“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.
Facial Codes, by Kamarul
"The work explores the viewer’s relationship to two‐dimensional (2D) still images reproduced on photographic print medium, with his Facial Codes series. By superimposing circular discs with Quick Response codes – a type of data‐encoded matrix barcode that arose following the advent of technology where one might expect to see faces of people, the artist accentuates a sense of impenetrability in representations of 2D and design. He challenges the extent to which the viewer can make meaning of what he sees, before it is rendered useless. This original use of QR codes that results in faceless images could represent an ironic loss of familiarity and identity, despite us living in the age of modern technology often thought to bridge distances."
I had already began to generate QR Codes for my book when I came across this artist and his work with QR Codes. His links take you to various pages containing quotes, or videos pertaining to the thoughts and views of either him as the artist or the person in the image.
This is an interesting idea, however, once I started to scan the codes, I noticed I was taking less and less notice of the image. I think as a series, this set of images and their QR Codes combined allude to the banal story of life and how we are all running through a similar program of events that lead us into a work place with all primary dreams and hopes secured as fantasy in our minds - Another Brick In The Wall etc etc.
It kind of works and doesn't work for me in the sense that it tells an opinion that many share, but with the novelty of the qr code technology - but it doesnt hold my interest for long. The close set qr codes are difficult to scan, and the destinations are predictable and 'samey'.
Book Edit 1
Book Edit 2
I tried a few different book edits - and with guidance from a few people, I decided to make the book with a consistent, formulaic structure, one that had rhythm and predictability in the pages so as to not distract the viewer from the intention of 'Looking" and reading.
"Jim Goldberg has been exhibiting for over 30 years and his innovative use of image and text make him a landmark photographer of our times. He began to explore experimental storytelling and the potentials of combining image and text with Rich and Poor (1977-85), where he juxtaposed the residents of welfare hotel rooms with the upper class and their elegantly furnished homes to investigate the nature of American myths about class, power, and happiness. In Raised by Wolves (1985-95), he worked closely with and documented runaway teenagers in San Francisco and Los Angeles to create a book and exhibition that combined original photographs, text, home movie stills, snapshots, drawings, diary entries as well as single and multi-channel video, sculpture, found objects, light boxes and other 3-D elements.
His book, Open See (2003-2010), tells the story of refugees, immigrants, and trafficked individuals journeying from their countries of origin to their new homes in Europe. Open See remains within Goldberg’s multi-faceted and multimedia practice by using diverse formats to create a thickly interwoven, expressionistic narrative from many points of view.
Goldberg’s current project, Candy (2012-2015), layers archival materials, Super 8 film stills, and text from his childhood in New Haven with new photographs of its urban landscape and residents. The result is a twisting, multilayered exploration of American notions of aspiration and betrayal."
What I Think:
What I like about this work is that combination of image and text - Goldberg uses the words of his subject to give his visual message greater depth and create different and often opposing messages. The discord struck by the contrast of words and image, makes you question the truth of the reality being portrayed - you believe the words written, because they are presented by the subjects themselves, but this being at odds with the narrative of the photograph reminds us how easily fooled we can be by the photographer, our own preconceptions and what we consider to be important semiotics and signs within the structure of the image. The strength of Goldbergs work, is within the questions it raises, not only about the subject and the artist, but indeed of ourselves as the viewer/observer.
Photographer Owens series 'Suburbia' is a collection of photographs looking at middle class and consumerism - how they measure themselves against their various collections of material objects. These photographs are posed and intentional.
I like the play between words and image, I find that the text here compounds the image rather than contradicts, as it does in Goldberg's work. With Owens work i look at the image first and then feel reassured, 'right' by the text that goes with it. In Goldbergs work, I look to the text first so that I read the image without prejudging. I look for visual clues that back up the written word and feel at odds when i dont always find them. In this sense, I feel Goldbergs work is the stronger of the two because it more complicated to digest. In my own work, where I have been building up collections of audio recordings of people describing what they see in my photographs, I feel the contrast between each reading creates a similar sense - albeit in a more humorous way.
I had an idea of using QR Codes to link viewers from my images to the several audio readings I have got for them. At first I thought about trying to create augmented reality images, which is where you scan a photo with a special but free to download app, and the photo comes to life with a video. But when I looked into it, it was too expensive and non practical. So I thought I would do it with QR Codes instead.
