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.

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.

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]

Considering the Construction

This week has been a kind of revolution to the way that I have been approaching my project so far. I have been very hung up on the notion that my intent requires me to be photographing without construction or forms of manipulation, because that would result in some sort of ‘breaking the rules.’ However, further reading into the topics of constructed realities has led me to the writing of William J Mitchell, who also presents a direct challenge to this photographic purity and suggests a feeling of being cheated by these kinds of images (Mitchell, 2001, p. 218). This is in part born out of my commercial practice that I should, as Mitchell states: “The transaction of valid reporting, stating, or asserting (Like other speech acts and analogous nonverbal or partially verbal act of communication) is defined by constructive rules” (p. 218). These rules are essentially part of the learned knowledge of the world that we have come to expect, and of course much of this learned knowledge suggests to us that photography is a truth.

Figure 1. Photographer Brian Walski was sacked by the LA Times for editing the top two images together to create the third (Walski, 2003).

Digital imagery has been found wanting in terms of our ability to suspend our disbelief (Fig. 1), yet we still subscribe to it as a reality, merely because it is based in the actual (Berger, 2013, p. 8). Analogue photography is no more a bearer of truth however, and has been susceptible to forgery throughout its history. For example, the removal of dissidents from the image of Lenin speaking at a podium (Fig. 2 & 3). This brings me back to the reflection on the Panorama work that I have written about previously (View Post). The use of analogue technique is completely based on our learned understanding of how we perceive the power of photography and its ability to show ‘truth’ and ‘Evidence’ and the re-photographed images onto film heightened the constructed reality of these images, where John Tagg notes that “the existence of a photograph is no guarantee of a pre-photographic existence” (Tagg, 1988, p. 2) these images should not be considered in anyway evidential, even though the production of that episode was doing everything within its power to make us believe so.

Figure 2.
Vladimir Lenin speaking in Moscow to Red Army soldiers departing for the Polish front, in 1920. Leon Trotsky and Lev Borisovich Kamenev, behind, are on the steps to the right (Goldshtien, 1920)
Figure 3.
Leon Trotsky and Lev Borisovich Kamenev have been airbrushed out of an image of the same scene (Goldshtien, 1920).

All photography is a construction, that has been established in the past couple of weeks, how does this have an impact on how I view my images, and moving onto my intent?

I have been very precious in how I have been approaching my project so far, identifying myself as closer to the ‘Hunter’ end of the constructed continuum. I recognise however, that this is indeed a continuum and accept that my work is constructed in a variety of ways. I have felt as though I needed to represent the actual (2013, p. 8) within my work, however have considered that as part of my look at the community is to explore my own sense of it being fractured, that this shouldn’t matter as potentially the combination of gradual constructions together with my existing constructed actualities, which I wrote about in my ‘Hunters and Farmers’ Post’ (Wall in Horne, 2012).

Figure 4. Image from ‘The Corners’ by Chris Dorley-Brown (2018).

Previously to starting the MA I was drawn to the approach of Chris Dorley Brown’s series ‘The Corners’ (Dorley Brown, 2018) and his uneasy view of everyday scenes in London (Fig. 4). As you view these images, they are based in the real world, an actuality, and indexical of how people pass through the streets of London which have been referred to as an update of the work that photographer David Granick did in the city between 1960 and 1980 (Dyer, 2018). Of this work though, Dyer also discusses the stillness of the image:

“But there’s a tranced stillness about them: a feeling of being in some kind of fugue state”

(2018)
Figure 5. How the images are constructed. Spread from ‘The Corners’ by Chris Dorley-Brown (2018).

Here Dyer is referring to how we read these images as much as the subjects within them. On closer inspection, the images are a complete construction, which is admitted to in the back of the publication of the images (Fig. 5), made up of a series of multiple exposures, typically 18 to 21 images, and then stitched together, with the resulting composition showing up to an hour (2018).

Dyer’s assessment of the work is that it creates a form of nostalgia, a longing for the past that links this work with the images of Granick, which Chris Dorley Brown also edited into a book. Dyer also notes:

‘Dorley-Brown manipulates his scenes not to manufacture drama or to bunch people into near-collisions but to create a “truthful” picture that “must match the memory of a moment that never occurred.”photographic’

(2018)

This I feel, lives in the learned knowledge of the world that, although the memory that is being referred to is not a real one, it could be an imagined sense of a place that Dorley-Brown is representing here.

Figure 6. Helen from shoot with a group of Litter Pickers (Hill, 2020)
Figure 7. Stephen from shoot with litter pickers (Hill, 2020)

Presently, my work does not inhabit this constructed space, I have approached groups and sort to photograph them in a naturalistic way (Fig. 6 & 7). I have also look to photograph the environment in my local area in a similar naturalistic way. However, this as an approach intrigues me, and I am keen to potentially look at experimenting with this as an approach, albeit holistically. For example, part of my plan is to approach a variety of community groups, one of which could be an amateur dramatic group, what is to stop me casting them within the environment of my community to play a series of characters. I intend to propose this to a group and experiment with creating a series of constructed narratives. These characters could create a fictional memory in a similar way to how Dorley-Brown has constructed his images.

Bibliography

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

Dorley Brown, C., 2018. The Corners. 1 ed. London: Hoxton Mini Press.

Dyer, G., 2018. How to Photograph Eternity. The New York Times Magazine, 24 July, p. Online.

Goldshtein, G., 1920. Leon Trotsky and Lev Borisovich Kamenev have been airbrushed out of an image of the same scene.. [Photo] (Tate).

Goldshtein, G., 1920. Vladimir Lenin speaking in Moscow to Red Army soldiers departing for the Polish front, in 1920. Leon Trotsky and Lev Borisovich Kamenev, behind, are on the steps to the right. [Photo] (Tate).

Hill, P., 2020. Helen from Harebreaks wood litter pickers. [Photo]

Hill, P., 2020. Stephen from Harebreaks wood litter pickers. [Photo]

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

Mitchell, W. J., 2001. The Recoonfigured Eye. First MIT Press Paperback ed. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

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

Walski, B., 2003. Iraq. [Photo] (Los Angeles Times).