill & Petrucci, 2020)
Eli Durst
Figure 4. From ‘The Community’ by Eli Durst (Durst, 2019)

Eli Durst’s work ‘The Community’ (Durst, 2019) focusses on the community space and through this he seeks to explore American society and how people come together within these spaces. Durst writes of the work “A quintessentially American space that is simultaneously completely mundane and generic, but also deeply charged psychologically as a point of ideological production” (Durst, 2019) and many of the images create a topology of religious iconography (Fig. 4), not least because many of the space that Durst photographs are church basements. Durst creates these images in black and white and with direct flash, and although Durst comments “I quickly realised I was less interested in a documentary-style project and I became more interested in trying to capture strange, ambiguous moments in which one activity can bleed into another” (Angelos, 2019), his conscious application of these techniques, which are a departure from previous work (Fig. 5), creates a sense of the learned documentary aesthetic, in a similar way to the work of Weegee used them (Fig. 6) historically and also blend into the learned knowledge of how a documentary photograph is expected to look. Where I disagree with how Durst seems to disassociate from the documentary aesthetic, his exploration of the subject really starts to consider the mythology of American culture through these spaces and links very well to the writing of Robert Putnam, who discussed the decline of social capital through traditional sources, such as religion, citing a study by Wade Clarke Roof and William McKinney: “Large numbers of young well-educated, middle-class youth … defected from the churches in the late sixties and the seventies … Some joined new religious movements, others sought personal enlightenment through various spiritual therapies and disciplines, but most simply ‘dropped out’ of organised religion all together” (Putnam, 2000, p. 73). Yet the need to congregate continues, and Durst is starting to answer the question of what is replacing religion in these people’s lives, noting “Many need a secular sense of purpose or identity” (Durst, 2019).

Figure 5. From ‘Pinnacle Reality’ by Eli Durst (Durst, 2018)
Figure 6. ‘Lost his Horse’ by Weegee (Felig, 1960)
Evolution

I have found it useful to test how my own practice uses the documentary aesthetic and see where I sit on this continuum. Commercially at least, my work sits in the editorial genre, which utilises an inherent documentary aesthetic in the way that the images are primarily used to illustrate writing and provide a visual actuality of the event that has been described in the text; as Barthes’ states: “Formerly, the image illustrated the text (made it clearer); today, the text loads the image, burdening it with a culture, a moral, an imagination” (Barthes, 1977, p. 26). In this space, writing informs the reading of an image to create the meaning for it. So my work is already tied to the notion of photographic ‘truth,’ in what both Barthes is stating and also how Tagg refers to the “naturalistic and the universal being particularly forceful because of photography’s privileged status of the actuality of the events it represents” (Tagg, 1988, p. 160). Understanding this is already present in my work, I don’t feel I need to resort to using black and white as this could become to overt and superfluous to my intent, however my awareness of this has become more of a conscious decision. I also intend to utilise text in my work in progress portfolio to provide additional meaning and reading of my narrative.

Into the domestic environment
Figure 7. Darcie colouring during the daily briefing (Hill, 2020)

Continuing to develop on the themes identified since the lock down and looking at the work of Clare Gallagher and Rinko Kawauchi, I have spent some time exploring my domestic environment and seeing how I can apply this to my project that looks at community. I have created a mixture of images to test some ideas, some looking at my family, which are my community now (Fig. 7), and then considering my intent, which in part was that of the connective decline within community I started to look at the windows in my home.

Windows
Figure 8. Living Room window (Hill, 2020)

The window is the view to the outside world (Fig. 8). Outside is where the community lives. Yet, we are now confined to exist in the inner space of our homes. So if I am not able to go out and photograph the community, then I can aim to photograph my tenuous connection to it; the window. The windows in my home have become an overlooked chore (which actually creates a link to the work of Clare Galagher’s investigation of domestic load), the windows have become incredibly dirty as the result of a busy family life, career, and the distraction of finding a new house to live in after being told that we needed to move out. Now with the lockdown, all we have to connect us to the outside world is through these dirty windows. This supports the intention of my work on multiple levels. Metaphorically, the window is a barrier to the outside, which has become hostile to all of us. The obscured glass creates a view of the existential anxiety and there is the unknown of when we might be able to re-engage socially and with the community once again and it was Rinko Kawauchi who puts this into some context “I believe quietness, fragility and anxiety are included in beauty” (Kawauchi, 2016), creating a series of terms in which to explore the concept of community within the home a remotely.