QR or Quick Response Codes are a type of two-dimensional barcode that can be read using smartphones and dedicated QR reading devices, that link directly to text, emails, websites, phone numbers and more.
I hope that by adding an audio element to my work, I can stimulate more of the viewers senses and invoke stronger reactions from them. I am also inviting the new viewer to leave their thoughts or comments on the project.
Sean O'Hagen interviewed Frank for an article in The Guardian:
"The Americans challenged all the formal rules laid down by Henri Cartier-Bresson
and Walker Evans, whose work Frank admired but saw no reason to emulate. More provocatively, it flew in the face of the wholesome pictorialism and heartfelt photojournalism of American magazines like Life and Time. The Americans was shocking – and enduringly influential – because it simply showed things as they were. “I was tired of romanticism,” Frank told me, “I wanted to present what I saw, pure and simple.”
Frank’s America is a place of shadows, real and metaphorical. His Americans look furtive, lonely, suspicious. He caught what Diane Arbus called the “hollowness” at the heart of many American lives, the chasm between the American dream and the everyday reality. With his handheld camera, Frank embraced movement and tilt and grain. Contemporary critics reacted with a mixture of scorn and outrage, accusing him of being anti-American as well as anti-photography. A review in Practical Photography dismissed the book’s “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness”. The Americans portrayed a place and a people that many Americans just could not, or did not want to see: a sad, hard, divided country that seemed essentially melancholic rather than heroic. As Jack Kerouac put it in his famous introduction, Robert Frank “sucked a sad poem out of America.”
What I Think:
The realism in Franks photography in the series "The Americans" is not shocking to us nowadays as we have become desensitised to such images, such is the fashion to shoot in this anti-aesthetic way now. Indeed, I recognise my own style in the works of Frank - in terms of the style of shooting.
Street photography, as a genre, is now, of course, flooded with this type of aesthetic - uncomposed, gritty, 'real'
What is important to me, when looking at these iconic images, is that I want to take this reality to the next level of modernity - add the next stage in viewing consumption. I think street photography is the right base point for me because of the notion that we can all find familiarity in street images and that makes us feel comfortable, or it intrigues our interest in an 'us and them' sense. We can look at street photography and make quick assumptions about the sights before us. I think my quest for the real, is exactly that - what are those thoughts and assumptions we make?
Friedlanders photos, I find, are a lot more loaded and suggestive than Franks. Whereas Frank is saying "Look", Friendlander, to me, is saying "What". I really like the tension in is work and the questions that you are left with - this is something I will try to incorporate more with my images by taking more notice of the environment surrounding the people I shoot and trying to position myself so that they work better within it. I want to create provocative images.
What I Think:
Levitts collection of street photographs features an innocuous amount of images depicting the daily life of children; playing, learning, imitating. I like the raw innocence of these images and how recognisable and almost predictable their play is. This makes for a timeless narrative, dated only by the clothing and background elements. I would like to try shooting a number of children for my work, but sadly I feel that I can't because of how our society is today.
On a recent trip to Bournemouth, I took the opportunity to get some more images, however they have a completely different feel to them than the street images I have been taking, so I will try a couple of hem in the final edit to see how they work.
Denotation and Connotation
"Everyone who looks at a photograph will literally see the same thing. In the case of image 2.7, everyone will see the same graphic pattern, and most will recognise the creature signified as one classified as 'dog'. This is denotation, the literal meaning of a signifier, and it is the first stage of reading.
However, although we can agree that the animal signified is a dog, how we then interpret the meaning of 'dog' (beyond the classification of a particular sort of mammal) will be subject to a range of variables. Some may be reminded of a loved pet and project their memories and affection onto this representation; those who have been bitten or chased by such a dog may project their dislike or fear onto it; those with expert knowledge will identify the breed and attribute associated characteristics onto the representation. The design of the picture lends itself to anthropomorphic interpretation: we project human characteristics onto the dog - we read its 'expression'
This is connotation - the associated ideas that are suggested by the image, but which are not explicitly denoted. Individual and subjective experience, knowledge, taste and emotion will all contribute to the particular associations. Nevertheless, although we are all individuals, we are reasonable predictable in many respects, and so a skilled writer, artist, copywriter or photographer can encourage or nudge us towards a particular response.
