Notes on Dissemination

I am continuing to consider the ways in which to disseminate my work, which is a continuation of the discussion I had in my post ‘Are you Drowning Yet?’ and also in my post ‘Hunters and Farmers’



Simon Norfolk’s critique of the photo book is a valid response to a sometimes esoteric world of photography, however there are photographers who are able to both create a work in the form of a beautifully presented book whilst at the same time disseminating that work with a broader audience, or at least with the people that helped to create the work.

Clémentine Schneidermann
Figure 1. From ‘I Called her Lisa Marie’ by Clémentine Schneidermann (Schneidermann, 2018).

I have been following the work of Schneidermann since the start of this module, after having the work recommended to me at the end of the last one. I really connect with the aesthetic of her work, especially ‘I Called her Lisa Marie’ (Fig. 1), which contrasts Elvis fans of South Wales with images from Elvis’s home in Memphis and really creates the idea of community formed through a connection to the culture and music of Elvis Presley and blends portraiture with environmental imagery, that Schneidermann says “help to breath between each portrait” (Rosenberg, 2016).

Figure 2. From ‘It’s Called Ffasiwn’ by Clementine Schneidermann (Schneidermann, 2019).

Her commitment to working with communities as well as within them is something that also resonates with me as I look to work closer with my own community. For example, her project ‘It’s Called Ffasiwn’ is a collaboration between Schneidermann, stylist Charlotte James, and the youth clubs of the South Wales Valleys (Fig. 2), which is referred to as a “fashion-cum-documentary-cum-participatory community project that challenges the static way the region has been portrayed by the media through celebrating the creativity of its younger inhabitants” (Wright, 2019). The work seeks to work in collaboration with the people who live in the South Wales Valley region, one of the most deprived areas in the UK in order to change the perception of how the area is represented through images of deprivation left after the decline of the coal industry in the 1980s.

Figure 3. ‘It’s Called Ffasiwyn’ exhibition by Clementine Schneidermann at The Martin Parr foundation (Schneidermann, 2019)

Although the series is primarily a fashion work, I find the tools of collaboration a positive way of re-framing the way a culture can be depicted, which is a kind of decolonisation of the poverty that we automatically attribute to these areas. The project has been exhibited at the Martin Parr foundation, which has been set up to focus on work created in the British Isles, something that I feel my work could aspire to. My own work is fundamentally about British community and would sit quite comfortable in this space (Fig. 3). Schneidermann has produced photobooks as part of her work, however for ‘It’s Called Ffsiwn’ a magazine was produced and was also shared in the local newspaper to share the work with the community. In this way the work becomes more inclusive of the people who helped inspire it.

Figure 4. Vogue Italia, 2019 by Clementine Schneidermann (Schneidermann, 2019)

Additionally, for Schneidermann there is also a secondary market for this work, creating opportunity for wider dissemination. Schneidermann also completes commissions for publications such as Vogue Italia (Fig. 4), and continues to utilise the aesthetic of her documentary and collaborative work by staging many of these shoots within the Welsh Valleys where she is based. This supports the discussion that I had regarding publishers such as Hoxton Mini Press who also work in this way in order to create a larger audience for the work and by extension making then work more attractive to these publishers to put out into the market place.

Figure 5. Gucci x Vogue Italia, 2019 (Schneidermann, 2019)

If there was to be a critique to this approach however, it would be in the potential gaze of this kind of imagery; taking advantage of the people depicted in the images (Fig. 5). However, I don’t believe that this is Schneidermann intention, who does not operate in the way that traditional documentary photographers have done in the past; As Sontag points out “The photographer is supertourist an extension of the anthropologist, visiting natives and bringing back news of their exotic doings” (Sontag, 1979, p. 42). Schneidermann is not a tourist in the Welsh Valley, she also lives with the community and works with them to create this photography, and continues to do so.

Considering the secondary market for my work
Figure 6. From BBC Article ‘ Coronavirus: The month everything changed’ (Kelly, et al. 2020)

Now that my project has evolved to include reaction to the current Coronavirus pandemic, it does present an opportunity to disseminate the work in an editorial setting. For example, BBC has already started to create reflections on how the UK has changed as a result of the virus, and illustrating this with stock imagery edited to present a before and after view of how life has changed (Fig. 6). In the weeks during the pandemic there will be inevitably be a range of content produced to help illustrate and understand what is happening and my work would fit very well in this. Especially as my intent is to look at the connections within community and society at large.