Figure 9. Kitchen window (Hill, 2020)

I have chosen to put the focus onto the glass and the dust and dirt on it (Fig. 9). As a result, the subject beyond the glass in the environment and the street outside of the home are thrown out of focus to heighten the obscured view. This is inspired by Uta Barth’s use of focus to force the reader into a state of investigation and ‘experiential’ looking, who says “I wanted to challenge that by removing the central subject and to look at and think about the background, which ascribes meaning to the subject in an almost subliminal way” (Barth, 2012). There is an expectation that when I photograph a window, that I should photograph what is beyond the window, whereas the window as a barrier is what needed to be highlighted here; I am inside looking out with nothing else to do but investigate the minute details of the domestic.

In Praise of Shadows

Figure 10. Rear Window view (Hill, 2020)

When researching the work of Clare Gallagher I was pointed to an essay she cited (O’Hagan, 2020) by Junichiro Tanzinaki called ‘In Praise of Shadows’ (Tanizaki, 2001), which has become quite inspirational in the investigation of my domestic world. In it he goes to great length in describing the minutia of the many intricacies of the domestic environment: “The purist may rack his brain over the placement of a single telephone, hiding it behind the staircase or in the corner of the hallway” (p. 5) and it is in the intricacy and detail where Tanizki finds this beauty. Where I feel this truly applies to how I am approaching the image of the window is in the way that Tanzinaki views dust and grime within the home: “On the contrary, we begin to enjoy it only when the lustre has worn off, when it has begun to take on a dark, smoky patina” (p. 18). So then, the window takes on this level of beauty as the built up layers of dust on the outside surface reflect the light in an aesthetically pleasing way, feeding into my idea that the window is the barrier and the metaphor of our isolation; what Kawauchi says of anxiety creating beauty.

Bibliography

Angelos, A., 2019. Eli Durst captures the strange and unified goings-on in an American church basement. [Online] Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/eli-durst-the-community-photography-301019 [Accessed 30 March 2020].

Barthes, R., 1977. Image, Music, Text. Translation edition ed. London: Fontana.

Barth, U., 2012. Light, Looking: Uta Barth [Interview] (22 March 2012).

Durst, E., 2018. Pinnacle Reality. [Online] Available at: http://www.elidurst.com/pinnacle-realty [Accessed 30 March 2020].

Durst, E., 2019. The Community. [Online] Available at: http://www.elidurst.com/the-community
[Accessed 30 March 2020].

Durst, E., 2019. The Community by Eli Durst [Interview] (18 December 2019).

Felig, A. ‘., 1960. Lost his Horse. [Art].

Hill, P., 2020. Darcie colouring during the daily briefing. [ Photo ].

Hill, P., 2020. Evidence experiment. [ Photo ].

Hill, P., 2020. Kitchen Window. [ Photo ].

Hill, P., 2020. Living room window. [ Photo ].

Hill, P., 2020. Mark, volunteer and patron of Elim foodbank for 19 years. [Photo].

Hill, P., 2020. Rear Window view. [ Photo ].

Kawauchi, R., 2016. In and Out [Interview] 2016.

O’Hagan, S., 2020. ‘Even dust can be interesting’: the woman who photographs housework. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/jan/05/even-dust-can-be-interesting-clare-gallagher-photographs-housework [Accessed 3 March 2020].

Petrucci, J. & Hill, P., 2020. concrete road bridge support. [Photo].

Putnam, R., 2000. Bowling Alone. 1 ed. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Russell, L., 1937. Untitled photo, possibly related to: Mr. Tronson, farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota. [Art] (Library of Congress).

Sontag, S., 1979. On Photography. London: Penguin.

Tagg, J., 1988. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. 1st paperback ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tanizaki, J., 2001. In Praise of Shadows. London: Vintage.

Collaborating: James

I asked a colleague to create some images for me to start experimenting with the idea of collaboration with my project. James is an artist so his sense of composition so clear, he is not used to film photography, which was a useful gauge to see if the people that I would work with will be able to create anything that could be used for the project moving forward. I very much like the aesthetic of James’s images in the regard, I think that – selfishly – there is a useful differentiation between my images and those that James took, however moving forward, it may be useful to include more delivery on taking and exposing the image, which would be in turn useful to support the collaboration but also to maintain a sense of me as director.

