Following the completion of my project for this module, I believe that I have successfully achieved my objectives, and have produced a series of photographic work depicting people performing the banalities of life, using a blend of surveillance-like techniques and covert style shooting.
Barbara Pollock wrote an article in 2014 entitled "Changes in technology and conventions are raising questions about what it means to invade others’ privacy in the name of art" which discusses the changing attitude of public surveillance." where she also considers the impact of surveillance in our daily lives.
In the article, she cites the following quote:
“Because of the proliferation of public surveillance cameras, you can’t help being aware that you are being recorded by a camera, just by walking down the street. You have no idea who is collecting this information or how it is being analyzed [SIC] and how close the analysts tracking you are,” says ICP curator Christopher Phillips.
Of all the practitioners I have looked at, I identify most with the aesthetic of Beat Streuli - not necessarily in our motives or self objectives. Indeed, Streuli's body of work seems motivated by an empathy for, and a curiosity about, a broad spectrum of other people, other characters, other lives. Of course my work has, by its very nature, elements of this too, but my interest is nothing to do with having an empathy - far from it, instead I am seeking out moments of humour, tension and/or suggestibility that encourage the viewer to indulge in a voyeuristic gaze and narcissistic identification. The ultimate goal of challenging the viewer to first participate in, and then question the ethics and lawfulness of the work. Feeling a mixture of superiority, sympathy and outrage that these images have not only been taken, but collated into a book for your viewing pleasure.
There is also Streulis equipment to take into account, he uses a telephoto lens, which although I cant find the details for, I can tell that it far outshines any lens I have available to use. I would hazard an educated guess that he probably shoots with a lens of at least 400mm with a very wide aperture of somewhere around f2.8 - this accounts for the clarity, rich tones and noise-free aesthetic. This gives his images an almost cinematic quality - no doubt useful for the billboard sized prints he displays of his work!
Gaia Light, who I have also referenced and has influenced my work, talks about the need for "regulation and accountability" on the internet and aims to expose the dangers of "abusive surveillance" which can be found freely online. Again, for me, it is the aesthetic of her images that appeals - harsh vignette, grainy, pixelated, out of focus with camera angles that are taken from up high, all of which make the images feel indecorous - inappropriate.
I also tried various methods of capturing my images. I used two very different lenses, one which was 120mm-400mm telephoto which was large and very heavy to use (not very covert) - I wanted to try this lens for the following reasons. The first being that it enabled me to be at a further distance to my subject, and this allowed me to less conspicuous about what I was doing. This in turn then gave me confidence to take more shots as it was less confrontational. The other reason by contrast was that I wanted to feel like I was being invasive and obvious - although in truth this still being done from a safe distance, or safely locked in my car!
I often mixed using this lens with my smaller and much less conspicuous 24-70mm lens. I did feel that it was quite restrictive having a 70mm focal length which was sum what frustrating at times. However generally I think this was the best lens as being smaller and less obvious it enabled me to blend into the crowd a lot more, and thus enabled me to focus on taking photos - rather than being distracted about how I was feeling about the process.
I also tried a mixture of shooting styles, from straight shooting using the viewfinder to shooting 'from the hip' . Finally I settled on "wearing" the camera, by means of using a strap around my neck, and positioning the camera at chest height. I then attached a hidden remote shutter release to the camera which I then ran down through the sleeve on my coat. This made it possible for me to experiment whilst on location, and make the photographic process a lot easier. Therefore I was able (and felt comfortable) with going into shops to shoot. This method, also enabled me to get extremely close to the subject. This arrangement did not interfere with me being able to use the traditional viewfinder method if i wanted to, and "throwing caution to the wind" I did take many photographs in plain sight, which in reality did not cause me any problems.
My post-shoot process, was just a simple case of deleting shots, and adjusting crops to strengthen narratives or heighten tensions as shown below:
Having taken about 1500 images in total to find the 31 that have made the final cut (so far). I have tried many different combinations and now feel happy with my final choice, as it showcased a good range of styles and narratives.
With regards to the layout of the book, originally I had envisaged it having a softback square format that could easily host portrait and landscape images, but after experimenting with this style and having looked at lots of other artist monologue books, I decided to opt for the softback, landscape version, with each page having a white border around the image to frame it. This framing encapsulates each image as a stand alone piece, but by piecing it together in the format of a book and then planning the sequence in this way, I feel images can be paired and even grouped to create a narrative sequential flow through the pages. The pages are also infrequently interrupted by page breaks by way of the insertion of blank pages, I feel this will allow the viewer breathing space and permit time to reflect on the images and flow.