Figure 7. Huck Magazine spread from ‘Teen Activism’ issue (Huck Magazine, 2018)

Another example could be through a publication, such a Huck magazine, creates themed issues (Fig. 7) for content that could feasibly produce an issue on the impact and outcomes of the pandemic. Huck’s editor Andrea Kurland suggests that in this context it is the story that they are able to put together is just as important as the visuals when considering commissioning a piece of work “start thinking about what that editor would need to turn that into a feature” (Kurland & Creativehub, 2020). It would be good start thinking how my work can exist in these kinds of contexts as they have established audiences and built on the basis that if it is published there must be an inherent quality to the work and worth seeing. However, there is the issue of compromise to consider when pursuing publication in this kind of media. Both of the examples that I have given will have their own editorial guidelines with regard to the kind of work that they publish, and this could also exist in a particular political standpoint (although less so for the BBC), which could have a fundamental impact in the way that my work is read, potentially compromising the intent and dominant reading of my work. An important consideration that could have implications on how I am able to create work in the future.

Bibliography

Huck Magazine, 2018. Teen Activism. Huck Magazine, 15 May.

Kelly, J., Getty & Alamy, 2020. Coronavirus: The month everything changed. [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-52066956 [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Kurland, A. & Creativehub, 2020. How to Show Your Work. London: Printspace Studios.

Rosenberg, D., 2016. Elvis Presley’s Biggest Fans. [Online] Available at: https://slate.com/culture/2016/01/elvis-presley-fans-around-the-world-photographed-by-clementine-schneidermann.html [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Schneidermann, C., 2018. I Called Her Lisa Marie. [Online] Available at: https://www.clementineschneider.com/i-called-her-lisa-marie/cz93s22tomb7f4jbr8radnwqtgxpal [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Schneidermann, C., 2019. For Vogue Italia. [Art] (Vogue Italia).

Schneidermann, C., 2019. Gucci x Vogue Italia. [Art] (Vogue Italia).

Schneidermann, C., 2019. It’s Called Ffasiwn is a collaboration with Charlotte James & youth clubs. [Online] Available at: https://www.clementineschneider.com/ffasiwn-1/lwqc0f3qqhdc4s3fznz34vv6tavez7 [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Schneidermann, C., 2019. It’s Called Ffasywn’. Bristol: s.n.

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

Wright, S., 2019. It’s Called Ffasiwn. [Online] Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/clementine-schneidermann-it-s-called-ffasiwn [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Intent vs Pandemic

My project’s focus was on the idiorrhythmic way that we live together and also separate lives within our communities; feeling removed from them (Stene-Johansen, et al., 2018, p. 1). The work was also partly autobiographical – This is to consider the subjective & objective aspects of how I also connect and fit in. I live in Watford but have never felt truly connected to it, from a generational sense of impermanence, liminality, and transience, which is linked to job security and the rental trap. Watford is the ideal place to explore this; not quite London, yet within the border of the M25, it is a well-known commuter town into central London, a form of transient existence is ingrained in the spaces.

Figure 1. Steve from the Watford Deaf Society and Cephas, caretaker at Beechfield School. (Hill, 2020).

My project aimed to explore this by engaging, collaborating and photographing the groups, communities, and people that live around me (Fig. 1). My focus was on engaging with people and allowing them the space to tell their own stories. However, with the measures put in place to tackle the Coronavirus Pandemic, it is becoming increasingly clear that our communities are contracting to within our own 4 walls of the home. This puts a spotlight on a socially abstract society, exacerbated by individualism, which is driven by stockpiling, profiteering and hysteria. We are, as a society unconcerned with the details of how it needs to function and our individual impact on others, especially the vulnerable, as we start disassociate our everyday connection to only think for ourselves. Barthes’ iddiorrythms also consider how we as a society impose the rectangle as the most basic form of control, referring to us as the “Civilisation of the Rectangle” (Barthes, 2012, p. 114), it is a shape that does not exist in nature and we forge our societies around this concept; Our homes for example are a collection of rectangle cuboid spaces in which we occupy.

Fundamentally, the intent of my project has not changed, I’m still looking at my community. With the rise of how we as a society are dealing with the virus, there is a heightened sense of existential dread, which in a small way existed already for me and my family throughout this module; from the sale of our rented home and the fractured sense of connection to the community, which has only increased by the current crisis. This existential dread and the community, now within my own home, is the way I could take my project forward. My community has shrunk into Barthes’ civilisation of the rectangle, in the form of my house.