Consider, for example an advertisement for perfume: how do you represent an invisible commodity? Typically, such an advertisement will include a bottle, a person nd a brand name; the person may be a celebrity. These elements are denoted, but the actual commodity, a fragrance, cannot be visually denoted. The visual elements - words, colours, faces, bodies - will be more organised to connote pleasure, glamour and sexiness, which will then be associated with the product."
R Salkeld. (2014). Dennotation and Connotation. In: Reading Photographs. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. 53.
What I Think:
In this text, Salkeld offers an explanation on how we all read an image differently. It is exactly this notion that I am intrigued by. You can show 50 people this image of a dog and 50 people will see an acutely similar compilation of lines shape and form that we all recognise to be a dog, but every one of the 50 people will potentially have a different reading/reaction to it based on their prior experiences.
I'm slightly fascinated by the idea that actually 50 people won't all see the same lines shape and form, because even what we actually see is in some way preconditioned by our experiences, that is to say we are all taught to recognise the basic shape of a dog and therefore recognise this as a dog. But if there were somebody who had never heard of, seen or had any kind of experience or association with the concept of a dog or its recognisable shape; and if that person was shown this picture what would they see? Surely not a dog?
So far I have shown several of my photographs of people doing their daily thing on the streets to several friends, family and colleagues and recorded them 'reading' the narrative or sharing the experience they feel connected to the image. This is proving to be an interesting format in which to test this theory of looking, seeing, reading and experiencing.
The question I keep coming back to now is, should I be using the same image to ask the same question or continue using several images to ask the same question? Obviously using the same image with lots of different voice recordings tests the theory in a more 'scientific' way, however is it more engaging to the viewer and also myself to have the opportunity and listen to people describing many photos and to leave the comparison just between your own thoughts and the thoughts of the recording?
Reading through the book further, I also found recognition of my own thoughts in the further text written by Salkeld;
"Pictures and Text; Pictures As Texts
It is relatively rare to encounter a photograph without some accompanying words, even if it is only a caption. The semiotic approach proposes that we treat photographs as texts; that is, as a collection of signifiers to read and be interpreted. However, given that the word 'text' is more familiarly used to denote the words that might accompany a picture rather than the picture in itself, this can at first seem a little confusing.Nevertheless, the relationship between words and pictures is hugely important.
Because of a photographs iconic nature (its resemblance to what it represents), what the photograph shows often appears as self-evident. Nevertheless, that instant recognition is immediately articulated in terms of names, labels and descriptions. However, what the photograph means remains potentially ambiguous and could spin off in many directions. Roland Barthes termed the photographs capacity for generating multiple meanings 'polysemy'.
In Rhetoric of the Image (1964) Roland Barthes explains how the potential for the meanings of an image to float off in any direction can be 'anchored' by words: captions, advertising copy, accompanying articles, gallery labels – all of these functions to tell the viewer more about what they are looking at. People and places are named, contexts are identified – the viewer is directed towards receiving a specific image.
However, words are signifiers to and do not simply denote what is in the picture, but will connote a further set of associations; words may not just a company a photograph, but they might also be part of the picture, either part of the photograph subject or written onto/scratched into the surface of the photographic print. In the latter case, the effect may be to draw attention to the photograph as a material object, as a sign in its own right."
Photos by Jim Goldberg http://casemorekirkeby.com/artist/jim-goldberg/
Duane Michals http://www.dcmooregallery.com/artists/duane-michals
I thought I would have a go at taking some photos with the 35mm. I went to a retail park in Cheltenham and shot sitting in my car. I am not happy with the outcome - these have a different look and feel to the rest of my project, possibly more suited to the enquiry of the last module. I wont be trying this again. This exercise has firmed up my view that I will stick with the DSLR.
These images have been taken alongside the iPhone set below. I used the covert technique of hiding my shutter release cable down my sleeve and pressing it discreetly with my hand in my pocket.
Things I learnt today:
1. People in London don't really care - even if you are really obviously taking their photo. This meant that on occasion I was able to handhold the camera and structure my shots more directly.
2. By rigging up the camera strap to the correct length, I could use my upper body as a good stabiliser and angle the shots to the best viewpoint.