What I find works quite well with this set is that if the vernacular and perhaps some of the images and views that I might not have considered shooting myself. My initial intention for this experiment was to create responses to James’s images that could either be displayed alongside, or for my own images to take their place. I am wondering whether creating a narrative that merges both my images and those I have asked others to do will create a more interesting narrative.


PHO702: Shoot 4

The images in this contact sheet are from a number of shoots and put together to see if there is any areas that I need to develop further (Fig. 1). Already, I know that I need to continue collecting more portraits so that I have a strong selection to edit down ready for structuring my narrative ready for submission.

I am continuing to experiment with my approach (See posts listed below), however, my intent for this module is to look at applying the ideas, first in a conceptual way and then see how I can apply it to my project looking at the naturalistic and the actual (Berger, 2013, p. 8). Not to say that I won’t be looking at a more conceptual approach for future modules but I am happy with the look and feel of the way my project is coming together and also how the experimentation is starting to have an impact on it.

Figure2. Estate agent image juxtaposed with an image that I took in response.

For example, I intend to bring in elements of the ‘Evidence’ shoot that I did as a reaction to the sale of my house (Fig. 2). I have re shot some of these images in colour, however I still like the aesthetic nature of the black and white images as some kind of perceives further truth to the image. John Tagg discussing Foucault states that ‘truth’ within society has close ties to scientific discourse (Tagg, 1988, p. 172), so we can view the myth of how we place value on, considering and believing photographic evidence and truth, which is linked to how photography was born of scientific discovery with its chemical and technological developments being a wonder of the industrial revolution. The distinct aesthetics of film images interwoven with my colour digital imagery will play with the notion of photographic truth and create an interesting contribution to my narrative, as Jack Latham does with ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Spread from ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ Utilising Jack Latham’s photography and Black and White Police Archive images ( (Latham, 2019) .

To further explore this, I have also been asking some of my subjects to photograph using black and white film. Initially so that I could react and create images inspired by them, however I am considering whether I can also add these into my work to further test the idea of representation, in a subtle manner. Some of my subjects representing themselves. This feels much more collaborative in the way that Anthony Luvera creates assisted self-portraits (Luvera, 2019). I also was interested in Uta Barth’s idea of visual perception and will aim to look at the inclusion of more abstract elements in my work, also supporting the evolution of my look at social capital into more of a social abstraction creating more ambiguity and negate intentional fallacy that is at the core of Peter Lamarques analysis of Barthe’s ‘Death of the Author:’

“Where there is no determinate meaning there is no author” (Lamarque, 2004, p.440)

An interpretation that I gained from Uta Barth, was a sense that the camera’s focus, potentially even her gaze, was on a subject that had yet to enter the scene (See Post). Therefore, having others create images for me takes this concept in a tangential relation to the subject not in front of the scene, but the reader is aware that they are behind the camera, still within the scene, providing some kind of acknowledgement of this has happened in the form of a caption, or supportive text.

Also having others create images, provides a perspective that I may not consider and start to shape the way the project comes together. I also believe that there are links being made to the iddiorythmic, that Barthe’s discussed (Barthes, 2012),​*​ how we live our separate lives within the community together with others also living their separate lives. Resemblance does not equate to representation, as a metaphor has the power to represent without resembling the subject

At the moment, very little of my narrative is likely to make sense to the reader. Partly because, I have not started to put it together.​†​ I am also keen to maintain a certain amount of ambiguity in my work so that the reader is able to create their own interpretation. The project has started to evolve into an autobiographical look at how I fit into the community where I live so I am starting to consider how text will play an important role in creating the dominant reading of the work, whilst much of the work can allow for reader narrative to evolve. For example, there is potential to collect text from my subjects and also add elements of my experiences of engaging with my local community within this body of work.

Other Posts
Footnotes

  1. ​*​
    https://philhillphotography.com/sketchbook/2019/12/12/how-to-live-together-roland-barthes/
  2. ​†​
    And this is in part to continue creating the work organically and form my narrative towards the end in the way that Todd Hido approaches his ‘paper movies’ (Hido, 2014, p. 114), as I have discussed previously.
Bibliography

Barthes, R., 1977. Death of the Author. In: Image, Music, Text. New York: Fontana, pp. 142-149.

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.

Hido, T., 2014. Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude. New York: Aperture.