Figure 2. Nick Waplington’s studio (Waplington, 2020)

To begin exploring new concepts in support of the new approach, I was inspired by Nick Waplington’s discussion on how he is utilising the concept of Plato’s allegory of the cave (Fig. 2), incorporating light and shadow from his studio whilst painting (Waplington, 2019). The allegory states that our senses govern our perception of our reality, and Sontag also uses the allegory in her argument on our consumption of images: “collecting images is collecting the world” (Sontag, 1979, p. 3), which can relate to how we will all rely on the media to provide us with the information and visual stimulus to make sense of the outside world, particularly prevalent at the moment. I also am interested in looking at how the outside world is projected onto my inside one; how this will impact my even smaller community of my wife, daughter and me.

Clare Gallagher
Figure 3. From ‘Domestic Drift’ by Clare Gallagher (Gallagher, 2012).

This is a subject explored by Clare Gallagher who has a particular focus on the internal workings of the home in her project ‘Domestic Drift’ (Gallagher, 2020). In this project Gallagher is looking at the domestic environment (Fig. 3) and creates a series of ‘quotidian still lifes’ which ‘are punctuated with tender portraits of her young sons at rest, at play and asleep.’ (O’Hagan, 2020), and is a comment on the everyday workload and under appreciated roles of family life that is primarily fronted by women in society. Gallagher posits “our economic system would simply not function without all this hidden, unpaid labour” (Gallagher in O’Hagan, 2020), which is very much related to some of the research that I have been looking at. However, I would not aim to position myself against Gallagher’s look at gender role intent, although this would surely play a part in the images that I make, should I refocus on my own family. Although we are a fairly balanced household, my wife is a key worker and will play a role continuing to support the community, which means that much of the domestic role will actually be taken up by myself for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the look at the domestic environment feels a natural evolution for my project as I react to the current situation, as will the wider community. There is also a tension to Gallagher’s project that translates easily into what is happening through social isolation and how the community is retreating, distant, and remaining within the home. Hence the existentialism and anxiety that exists in both Gallagher’s work and the reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. Experimenting with photographing within my home during the pandemic (Hill, 2020). [Click to enlarge]

Bibliography

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

Gallagher, 2012. From Domestic Drift. [Photo].

Gallagher, C., 2020. Domestic Drift. [Online] Available at: https://www.claregallagher.co.uk/domestic-drift [Accessed 20 March 2020].

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

Hill, P., 2020. Steve from the Watford Deaf Society and Cephas, caretaker at Beechfield School.. [Photo].

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

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].

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

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

Waplington, N., 2019. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers. 118 – Nick Waplington [Interview] (27 November 2019).

Waplington, N., 2019. From Nick Waplington’s Instagram feed. [Online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/B8mXEq1nXA3/igshid=tqai269ddwb8 [Accessed 20 March 2020].

Other People’s Vernacular

Now that I have processed two of the films I asked others to shoot for me, it is worth looking at how they might fit into the rest of my project and research.

Figure 1. Image of a concrete road bridge support (Petrucci & Hill, 2020).
James

James is a work colleague and who I initially asked to shoot some film for me, partly as an experiment to see how this might work with the other images I am creating (Fig. 1). James is the Fine Art lecturer at the college I teach, so although some of the technical aspects of the images are less than refined, his sense of composition, space, and attention to detail are clear in the resulting images that he shot (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Steps outside Watford Town Hall (Petrucci & Hill, 2020).

The first thing that struck me when I developed these images was a sense of the banal and topographic within some of the subjects that James decided to photograph (Fig. 3). James has shot a series of images on his walking commute to the college where we both work and has placed emphasis on some of the imposing brutalist concrete structures that occupy Watford. This is a vernacular of Watford that I am not sure I will have made the link, or even approached to photograph myself. However vernacular in the sense of the content and not necessarily the aesthetic of the images, which is black and white film; vernacular photography of the everyday seems to now be the domain of smartphone photography.

Figure 3. Building in Watford (Petrucci & Hill, 2020).

The overbearing grey concrete architecture is one of the myriad of reasons why I personally have never felt connected to the place; Watford seems to me never super welcoming as a result, so potentially an area I can personally develop and respond to. Interestingly, James also moved to Watford to work at the college, as I did, so I will discuss with him his feelings towards the town. These are the everyday banal features of the place that we both live.

