“I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
At the start of this project, I assumed that the crappy camera technique would be the way forward to explore the reality of photography. To this end, I experimented with different equipment and styles from 35mm film to iPhone with different crops and editing styles. I thought the 'Real" that I was searching for was, or could be, encapsulated by the aesthetic of the image alone in the same way that Billingham's "Rays a Laugh" work spoke so much truth and raw honesty to its viewer. But in my investigations, I actually discovered that, at least for me, there is more depth to 'Real' than visual alone.
The 35mm film camera approach did not work with the way that I was physically shooting, because I was trying to shoot discreetly, as not to influence the body language or facial expressions of my subjects, the film camera did not lend itself well in that aspect. Also, the sheer volume of shots necessary to capture the moments I have included in the final edit, made the film camera an expensive option.
The iPhone, was an interesting tool because nobody took any notice of me, nor did they have any inclination of what I was doing at all. However, the preset nature of the iPhone camera meant it did not cope well in ever changing light conditions. The automatic ISO ruined a number of potentially great shots and the slow shutter speed meant I could only really capture people who were not moving much. That said, a couple of the iPhone shots did get used in my final edit.
I quickly realised I needed the reliable format of the DSLR to produce high volume and uniformed shots without me having to look at the screen. Once I had established the angle of the camera was about right, I just pressed the remote shutter release in my pocket and hoped for the best.
In the initial proposal for this module, I was keen to explore ways of establishing and differentiating between the real reality and realism, in other words the truth behind photography. I chose to explore this topic by continuing with street photography because of its' familiarity with the viewer.
I have come to think of street photography in terms of a soap opera of daily life. What I mean by this is street photography in its most basic definition is the act of capturing me and you, them and us either caught up in the banality of everyday life, or frozen in time in a moment of pure drama, tension, hostility and/or humour. These moments are caught by photographers such as myself and then taken out of context and collated into small collections in order for the photographer to present to the viewer a narrative. These collections of snapshots of time, which are most often candidly taken – the subject unaware – are then ingested by the viewer and read or interpreted in any number of ways which are largely determined by the viewers own life experiences, socio economic status, experience with art and so on.
Many street photographers look for scenes which trigger an immediate emotional or visual response,
especially through humor or a fascination with ambiguous, odd, or surreal happenings. A series of street photographs may show a crazy world. Perhaps it’s a dreamlike world. Or edgy, or dark, or elegant, or mysterious. The paradox that these traits might apply to scenes found in the most everyday and real location —the “street”— is endlessly fascinating.
My chosen method of audience engagement is a large square hardcover book. I did originally consider a wall hung exhibition to display my work, but after the project started, I thought this would work better as a book. With a book, the viewer is offered a more intimate and personal experience with the work and the tangible act of holding a book involves the viewer as an active participant in the work. The viewer decides how long to view each image and at what distance etc. I specifically chose a large format book so that the images would still maintain that exhibit type quality within the confounds of the book. The white background of the cover and each page unifies the book and allows for each image to pop out from the page. When I experimented with a grey tone background, I found this somehow muted the aesthetic and the white gives the book vibrancy and effervescence. The square pages lend themselves well to both portrait and landscape photographs with good amounts of framing with the white space around each image. Finally, I decided to position each image vertically central on the page, but offset horizontally so that they bleed into the spine. I did this because I wanted to create a sense of flow throughout the book and not allow any photo to become an individual and therefore a full stop to the viewer.
I wanted to offer the viewer a more interactive, modern and conceptual approach to explore and engage with my work. I feel I have achieved this by recording numerous different people reacting to and providing their own narrative outcomes for specific chosen photographs in the book. The use of QR Codes invites the viewer to engage with the image using their mobile device to take them to the audio files where they can interact with a dynamic multi-sensory outcome. Equally, I feel, the images are strong enough to work without interacting with the QR codes if the viewer cannot or does not wish to pursue this option.
Whilst researching other practitioners, I was surprised to note that I could only find a very small number of other artists who had used QR technology as part of their work. Traditionally, this technology is used for marketing and commercial applications. To me, it is an ideal and interesting way of modernising art to provide the viewer with a more immersive experience.
"In teaching as a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have the right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. Finally, the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads – as an anthology of images."
In my proposal, I set out to answer the following questions:
The DSLR is important to the nature of my research, because of its instantaneousness and its technical accuracy in recording the moment, indeed recording multiple moments. The photographs are pretty much unified in their appearance which enabled me to work quickly and confidently whilst out on the street. My chosen covert style of shooting was, to roughly aim in the right direction and record several frames. I did not look at what I was shooting on the camera, so the outcome was instinctive on my part and, thanks to the DSLR, technically accurate. The application of the DSLR meant I knew what to expect visually from the settings I had chosen. If I had pursued the use of the film or iPhone, I would not have had such a great stock of well shot images to make my final selection from.
Without doubt, each viewer adopts their own 'truth' in relation to each image and this has been made quite startlingly apparent in the diverse range of reactions I have recorded so far. I think the answer to my second questions is that, the viewer doesn't change the truth from the original perspective, its that each viewer becomes the new truth. A truth that we either identify with, or argue against.
In conclusion, I feel like I have started something quite unique and interesting with my book. I feel I have met with and surpassed my initial objectives and instead of this feeling like a completed project, I can see scope to build on it some more. It's always hard to visualise what a book will look like until you have it in your hands, I printed off life size prints to trial my edit with and was happy with my final selection. However once the book arrived, I see there are a couple of images I could have taken out, namely the guy pulling the yellow kids ride and the opposite page where the people are crossing the road. Also I have some second thoughts about the guy looking through the car window in the parents toddler zone and the two ladies map reading on the bench. I don't feel they overly weaken the book - but I do think in a future edit, those are the first few I would look to replace with stronger images. Also, I think the QR Codes are a little on the large side - just an aesthetic thing and people who I have asked have said it doesn't matter, but I think smaller and more discreet would have looked better.