3. I have a habit of inadvertently looking directly at the people I am shooting which makes them
a. think I am weird and b. wonder what I am up too. (STOP LOOKING AT THEM!!!)
4. Because of how I balance the camera on my chest, every time I take a shot - apparently I swing my whole upper body around and look weird....
So today we went to London to try and give the iPhone method a second chance. This time I rigged myself up a little more covertly by using my headphones as a shutter release and hiding the wire down my sleeve so that it wasnt obvious what I was doing. I felt this time that I had been a little more successful, but by contrast, I had also taken a vast amount of images more than the previous attempt. I still found that I needed to be closer to my subject and also it worked better if i stopped walking and just stood more stationery.
All in all though, I am realising that I do prefer the DSLR for the ease in which it captures the image and the quality it renders over the iPhone technology. I will try shooting with 35mm film to see how that works. But I am more and more feeling like I will revert back to the DSLR so that the images are better and focus more on the recorded readings as they are closer to what I am looking to achieve than the outcome of pursuing the aesthetic of different technology.
Using my phone, I recording my son Harry, aged 3 talking about this image. I had to prompt him a bit, but I was quite pleased with the outcome. I thought his reading was quite funny and an interesting insight.
Doing this has made me realise that if I could get a few people to do this, I would be able to get some really interesting and varied opinions about the same image - I think this might work for me in terms of what I am looking for this project to fulfil.
I found myself in Birmingham New Street train station today, so I thought I would have a go at taking photos with my iPhone. What I found was that you had to be really close to people in order to get a good exposure as the shutter speed and focal length can't cope with moving people. I did get some interesting shots, but overall I was disappointed with the results. The clarity isn't there and there is too much motion blur. I couldn't find a way to manually manipulate the iPhone camera settings.
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.
There is, of course, another element to photography, which is completely nothing to do with the equipment or the photographer. By this, I refer to the way the photograph is perceived by the viewer. I have become increasingly interested in the way that different people can view the same image with completely different opinions as to the content which is why in this module I intend to explore reality from this as well as an aesthetic perspective.
By the time the camera has recorded the raw data, the photographer has manipulated the image and applied his or her own narrative and a viewer has perceived the image, interpreted it and asserted his or her own narrative onto the image, a little like Chinese whispers – how far removed is the image in translation from whence it began?
So in essence, is it possible, depending on the photographer - that a DSLR potentially shows us as much 'truth' and 'reality' as being there ourselves? Or do we, as the viewer, change that truth and reality to suit our own predisposition?
For all the DSLR's flashy technologically advanced soft and hardware, is 'crappy' camera photography perceived by the viewer to be more 'truthful'?
"I’ve finally figured out what’s wrong with photography. It’s a one-eyed man looking through a little ‘ole. Now, how much reality can there be in that?" – David Hockney
The Saatchi Gallery describes these photographs: “For Dash Snow photography becomes a way of engaging with environment and memory. Each snapshot captures a place, time, and emotion, freeze-framing the individual components of everyday experience, mapping out the compilation of an identity. Using a Polaroid camera for its instantaneous results and association as keep-sakes, the familiar format of Snow’s photos replicates the sentiments of his images: cheap, disposable, and plebian mementos become humble evidence of discarded beauty.”
The film grain adds texture and tension to fixtures, fittings and faces alike. The deepened shadows and overexposed highlights add drama and narrative, there is a physical and psychological depth to the film camera image that isn't achievable by the use of a DSLR without physical manipulation by the photographer.
Is it the case that in our heavily saturated image toxic environment in which we live our daily lives, we are so accustomed to being persuaded in our sheep-like drones into the seduction of glossy well-presented 'produced' images that, when unedited, are technically almost representative of what we can see with our human eyes, that the UNquality of a crappy camera photo reaches our senses on a more basic level? One where our human empathies still remain?
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 and by measuring the reaction from the viewers.
I plan to do this by working through a number of initial ideas:
My initial proposal was to explore the notion of what is perceived to be "private" in terms of people in public spaces vs the hard reality that there is in fact a prolific amount of surveillance being used nearly everywhere we go. I wanted to explore this subject further as a photographer, and test my own boundaries by taking my own set of images which would challenge my own ethical and moral opinions in respect of the privacy of others.
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.
