For my final idea for Picbod, I was torn between my forms and functions task response and my conversations response. The forms and functions idea had room for development, it would look nice in a book that could form a narrative about the negative side of student living. But the concept and images weren’t as strong as the conversations response. To photograph strangers and present in a typological format definitely sounded like the better idea.
My initial response lacked the scale of my intentions. My vision was to create a set of hundreds of images, presented typologically, to make people notice the changes in body language and social interaction. I felt that by placing myself in the photographs, I could disconnect from the process of image making and instead create an objective representation of these conversations.
Huebler is an inspiration because of his idea to photograph / document everyone alive. This incredibly ambitious project, called ‘Variable Piece #70 (In Process)’, where in some, he asked his collaborators to describe themselves and hold up the description in the photograph, was objective and light hearted.
However, it was ambitious. But regardless, he pursued this project until he died. This project has not inspired me to do the same, but instead showed me that no matter who it is, they should be documented. In the original shoots I would notice myself not wanting to ask certain people for a conversation. But Huebler has shown me a rather liberating alternative, to attempt to photograph everyone who crosses paths with me, to make the project more objective.
Presenting images in a grid form is known as a typology. Typologies show ’emphasis on comparison, analysis and introspection’ (Red Bubble), which is an important format which reflects a photographic scientific exploration.
‘A typology is assembled by observation, collection, naming and grouping. These actions allow the members of the
class to be compared’ (Freidus, 1991,10, C. Güven İNCİRLİOĞLU). Typologies have given me inspiration to reflect on my project as an observation, to observe the specific differences in posture and social interaction of strangers.
Muybridge was a subconscious influence to this idea. His scientific photography pioneered photography as we know it, photography that freezes life and allows us to see with a camera what we can’t see with our eyes. His most famous capture, the ‘Horse in Motion’ (1886) showed that the horse had a moment when all its hooves are off the ground. He showed this by placing 16 photographs in a chronological sequence of small durations of time, it allowed us to follow the photographs to a point where we can notice that the horse does indeed part from the ground. By showing this as a typology it captures the movement, but more importantly allows us to scientifically analyse that moment, to notice the differences between the movements.’The real subject was not the object but the motion’ (The Guardian), but it wasn’t for us to simply see the movement, it was for us to notice the details that form the movement.
Muybridge’s photographs extend my intentions. I intend the viewer to focus in on the details of the social interaction, to notice the movements of people in the image. By showing the images as a typology, it allows them to compare movements through the chronology of the sequence.
F&D Cartier: We are the Camera
Françoise and Daniel Cartier, both artist from different mediums, experiment with photographic papers. These papers expose themselves throughout the duration of the exhibition. The key to the concept was that the people who interact with the work manipulate its appearance, These reactions spawn from willingness to participate and remix art. The final tones and colours are said to question everyday life, to question our intimacy for objects and the passing of time. A social commentary in its least literal form. My intentions differ in medium, but are similar in concept. While the Cartier’s show the passing of time within interaction with objects, I intend to convey a passing of time through peoples interactions with a stranger. However, both experiment with how people interact within a space and how their movements form the work.
Bernd and Hilla Becher
1957: they began collaborating on photographing the disappearing German industrial landscape.
The Becher’s photographed the German industrial landscape in 1957 to document it at a time of exodus. They photographed specific subjects to form a set of images; photographing ‘water towers, warehouses, blast furnaces, gas tanks and half-timbered houses’ (Phaidon). Each time they photographed each subject, they framed it the same and presented the large format images in a set to form a typology, normally a ‘grid of six, nine or 15 images’ (Phaidon).
The presentation is similar to Muybridge; it makes the viewer compare each image to the next, noticing the differences.
As a comparison to the Becher’s and Muybridge, Ruff concentrates on typologies associated with people and their expressions. He creates deadpan images of people, allegedly photographing ‘what is in front of his camera lens, no more and no less, unmuddled by his own feelings about his subjects.’ (Telegraph).
We then notice the difference in each individuals appearance, because their expressions are similar. The portrait reflects the photographer and not the sitter, as Larry Sulton found out on his fathers reflection on a portrait Larry took of him, saying that it was in fact a self portrait, not a portrait of him but a portrait of the photographer (BBC).