Figure 4. Layout experimentation for WIPP (Hill & Petrucci)

I made a conscious decision to provide my collaborators with black and white film for this part of the project. For the moment at least, I felt it was important to differentiate the images of persons collaborating with my own imagery and this approach is starting to come together as I explore ways of sequencing the images (Fig. 4). The aesthetic choice of black and white is also an evolution of my initial look at FSA photography and its blanket approach to covering small towns in the US (Fig. 5), which incidentally could encompass working with collaborators in a similar way to Roy Stryker and the FSA photographers. John Tagg considers the aesthetic of the FSA as what was new way to disseminate the message of state: “Mobilising a new means of mass reproduction, the documentary practices of the 1930s, through equally the province of a developing photographic profession, were addressed not only to experts but also specific sectors of a broader lay audience, in a concerted effort to recruit them to the discourse of paternalistic, state directed reform” (Tagg, 1988, p. 12). We collectively understand that the black and white documentary aesthetic is ‘evidential’ and a perceived record of authenticity. For example, when I first introduced myself to the food bank across the road from me, one of the volunteers asked if I was going to be taking the images in black and white because this would seem more fitting of the subject somehow; a learned behaviour that all documentary needs to be in gritty black and white.

Figure 5. Page from an FSA shooting script on a small town (Stryker, 1939)

Black and white photography plays with our learned knowledge of what is truth and evidence in photography, as Tagg goes on to state: “Documentary photography traded on the status of the official document as proof and inscribed relations of power in representation which were structured like those of earlier practices of photo-documentation: both speaking to those with relative power about those positioned as lacking, as the ‘feminised’ other, as passive but pathetic objects capable only of offering themselves up to a benevolent, transcendent gaze” (p. 12). The reference to ‘Documentary photography’ is closely linked to the use of black and white, especially when considering the context in which Tagg is discussing. Giving a camera to people that I collaborate with in some ways rebalances the power that Tagg refers to here; they are able to tell their own story and representation. However, I am aware that by including these images into my own narrative I am creating a constructed ‘legitimacy’ for myself in a number of ways. The black and white aesthetic states ‘documentary’ it also creates a perception of authenticity that readers may engage with more fully that merely viewing my images individually; readers expect to believe the black and white image, and this is supported by its own vernacular and positioning having been taken by the collaborator themselves, essentially providing more proof of its place in the actual and naturalistic, and again Tagg informs us: “it has been argued that this insertion of the ‘natural and universal’ in the photograph is particularly forceful because of photography’s privileged status as a guaranteed witness of the actuality of the events it represents” (p. 160). I use this to my advantage when I sequence my images together with those of my collaborators, and will need to carefully consider how the balance of power as stated by Tagg is influenced in sequencing and if an oppositional reading is developing from this work.

Darius
Figure 6. Cassiobury Park protected tree (Dabrowski & Hill, 2020).

I met Darius at the food bank who is a regular user of the service, and asked him to shoot a roll of film for me, I decided to not give a great deal of instruction just yet, only to go and tell his own story so that we could talk through the images together. When I processed these images, I was surprised to find that the majority of them were shot in Cassiobury Park here in Watford (Fig. 6), Darius has chosen to photograph the picturesque in contrast to James’s view of brutalist concrete (Fig.3). I find this representation of himself interesting and wonder if Darius sought to photograph scenes he thought would fit a picturesque photographic aesthetic (Fig. 7) owing to the average perception of photography which occupies the learnt visual style of publications, such as National Geographic, which I have discussed at length (View Post) and have set the mythological status of the picturesque image.

Figure 7. Somewhere in Cassiobury Park (Dabrowski & Hill, 2020).

The concern here is that Darius’s images is that they are not representative of his story insomuch as they are a projection of what he thinks that I am looking for. The same can be said for James’s series that has sought to look for aesthetic compositions within its banal brutalist look at Watford. This does not however mean that the images do not hold value when I create a sequence of the work. As Perter Lamarque writes of representation: “So to write a story or paint a picture is (usually) to bring into being a new story or picture world. This makes the existence of fictional worlds, unlike that of possible ones, a contingent matter” (Lamarque & Olsen, 2004, p. 354), which clearly puts the new sequence into the realm of the constructed narrative and was always going to be the case as I seek to blend the collaborative narrative together.

The picturesque images that Darius took, were surprising to me because of my assumptions of the life that Darius might lead outside of his visits to the food bank. This was not based on any other information other than my knowledge of Darius and the Food bank and highlights to me that I clearly have some bias in the expectation of what I might see when I processed the images. Looking at Darius’s set, there are some images that could really work with the narrative, for example figure 6 is an iconic view of the well-known protected tree situated in the park and would really provide context to the place I am photographing, where I have yet to shoot this kind of panoramic landscape.

