Whats Real Anyway? - The truth behind looking..?
"No matter how advanced your camera you still need to be responsible for getting it to the right place at the right time and pointing it in the right direction to get the photo you want."
Ken Rockwell http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/notcamera.htm
Digital Photos, as we all know, are created by a technology which is determined by several incredibly clever factors; a preset sequence of binary codes; electrons recording photons and making assumptions like lossy or lossless compression; quantum efficiencies which equate to the level of photons recorded; crop factors and so on - the technical strengths and indeed marvellousness of modern DSLR cameras mean that nowadays, the camera can literally 'see' what we see and more. Therefore, with DSLR photography, what we actually see, particularly with high end cameras is more about the photographer in the sense that he/she can control and manipulate the final outcome of a photoshoot in many ways.
"Digital cameras sample light from our world, or outer space, spatially, tonally and by time. Spatial sampling means the angle of view that the camera sees is broken down into the rectangular grid of pixels. Tonal sampling means the continuously varying tones of brightness in nature are broken down into individual discrete steps of tone. If there are enough samples, both spatially and tonally, we perceive it as faithful representation of the original scene. Time sampling means we make an exposure of a given duration." (http://www.astropix.com/HTML/I_ASTROP/HOW.HTM)
So in essence, it is possible, depending on the photographer - that a DSLR potentially shows us as much 'truth' and 'reality' as being there ourselves. But for all it's flashy technologically advanced soft and hardware, why is 'crappy' camera photography perceived by the viewer to be more 'truthful'?
When I think of the work 'Rays a Laugh', by Richard Billingham, the 'reality' is likely that the high contrast colours and tones are exaggerated far beyond the 'real' because of the harshness of the flash light used and the poor quality of the technology of the camera - here is an example of what we see, we don't get! and yet, this feels more honest, humble, more raw and less 'presented' than its glossy counterpart - the DSLR photo.
To me, the crappy camera feels more instant and therefore less contrived. Obviously it is more instant, but the images feel like they are taken with less time, less composition, framing, posing, less everything - but much more because of it. The success of the crappy camera artist, is in the in-built automatic application of these skills. Much like when you drive somewhere and arrive safely without remembering your journey, you shoot the crappy camera with your emotions and senses rather than with an awareness of the technology of the DSLR.
A shot taken like Billinghams on a DSLR might just look like a crap shot, the crappy camera transforms this into something else and tells us something deeper about the artist and of course ourselves.
Here we see glossy polished features, even amongst the grit and grime of the location and subject, but we don't 'feel' it in quite the same way.
I have previously been preoccupied with making work by trialling different view points and DLSR camera equipment. Now, I intend to explore the same theme but seeing if I can create a more 'real' 'reality' by using alternative technology for capturing my shots.
I plan to do this by working through a number of initial ideas:
- Using a mobile phone to capture street photography. This will explore a different aesthetic and method. In order to capture the images, I will need to be very close to my subjects so this will be interesting to see how that feels and looks.
- I am going to ask my children (aged 3 & 7) to describe what they see when shown individual and selections of photos to see how the innocence of a child's mind changes the meaning and/or perception of the photos and whether this adds anything to my work.
- I am going to take some street photos alongside my eldest child - giving her no direction other than to photograph anything she sees of interest to her. I am keen to see how our perceptions through age, experience and technical training alter the reality of the final outcome