It is interesting seeing a typology of people and it shows how its been effective seeing people portrayed in that format, showing how the viewer notices differences in aspects of portrait photography
On the other end of the spectrum, Bruce Gilden photographs people on the street ‘unashamedly intrusive, searingly honest, and incredibly effective’ (itsnicethat). However, Gilden chooses specifically who to photograph so that it matches this depiction of the intrusive and the honest, but yet this subjectivity is not a truthful depiction of the streets he walks. It lacks the democracy of photographing some people, but ignoring those who don’t fit the credentials of his photographs. Arguably this choice does allow for more of a hard hitting visual, but people don’t agree with his methods. In an interview with Guardian photography critic, Joel Meyerowitz states…
“He’s a f**king bully. I despise the work, I despise the attitude, he’s an aggressive bully and all the pictures look alike because he only has one idea” (PetaPixel)
This shows the effect of choosing who to photograph. It makes the photographs look alike, and lack democracy. It is therefore important for me to photograph everyone who passed me on the street, and treat everyone exactly the same.
Hilliard shows us the influence a photographer has on the interpretation of a scene. In his photograph ‘Cause of Death’ (1974) by cropping a photograph 4 different ways and associating text with each, Hilliard assesses the idea of manipulation through cropping and text. By using the words, ‘crushed’, ‘burned’, ‘fell’ and ‘drowned’, and cropping the image accordingly, he makes the viewer connect the words and crop with the subjects cause of death, he shows how photographs can easily manipulate thinking, and author an alleged truth.
In an interview with Richard West, Hilliard showed how something outside the frame could be important to the truth of a photograph…
‘If I could see just outside the viewfinder would it change my idea of what I was being presented with?’ (Source)
Through my work, the framing can be used as a tool to tell more of a narrative. By keeping the frame the same in every photograph, it shows how people react with the space, whether they come come close to me, or whether they are outside the frame. It then comments on whether they feel comfortable being closer to me, or further away. Hilliard showed me the importance of framing, and how it can be used to tell a narrative. The space between me and the participant can be communicated through framing and composition.
An aspect of the conversations that is important is the duration. Sharon Harper; in her project ‘above and beyond’, shows us a long exposure of the stars and the moon, The colours and shapes allow us to observe nature how it is captured, but not how we normally perceive it. The element of passing time in the month exposures influence these changes. it is communicated by the exposure and techniques Harper uses. She also shows it by sequencing several photographs to form a larger image in her moon photographs. We notice the change in position and associate it with time.
In Jonathan Shaw’s project ‘Crash’, by tampering with the cameras mechanics he was able to create a surreal photographic image that flowed like few. The image distortion emphasised our blurred perception of events, emulating an immersive scene that echoes the rhythm of the club that it was captured in. Shaw’s work seemingly slows time because the extension of the figures features. Motion is the specific theme of the work, but time is also shown through these photographs.
Both photographers show that by choosing different techniques, we can manipulated the viewer into experiencing the passing of time, or the slowing of time. Through my project, I can emphasise the passing of time from the presentation of the images. An image will be taken every 5 seconds, and the length of each conversation will express the duration. By placing each conversation in order and allowing them to extend to the length of the conversation it will express the exact duration of each conversation in relation to the next.
Science and Photography, Kelley Wilder
The work is more of a scientific experiment to show how people approach a stranger and interact within that space. It is therefore relevant to understand the context of science in photography.
Wilder analyses this relationship between science and photography, and those who have responded to the relationship within their art.
‘To name oneself an artistic or scientific observer in the first, pre-photographic decades of the nineteenth century was to aspire either to the nearly mythical fame of enlightened observers like Senebier or Linneaus, or to emulate the extraordinary (possibly less attainable) Renaissance observers of nature ad the human form, Leornado and Michelangelo’
It is said that photography is used as a tool to observe, because the human eye has constraints, but photography sees what the naked eye can’t.
‘perhaps photography’s most seductive claims… were the promise of passivity and the extension of the realm of the visibly observable’
I’ve noticed that through the photographs taken already, their body language changes significantly from the photographs, and these are aspects that I don’t notice when having the conversation in person. The photograph allows me to reflect on the conversation. Being separated with the process of image making allows me to reflect more.
Passing Acquaintances : The Space Between Intimates and Strangers
Furthermore, I wanted to see how people write about the relationships people have with strangers. The book by Morgan, David H.J talked more specifically about strangers roles in our lives, ie shop keepers, internet friends etc. But in the introduction he talked about the relationship more generally…
‘We recognise certain minimal obligations in turns of not touching, eye contact, avoidance and so on.’
In the proximity of strangers, the book talks about how we instantly adopt these obligations, and we rarely stray from this. It shows that in the bible they referred to strangers in a similar context, but with exceptions they interacted and helped them..
‘The biblical ‘stranger within the gates’ and numerous other texts and proverbial expressions indicate that strangers may have a more defined place within the social order and that obligations of hospitality may be extended to such strangers.’ 3
The project will counter these obligations. To give people the opportunity to act differently. These obligations have been challenged by projects like ‘Humans of New York’, but as I mentioned in the task research, I intend to reduce the subjectivity of that project, and observe the juxtaposition of stranger obligations.