Latham, J., 2019. Sugar Paper Theories. 2nd Edition ed. London: Here Press.

Lamarque, P. & Olsen, S. H., 2004. Aesthetics and thne Philosophy of Art. 2 ed. Massachusetts: Blackwell.

Luvera, A., 2019. Assisted Self-Portraits. [Photo].

Tagg, J., 1988. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. 1st paperback ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

PHO702: Shoot Three

Part of my exploration this module has been to look at the environment that would inevitably accompany my portraits. I think that up until now, I have considered these images secondary and transitional in terms of the narrative that takes you from portrait to portrait. As a result, I was unsure of how to begin this process and decided to use a psychogeography approach that we looked at during the previous module, That gave me the route, and for the content, I came across the shooting scripts written for the FSA photographers in Todd Hido’s book ‘On Landscapes, interiors, and the Nude’ (Hido, 2014, p. 123). Additionally, I think there is also a clear influence on the part of the New Topographic style of banal photography, that I have come back to time and time again when shooting this kind of image (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Image taken last summer whilst in Canada. ‘Peterborough Appliances Truck Load Sale. Ontario, Canada.’ (Hill, 2019)

The approach, has been to go out and collect images using the above influences, I have not aimed to focus on anything specific as yet. For this shoot however, I had the benefit of a light that I was happy to shoot with and as I ended up walking past locations from my first shoot 1 (See post). I took the opportunity to re shoot some of my images for comparison (Fig. 4 & 5). Hido discusses his approach to projects where he tends to shoot first and allow the narratives reveal themselves in the editing process (Hido, 2014, p. 114). I have enjoyed following that ethos up to this point, however considering the topics for week 5, I believe there is an opportunity to look at the land in the same way that I have approached finding my portraits and developing my approach to create images to better reflect my intentions. This is an important consideration.

Figure 4. Palm tree from 1st shoot. ‘Palm Tree, Northwestern Avenue’ 25/01/2020 (Hill, 2020).
Figure 5. Re-shot image of the palm tree with better light. ‘Palm Tree, Northwestern Avenue’ 08/02/2020 (Hill, 2020).

Many of the images that I have shot seem to reveal a tendency to focus on the detritus that I come across along my route, for example there were at least 4 fridges​*​ fly-tipped on the streets which although were there and existed I chose to photograph one of them owing to the children’s stickers still on the top door (Fig. 6). This for me was indexical of the family that once owned this appliance, who were seemingly able replace it, they were not apparently in the position to properly dispose of it. Having been left on the pavement denotes a potential poverty of the area, or at least a reduction of civic pride that you might not find in a more gentrified area. My intention on this shoot was not necessarily to highlight the poverty and civic pride of the environment, however part of my look at my local community is my connection to it, especially now I am being forced to move home once again (See post) and makes links back to the writing of Robert Putnam, who discusses how “residential stability is strongly associated with civic engagement” (Putnam, 2000, p. 211). The images of detritus are reflective of the people who live there, though only reflective and not necessarily representative of them as people.

Figure 6. Fridge Freezer left on the pavement. St Albans Road (Hill, 2020).
How can an environment and the land reflect people?

This is the fundamental question that I can ask myself moving forward with the environmental images that I am taking. When considering the gaze in which we all view the world, the reference t the Freudian idea of anthropomorphising the land into something that is feminine, discussed in the body and the land presentation (Alexander, 2020) intrigues me. Where I feel more study is needed for me to recognise the feminine in the landscape, I do see the correlation of how men occupy the world through their rugged pursuits and women are there to be occupied, in the sense of being objectified, which was also a conclusion drawn when John Berger interviewed a group of women in response to an episode of ‘Ways of Seeing’ (1972). An anthropomorphising of the land can be seen in other ways, as we potentially see those reflections and indexical traces of the people living in them, especially within the urban and built up areas in which I am focussing. What people throw away gives away a fair amount of information about the people who occupy a space. As I have mentioned previously, it can also give us clues to how connected they might be within the community; if you are prepared to throw away and leave the discarded where it falls, how proud are you about the place where you live? If others are not challenging this, how worried are they about the cohesiveness of their community? You can in essence look at a picture of a pile of rubbish within the environment, and create a mental image of the person who contributed to it and the socio-economic space in which they occupy.