Choosing to sequence my work next to that of my collaborators presents an interesting question about authorship. Logistically speaking, I have asked everyone involved to sign an assignment of copyright agreement to in essence give me ownership over the images to use as part of my project. Lamarque posits that authorship has a relationship to legal rights, which is, as Lamarque suggests, the basis for Foucault’s argument of the author (Lamarque & Olsen, 2004, p. 434). I am appropriating these images, for sure, but my intention is to create a narrative that considers the Barthesian idiorrythmic concept of everyone living separate lives, whilst also living together in the same places: “Where each individual lives according to his own rythym” (Barthes, 2012, p. 178). James and Darius, directed by me, have created a series of images that allow me to view parts of their iddiorrythm, and I aim to contribute mine.

Figure 8. Watford Town centre (Dobrowski & Hill, 2020).
Bibliography

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

Dubrowski, D. & Hill, P., 2020. Cassiobury Park protected tree. [ Photo ].

Dubrowski, D. & Hill, P., 2020. Somewhere in Cassiobury Park. [ Photo ].

Dubrowski, D. & Hill, P., 2020. Watford Town Center. [ Photo ].

Hill, P., 2020. Layout Experimentation: Mark and Concrete support image. [ Photo ].

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

Library of Congress, 2011. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Written Records: Selected Documents. [Online] Available at: Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Written Records: Selected Documents [Accessed 11 12 2019].

Petrucci, J. & Hill, P., 2020. Steps outside Watford Town Hall. [ Photo ].

Petrucci, J. & Hill, P., 2020. Building in Watford. [ Photo ].

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

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

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.

Image Transaction: One in a Sea of Images

Figure 1. Image taken of Darcie wearing a hat knitted by her aunt, to say thanks. (Hill, 2019).

As I was preparing for Informing contexts, I wrote an essay on a particular type of vernacular image that I was creating around the Christmas period. It was also useful to start the process of applying my readings and thinking about photography. You can view that version of the essay here.

I decided to re-visit and reflect on this piece of writing now that we are half way through this module and I have a better understanding of some of the concepts and discussions.

It was also useful to revisit during this week’s delivery for ‘A sea of Images,’ taking into account elements of the vernacular, and the ubiquity of images.

Abstract

‘What started as an image taken to say thank you became a question about the continuing proliferation of images and family mythology. Sharing images online transforms the image into a type of currency that seeks to provide validation for both authors and readers, this perpetuates the visual language of established societal norms through placation, morals and covert colonisation as a subtle blackmail. This is a subtle ebb which we are all complicit and must intentionally reconsider and reengage with the way we use images. Where futurity is concerned, it should begin in the unlearning and relearning of visual culture.’

View essay below:

National Geographic and Me

We did not have subscriptions to National Geographic in my house growing up, however I vividly remember going to the dentist who had piles of the magazine and I would be in awe of how cinematic the world looked. It was these pages that inspired me to want to travel the world and photograph.

National Geographic Traveller, March 2013 (Warrick & Hill, 2013)

This week’s task is an interesting one for me as I have shot for the spin-off publication, National Geographic Traveller Magazine (Fig. 1). I have also reflected on this, when we looked at Gaze.

It is worth noting that National Geographic Traveller is primarily about showing beautiful destinations that you might go on holiday as opposed to what its parent publication supposedly stands for. National Geographic Traveller operates and runs features in a similar way to how Conde Nast, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and Lonely Planet also publish travel features. One of the key differences is that it comes with the branding associated with National Geographic, including its distinctive yellow border.

As Grundberg Stated “the photographs found in the National Geographic represent the apotheosis of the picturesque” (Grundberg, 1988), and it is through Traveller magazine that it takes this to the most extreme. National Geographic have recently acknowledged a past built on exploitation (Goldberg, 2018) yet still create an aesthetic that undermines the moral high ground that they seek to occupy. For Traveller magazine, they completely ignore this moral standing and only print images of exotic locations to sell holidays. If National Geographic is aesthetics for supposed cultural importance (Lutz & Collins, 1991, p. 134); National Geographic Traveller is purely aesthetics for the sake of exoticism. My assignment for example, was to illustrate an article on Bali, Indonesia that was created off the back of a press junket paid for by the Indonesian tourist board, a common practice in travel editorial but not what you would expect in its parent. When picking up Traveller magazine, the reader looks at that yellow border and distinctive brand logo and would naturally associate this spin-off with all of the mythology that National Geographic is synonymous for. In many ways, franchises and spin-off publications that utilise the coded branding of National Geographic are everything that is wrong with National Geographic.

I am completely complicit in this. I shot the assignment and took the money. Reflecting on this for my oral presentation in Positions and Practice, I questioned my moral and ethical position and how I would photograph the most aesthetically pleasing image whilst also witnessing all of the challenges and the poverty that happened around me. Since then I was listening to Hannah Starkey discuss the challenges of gaze (Starkey, 2019), who equated a rise in male gaze was in part to do with the last recession, creating a culture of lazy advertising. Starkey was talking about the commodification of women, however where this relates to National Geographic and Traveller magazine is how we also commodified the land; sex and exoticism sells. As a freelancer in my twenties around the same time, it was exciting to be paid to travel and photograph as ignorant as I was to the impact that my images have.