I have discussed the neutrality of the image a lot over my last few posts. No image is neutral, no gaze can be neutral, and also images of landscapes also cannot be neutral. After reading the text ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men’ by Deborah Bright (Bright, 1985) I can see that the land forms part of the cultural myth. For the US, the Landscape is part of the national narrative of overcoming great odds in order to occupy and control their world, with no mention of how this might have been at the expense of the indigenous population. In the tradition of European oil painting, the landscape image was created to denote the spectator owners vast wealth (Ways of Seeing, 1972).

Figure 7. Shooting script for a small town (Stryker, 1939).

I started my project for this module  with the shooting script on photographing the small town (Stryker, 1939) which I found a useful starting topography in seeking out all of the images that might be considered part of the town vernacular. I previously reflected and discussed the use of language in creating the conditions for gaze (see post), and the same could be said of the FSA shooting script that I started with (Fig. 7). The lists were written in order to focus on specific elements of society in order to present them in a way consistent with the goals of the FSA project, that is to say, to show the value of the poorest in American society, albeit not hiding the fact it was an exercise in propaganda: “A pictorial documentation of our rural areas and rural problems (Stryker’s words)” (Sontag, 1979, p. 62). The lists could encourage and exacerbate how we gaze at such problems.

Figure 8. Dog Bone. ‘Near Churchfield Road’ (Hill, 2020).

I enjoy many of the images that I took on this shoot, so the question of where they could sit in the narrative is crucial, as it the representation and also the gaze. If I am focussing on the indexical, then there is much potential to include images such as the dog bone (Fig. 8), this trace that someone was here is useful to understand the diversity of the area when I am unable to photograph everyone who lives here. My dominant reading will change depending on the way that I sequence this work, so I should work to clear up any ambiguity in my intention. Something that I don’t think will happen until the very end of this project.


  1. ​*​
    I could start a project on fridges with some more material.
Bibliography

Alexander, J., 2020. Week 5: The Body and The Land. Falmouth: Falmouth University.

Bright, D., 1985. Of Mother Nature and Marlborough Men. Exposure, 23(1), p. Online.

Hido, T., 2014. Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude. New York: Aperture.

Hill, P., 2019. ‘Peterborough Appliances Truck Load Sale. Ontario, Canada.’. [Photo].

Hill, P., 2020. Dog bone near Churchfield Road. [Photo].

Hill, P., 2020. Fridge Freezer left out on the pavement. St Albans Road.. [Photo].

Hill, P., 2020. Palm Tree, Northwestern Avenue 08/02. [Photo].

Hill, P., 2020. Palm Tree, Northwestern Avenue 25/01. [Photo].

Putnam, R., 2000. Bowling Alone. 1 ed. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Sontag, S., 1979. On Photography. London: Penguin.

Stryker, R., 1939. Shooting script on the Small Town, Washington DC: Library of Congress.

Ways of Seeing. 1972. [Film] Directed by Michael Dibb. UK: BBC.

PHO702: ‘Evidence’ Experiment

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.

SUMMARY
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!

DESCRIPTION
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).

Dominant

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.

Oppositional

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.

Negotiated

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.

Figure 4. One of the police archive images from ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ (Latham, 2019)

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 5. Edited ‘evidence’ images left with agent text on the right.
Juxtapositions

Figure 6. 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).

Figure 7. Untitled photo, possibly related to: Blue Ribbon No. 2 Mine, one of the largest gopher holes, Williamson County, Illinois (Rothstein, 1939).

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. 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).

Figure 9. Parasite movie poster with censorship bar across the eyes (Parasite, 2019).

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.

Bibliography

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].

PHO702: Shoot Two

Figure 1. Selected images from Harebreaks Wood shoot

Following from my first shoot, I managed to approach a group of litter pickers that were tidying a local woodland area. It was useful to create some portraits and see how they fit in with the series I shot on the initial walk around the area (Fig. 1). For this shoot, I decided to apply some of the feedback that I have received previously regarding placing my subjects within the environment to support the contextualisation of the image (Fig. 2). Some of the images that I have selected have consciously gone for this approach within the edit. I do however like some of the close-up cropped portraits of Helen (Fig. 3) and would potentially consider re-introducing this version of her depend on how my future shoots evolve. As I have a number of portraits with the litter picking group, it could work to include a version without the plastic bag and stick if I was to include an image of one of the other that did.

Harebreaks Wood litter picker
Figure 2. Helen full body portrait placed within the environment.
Figure 3. Helen close up portrait.

Context of how the work is eventually displayed will play a crucial role in this decision. However, for now I have been working with the assumption that this is a form of extended editorial shoot and creating a series of images that would exist online or in a printed supplement of some kind (See post on this). This has the potential to evolve as I move through the recent weeks, I am finding that my notion of how to approach and photograph a project like this requires me to challenge and experiment with different approaches. I also interested in Todd Hido’s approach to creating narrative within his work (See post on Todd Hido) through the shooting and accumulating of images, pairing them, and collecting together sequences to synthesise ideas in what he terms as “Paper movies” (Hido, 2014, p. 114).

Figure 4. Outtake image from Harebreaks wood shoot.

I am aiming to keep a close check on the conditions in which I am photographing this work. The lighting, for me is a crucial tool in the aesthetic quality of this project. This construction is not without its challenges, the recent large storms have led to a series of dull overcast days, and even this shoot was cut short by fast moving weather conditions. What I am finding that is not working at the moment is some of the environment shots (Fig. 4), much like my first attempt (See Shoot 1 Post), I am aiming to show a sympathetic view of this community and the overcast conditions are creating the opposite effect.

Moving forward, I have arranged to visit with a local community group running a food bank and hope to create some portraits there. I have also reached to a local drama society to see if I can collaborate and explore creating some constructed realities to weave into the rest of the narrative.

Bibliography

Hido, T., 2014. On Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude. New York: Aperture.

Hill, P., 2020. Harebreaks Wood. [Photographs]

PHO702: Shoot One.

Contact Sheets: 25/01/20 & 01/02/20

Following the plan I created to go out and do my first shoot based on a psychogeography route of the postcode of my local area (See Shoot 1 Planning Post). It was an interesting shoot and I managed to create some photographs that would be worth editing together to determine how they work as sets. The weather was very overcast and not what I was hoping to shoot in terms of the lighting, so for the most part, I think that this shoot was a worthwhile fact finding mission to scout out some future locations and develop the work. From my plan, I did also want to start to consider ‘the ostracised’ (Dias, 2018) however feel that this may have been a bit ambitious for the first shoot and will continue to develop this area of enquiry as I feel it could have some significance. It was a useful reference to take the Roy Stryker Shooting script with me to consider some of the images that I was shooting. I will continue to use this as it is a way of creating a taxonomy of what makes up a community environment.

Light is crucial to the way that I want my images to look. Moving forward, I aim to be more selective of the times that I will go out and shoot, weather permitting.

Now that we have had a couple of weeks of delivery of the modules, I am going to create more of a focus on the taxonomical patterns that my local community displays. The idea of the indexicality of what I am shooting is also something that I want to explore in a more intentional way. I am also considering the approach to the portraits within the work. I have had a fairly limited response from people I would like to involve in the project, so am considering an approach based on the week 3 constructions and will explore casting ‘actors’ to play a role in my look at my community which could form a strong link to this sense of a fractured community. Initially, I could approach this in a similar way to how Jack Latham shot subjects unrelated to the events of the Icelandic crime in his book ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ (2019).

References

Dias, D., 2018. The Ten Types of Human. 1st Paperback Edition ed. London: Windmill Books.

Latham, J., 2019. Sugar Paper Theories. 2nd Edition ed. London: Here Press.

Experimenting with photographing community

A need for a new Rectangle

A number of developments occurred during the break between modules leading me to consider how to approach and begin to be more experimental. 

The shift into looking into my local area has also coincided with my landlady taking the decision to sell my rented home here in Watford spurred on by the recent general election and final push on Brexit, not including the litany of issues with the house that she felt could no longer support fixing (there are a lot!), when every time we asked to be fixed, feared a push on the rental cost each month. 

I have found it interesting that as I turn my camera onto my local community, it could inherently change as we decide whether we will need to move out of the area to find affordable rental prices, or make the jump to buy, meaning an even further move. The community that I described during the last module is in question again. As a renter, I find myself never truly connected to place, with the constant fear of upheaval.

Figure 1. Pentax 645 with mounted light.
Figure 2. Ilford HP5 pushed to 800.

As a way to explore this, I am going to create a smaller body of work alongside the psychogeography approach I outlined for my first shoot plan and document the condition of my rented home with a forensic approach. I intend to use a medium format film camera with a top mounted video light (Fig. 1) and Ilford HP5 film (Fig. 2) for this approach, which represents a complete departure from the images that I was shooting during the last module. 