Now that this position has been challenged, I hope to move forward in a more engaging way and not occupy the view of the photographer as Ariella Azoulay described as “a male figure roaming around the world and pointing his camera at objects, places, people, and events, as if the world was made for him. He can vanish from people’s worlds in the same way that he appeared in them” (Azoulay, 2016, p. 2).

To test that here, I have selected a recent portrait that I created at the food bank over the road from my home. It might be worth noting that I also spent the afternoon helping out with the aim of gaining the trust of the people that I wanted to photograph (Fig. 2)

Figure 2. Mark at Elim Foodbank (Hill, 2020)
Bibliography

Azoulay, A., 2016. Photography Consists of Collaboration: Susan Meiselas, Wendy Ewald, and Ariella Azoulay. Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies, 01 01, 31(1 91), p. 2.

Goldberg, S., 2018. For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It. [Online] Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/from-the-editor-race-racism-history/ [Accessed 21 10 2019].

Grundberg, A., 1988. PHOTOGRAPHY VIEW; A Quintessentially American View of the World. [Online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/18/arts/photography-view-a-quintessentially-american-view-of-the-world.html [Accessed 4 March 2020].

Hill, P., 2020. Mark from Elim foodbank. [Photo].

Lutz, C. & Collins, J., 1991. The Photograp as an Intersection of Gazes: The Example of National Geographic. Visual Anthropology Review, 7(1), pp. 134 -148.

Starkey, H., 2019. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers. Episode 102 – Hannah Starkey [Interview] (3 April 2019).

Warwick, H. & Hill, P., 2013. Free Spirit. National Geographic Traveller (UK), 01 03, pp. 92 – 101.

Are you Drowning Yet?

I have written about parts of this topic a couple of times since the start of the MA and I think it is definitely important to really consider the context of how my work is displayed, and the audience of that work:

Photo Books, for example. I absolutely adore them and spend many hours looking at my own small collection. However, I was interested to listen to Simon Norfolk in a recent Small Voice Podcast (Norfolk, 2019), who said that he himself is done with them. His reasoning for this is down to the audience of photobooks, which is almost entirely that of other photographers, and a middle-class demographic of photographers, which can be problematic for a number of reasons. When you consider that many of these books have small print runs of around 150, and can be exceptionally expensive, this can be limiting in the dissemination of the work; for the socially concerned photographer, what you are actually doing is creating esoteric works for other people like yourself which does not bring issues to a wide and diverse audience.

Norfolk’s critique continued, and he also discussed the way that some of the major awards operate to only reward those that are part of the same cliques within the traditional photography world and this kind of self-congratulatory feedback loop will ultimately harm the practice of photography and its relevance.

Figure 1. Simon Norfolk’s Instagram Profile. (Norfolk & Instagram, 2020).

Interestingly, Norfolk cited Instagram as the space where the most current photography is happening and has worked to increase his own audience to around 150,000 followers (Fig. 1). Norfolk also discussed photographers such as Joey L as potentially moving the medium forward in this sphere, yet wouldn’t be considered by the traditional gallery system. Added to this, I also read recently of the TikTok photographer Derek Harris with a 3.6 million fan base (Harris & TikTok, 2020). These two examples are not who you might consider as legitimate photographic artists and social media creates a homogenised view of photography (Fig. 2), yet they draw audiences that clearly cannot be ignored, and to a great extent show that photography still has a large audience, albeit a younger demographic than those who might follow the Photographers Gallery; this could be considered a gateway into other parts of the photographic world. The rise of these photographers is surely a reaction by a generation that only consumes media via an online platform and technologies potentially considering the way we consume imagery archaic and obsolete.

Figure 2. Image from @Insta_Repeat (Anon & Instagram, 2020).

Norfolk’s comments on Joel L were an interesting one however, he stated that he did not really like his work, a statement of which I tend to agree with owing to L’s highly exoticised gaze which is similar to the discussion around the National Geographic gaze we are looking at this week. However, Norfolk did have a great deal of respect for his ability to create an audience, and L’s aesthetics and technical ability can’t be discounted wholly. When I looked up Joey L’s Instagram however, he was actually using his most recent posts to promote his own first photobook, ‘We Came from Fire’ (L, 2019). So, even with L’s large online audience it seems he still places value on the tangible medium, albeit with a much larger print run no doubt.