My idea is to play with the narrative of my home, which was never truly my home. There is the space that I occupy and have lived in for the past 5 years and the areas of the house that have been neglected due to the nature of it being a rental property. These initial images could be compared to the narrative that will be presented by the estate agent once they come into the space and take their own images, which will need to be sympathetic to the true owner of the house, this will be mirrored by the description of the house used to sell it. My black and white medium format images will be in complete opposition to the digital compact images taken by the estate agent and could play with the notion of photographic truth in a similar way to how Jack Latham used police archive images as part of his ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ series (Latham, 2016).

I am also interested to explore the notion of the rectangle as the most basic form of power, outlined by Roland Barthes (Barthes, 2012, p.114). The exchange of such rectangles, in the form of the most ubiquitous, our homes, could be a way of framing the current housing crisis for example. By focussing on my own space of rectangles (or what I thought was mine, in the lived sense), I hope to start considering the community that happens from within the home. One of the outlined aims in my project proposal was to look at the environment and typology of community, and these typologies could also be found within this realm, which again Barthes used in his analysis of the rectangle through the language of beds (Barthes, 2012, p114), this is where I can start to explore these concepts.

Collaborating with others

As a way to investigate a more collaborative approach to my work, I have also asked 3 work colleagues who live in the local area, and who are all artists, to take a small film camera that I have provided and take some images of the local area. My intention is to start extending my approach to the initial psychogeography and explore ways that I can respond to these images.


Bibliography

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

Latham, J., Gudjonsson, G. and Russell, R. (2016). Sugar paper theories. 2nd ed. London: Here Press.

Shoot 1 Planning

I intend to take some of the concepts that we looked at during the last module forward to create a starting structure to my initial shoots whilst I am building the relationships that I need to further develop my ideas. I want to look at my own community much more closely and will use the psychogeography approach to provide a boundary to this first shoot. I will use the postcode area of where I live to provide this, with the intention of staying as close to it as possible and photographing along the way (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Postcode Boundary area to use as a ‘Psychogeography’ for my initial shoot. (Google, 2020).

To support my initial approach, I have also been reading the FSA shooting scripts on a ‘Small Town’ (Stryker, 1939) that provide a very comprehensive list of things that I could potentially photograph and also outlined as good inspiration by Todd Hido (Hido, 2014, p. 123). Although I do not intend to follow the list to the letter, I will use this as a guide and inspiration of areas to consider and look for along the way (Fig. 2).

This is beginning to tie in to a number of my recent reading and investigations, leading me to plan a shoot around the environment of community, having been drawn more a more to the idea of those that are excluded from society. I first started to consider this as an idea after reading what Roland Barthes discussed in ‘How to Live Together’ where he suggests that it is important to consider those that have been excluded by a society. As people group together and form communities, there would inevitably be those that are left out, stating that community can’t exist without integrated rejection  (Barthes, 2012, p. 96). Being ostracized from society is something that I have also come across in ‘Ten Types of Human’ (Dias, 2017) where he discusses that groups that have cast out members often become a closer knit community, however for those that have been ostracized, prospects of survival are limiting (Dias, 2017, p. 127), which is in reference to much of the animal kingdom and for me this concept feels quite libertarian in the sense that we have the ability to take care of those we might seek to ostracize. However, in a counterpoint to Barthes assertions that there is no contradiction that we can live together and separately (Barthes, 2012, pp. 4-5), Dias considers that there might not be a benefit form living together, a ‘dilemma of social life’ (Dias, 2017, p. 107). What I find the most interesting from Dias’s writing is the identification that we, as humans, have an innate need to from tribes, even if this is in essence an irrational behavior, we for groups, sub groups, societies, and all the way up to nations, are all forms of groups in one way or another (Dias, 2017, p. 285). This is fundamental to some of my aims and an area that I wish to explore.

Bibliography

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

Dias, D., 2017. The Ten Types of Human. 1st paperback ed. London: Penguin Random House.

Google Maps, 2020. WD24 Watford Postcode Prefix, Viewed 23 January 2020. Available at: https://goo.gl/maps/AFydFXCLWC6evRJ86

Hido, T., 2014. Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude. New York: Aperture.

Stryker, R., 1939. Shooting script on the Small Town, Washington DC: Library of Congress.