Continuing this point, Last week’s reading of Bright’s ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men, I was struck by her discussion regarding Lisa Lewenz’s ‘Three Mile Island Calendar’ (Bright, 1985) which consciously presented the work using a highly mass produced format playing with the notion of how these images would normally be viewed – primarily in a corporate report setting. This kind of presentation has impact over how you might expect to see a landscape image within its black borders and hung on white walls. To do something similar in a contemporary form of mass production, which ultimately would be using an online platform such as Instagram, the context could quickly drain away (Sontag, 1979, p. 106) as the image gets swallowed up by the countless others uploaded every second.

Where the photo book may hold more resonance with audiences outside of the photography world might be through publishers such as Hoxton Mini Press who will look for secondary markets for the books that they produce. For example, the book ‘One Day Young’ by Jenny Lewis (Lewis, 2015) is a beautiful series of portraits of mothers and their brand new babies, which was bought for me and my wife when my daughter was just born, and I have also seen it for sale in stores such as Oliver Bonas, creating an opportunity for those unaware of photography in the esoteric sense to access it. However, and I consider my editorial print background here, market forces shape the creation of photography for the masses and ultimately leads to its homogenisation, as broad appeal and aesthetics take the place of challenging work, which was certainly the kind of images that I shot for airline and travel magazines. There are advertisers and increasing market share to think about.

Bibliography

Anonymous & Instagram, 2020. Insta_Repeat Instagram Profile. [Online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/insta_repeat/ [Accessed 2 March 2020].

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

Harris, D. & TikTok, 2020. derrekharris TikTok Profiles. [Online] Available at: https://www.tiktok.com/@derrek.harris [Accessed 2 March 2020].

Lewis, J., 2015. One Day Young. 1 ed. London: Hoxton Mini Press.

L, J., 2019. We Came From Fire. 1 ed. New York: Powerhouse Books.

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

Norfolk, S. & Instagram, 2020. SimonNorfolkStudio Instagram Profile. [Online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/simonnorfolkstudio/ [Accessed 2 March 2020].

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

Martin Parr & Patrick Waterhouse

His images create a grotesqueness in the use of obvious flash. These image are a construction, and the choices made to represent people, objects, and indeed people as objects is unrelenting, anything that the light falls is framed and appears garish in colour, fashion and presumed attitude of the people within then frame. Parr does not shy away from this, and refers to this appearance of the grotesque in his own biography (Parr, n.d.).

Figure 1. USA. Kentucky Derby. 2015. (Parr, 2015)
Figure 2. USA. Utah. Salt Lake City. Mr Mac’s. Two Missionary’s trying on their Suits. Matthew Tanner on left and Preston Toone on right. 2015. (Parr, 2015)

I find opposition in how I read some of his work, compared to how he describes himself and aims as a photographer. For Parr, to create the work that he does, it seems that it requires distance. Parr is taking his images behind the safety of his camera, in the sense that the flash technique that he employs feels a kind of interrogators spot light pointed at the subject to reveal things about themselves that they might not be prepared to reveal normally (Fig. 1). There is a distance there, there is also an intrusive element to some of his work, even when the subject is complicit, there is a feeling that they may not actually be in on the joke (Fig. 2). Parr states “It’s the quality of the connection you make with the subject which is absolutely key. And there should always be some kind of story behind that, some kind of tension or vulnerability” (Magnum Photos, 2018), Which is an interesting statement as there seems little connection with some of the subjects, although there is always a tension within his work, and I wonder if the vulnerability is in the actual awareness of how his subjects might be represented in the final images; Are they aware that they could be considered ‘Other.’ When I look at this work compared to other similar subject matter, for example how the photographer Nial Mcdiarmid photographs the UK, the difference feels embedded in the empathy towards the cultural coding that his subjects are displaying (Fig. 3); these images feel closer to a collaboration between subject and author over Parr’s images.

Figure 3. Rob, Merton, South London (Mcdiarmid, 2016)

I do enjoy much of Martin Parr’s images despite of his confrontational approach; it could be considered a re-balancing of the cultural anthropological images that western culture has taken from others by turning the lens onto our own consumption. There is a use of gaze that confirms and mocks our capitalism – especially throughout the excess of the eighties and the nineties where Parr’s look at the middle and upper classes feels the most relevant, and a necessary foil (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. SWITZERLAND. St Moritz. St Moritz polo world cup on snow. From ‘Luxury’. (Parr, 2011)

I found Parr’s approach a little more challenging when looking at his work for the book ‘No Worries’  (Parr, 2012). The book was created in conjunction with the 2012 FotoFreo festival in Western Australia, where I was living at the time. Parr was invited by the festival to focus his attention and unremitting style onto Australia and create a body of work that would also be exhibited at the festival (Parr, 2012). The work was to “examine the nature of the people, at work and at their leisure in a number of port towns and cities along the coast of Western Australia” (Magnum Photos, 2011). The exhibition that accompanied the work felt unremarkable compared to some of Parr’s earlier work, partly due to the technique that Parr uses didn’t seem to translate to the large format printing owing to his switch from film to digital. The series also felt fairly repetitive and in places forced. It was his images of indigenous Australians that were the most startling. Considering my comments on the re-balance of the anthropological imagery that we are used to seeing in publications such as National Geographic; here it seems to have reverted back the clichéd tropes of inconsiderate representation, together with the subject not even afforded a title (Fig. 5). This mirrors Diane Arbus’s problematic lack if titles in her later works (See Post), with another image also creates the idea of other through the view of indigenous Australians seeking hand outs (Fig. 6). These images read as though it could have been taken in a hurry, and quickly back onto photographing other Australians once more (Fig. 7).

Figure 5. South Hedland. Garden Centre. (Parr, 2011)
Figure 6. AUSTRALIA. Broome. Cable Beach. Scratch Football BBQ. From ‘No Worries’. (Parr, 2011).
Figure 7. Australia. Broome. Cable Beach. (Parr, 2011)

in considering a different approach, I have since come to enjoy the work of Patrick Waterhouse, who has worked with the Walpiri of Central Australia, and sort to collaborate in keeping with the culture and tradition of their culture (Waterhouse, 2019). The persons depicted, restricted the images by traditional painting (Fig. 8). The series was created in part to the way that ethnologists Francis J. Gillen and W. Baldwin Spencer documented Aboriginal groups in Australia at the end of the nineteenth century (Waterhouse, 2018), spurring the myth of exoticism and the way that non-western culture has been portrayed ever since.

Figure 8. ‘Various Front and Side Portraits’ (Waterhouse, 2019)

This is a continuum and Parr and Waterhouse seem to sit on each end of it in how they have represented. Both photographers use a highly constructed approach and in terms of the hunters and farmers analogy from week 3 (See Post), I would place Parr as Hunter, and Waterhouse as Farmer.

Where do I fall? Again it is somewhere in between these extremes, though much more toward how Waterhouse constructs his images with the Walpiri. I am not, as yet, fully collaborating with my subjects in this way, however, I do not believe that I am polarising the view of the representation of my subjects either.


Bibliography

Magnum Photos, 2011. Feature – No Worries Martin Parr. [Online]
Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspxVP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K1HRGQW9DQ [Accessed 28 February 2020].

Magnum Photos, 2018. Martin Parr’s Advice to Documentary Photographers. [Online]
Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/theory-and-practice/martin-parrs-advice-documentary-photographers/ [Accessed 28 February 2020].

Mcdiarmid, N., 2016. Rob, Merton, South London. [Photo].

Parr, M., 2011. Australia. Broome. Cable Beach. [Photo] (Magnum Photos).

Parr, M., 2011. AUSTRALIA. Broome. Cable Beach. Scratch Football BBQ. From ‘No Worries’.. [Photo] (Magnum Photos).

Parr, M., 2011. South Hedland. Garden Centre.. [Photo] (Magnum Photos).

Parr, M., 2011. SWITZERLAND. St Moritz. St Moritz polo world cup on snow. From ‘Luxury’. 2011. [Photo] (Magnum Photos).

Parr, M., 2012. No Worries. 1 ed. Perth, Western Australia: T&G.

Parr, M., 2012. No Worries. [Photo] (Western Australia Maritime Museum – Part of Fotofreo).

Parr, M., 2015. USA. Kentucky Derby. 2015.. [ Photo ] (Magnum Photos).

Parr, M., 2015. USA. Utah. Salt Lake City. Mr Mac’s. Two Missionary’s trying on their Suits. Matthew Tanner on left and Preston Toone on right. 2015. [Photo] (Magnum).

Parr, M., n.d. Martin Parr: Introduction. [Online] Available at: https://www.martinparr.com/introduction/ [Accessed 28 February 2020].

Waterhouse, P., 2018. Various Front and Side Portraits. [Online] Available at: https://patrickwaterhouse.com/archive/selected/restricted-images-front-and-side-portraits/ [Accessed 28 February 2020].

Waterhouse, P., 2019. Restricted Images – Made With the Warlpiri of Central Australia. 1st ed. London: Self Publish Be Happy Editions.