Streulis aesthetic is a lot more clearer, richer and polished in appearance to mine. This is for several technical and logistical reasons including, unfortunately at the moment the time of year and the weather, which limits my ambient light availability to somewhere between grey and greyer. I cannot wait for the spring/summer months when I can drop my iso, increase my shutter speed and throw caution to the wind with my aperture for maximum artistic quality control!!
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!
Originally, I envisaged my project developing towards a scenario influenced by Sophie Calle, whereby I would pick a person and follow them. I wanted to document their day as much as I could, and really immerse my camera (and self) into the familiarity of their life. But whilst researching into the feasibility of my intended work, I found out that this could cause me a legal issue, if the person in question felt I was causing them harassment. Instead I adopted a less invasive approach where I could photograph people in their cars, through car windows, or in someway being obscured by parts of my car. The resulting photos have a very different feel to the majority of the ones I have chosen for my final book edit. I felt that I didn't want to pursue this line of enquiry any further having exasperated the potential and feeling unsatisfied with the aesthetic. This is why I have focused on my number one objective of capturing the foibles of everyday life, using both invasive and non-invasive methods to get photos without consent or knowledge from the subject.
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:
I also spent a day out shooting onto 35mm black and white film, using my Pentax k1000, however, unfortunately the film got accidentally exposed by someone opening the back of the camera before I had finished the roll. This is definitely something I am very keen to experiment with again, as soon as possible, especially in terms being able to optimise the grainy unpolished quality that a film camera brings.
In terms of the compilation of book, the editing process was the most difficult part, in terms of deciding what to include and what to disregard. I tried utilising the opinions of those around me, but soon realised that by trying taking an "average " point of view of their advice was making the final edit somewhat bland because of contrasting opinions. I also found that the inclusion of my original favourite images, by comparison to the rest, weakened the strength in some of the pages and upset the overall rhythm because as part of a series or set, they didn't fit.
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.
After looking at some artists who have made their work using online streaming CCTV cameras, I found myself liking the aesthetic - with the grubby screens, scratched, weathered and low-res. It makes their images easier to identify with a definite sense of surveillance, whilst I have adopted a more 'street' perspective - surveillance nonetheless, there is a feel to the work of Gaia Light, for example, that has more sinister connotations. I think some of my images shot through car windows have a similar effect.
I do like the edits that I have roughly put together here, and I will consider this an option moving forward as I continue to develop my work.
In photoshop, I used the gaussian lens blur tool with a small radius of about 4px just to obscure the focus, I then added a 'dirty' texture using the overlay blending mode with around 66% opacity and finally added a vignette edge to help centralise and frame the image. I applied this same edit to a small number of my photos as shown above to see if it change the way of viewing and meaning. The result of which is - I quite like the aesthetic - it does seem to add a more obvious direction of surveillance to my images. Moving forward, I will experiment with different ways of pursuing this line of enquiry to achieve a more natural visual that has the same feel as this.
I knew right from day one that this project had to be a book in the sense that viewing a book is a private intimate experience - the format concluding the full circle of private > public > private - Here I am choosing which images i will keep or disregard and then experimenting with which images work well with others to create a base layout for the book.
WALKER EVANSWalker Evans’s Subway Passengers were made on New York City underground trains in the 1930s with small hidden cameras, allowing Evans to record the natural, un-posed faces of the city’s inhabit
VITO ACCONCIEvery day for one month in 1969 Vito Acconci followed a randomly selected stranger on the streets of New York, recording his experiences with photographs and a written account.
Photographer Merry Alpern hid a video camera inside her handbag so she could take it into the harshly lit fitting rooms of a number of fashion boutiques, and found that it revealed a disconcertingly unfamiliar image of herself: “I had always seen myself quite differently when I looked in the mirror. Suddenly I no longer knew what I really looked like”.
What right do governments, corporations, and individuals have to collect and retain information on your daily communications? What tools—both today and in the past—have been used to monitor your activities? What are the immediate and far-reaching effects?
These questions unite the nine bodies of work selected for the fall 2014 exhibition “Watching You, Watching Me.” This upcoming installment of our Moving Walls documentary photography series explores how photography has been used both as an instrument of surveillance and as a tool to document, expose, and challenge the impact of surveillance on civil liberties, human rights, and basic freedoms.
The projects were selected through an open-call process, and we were inspired by the range of ways documentary artists are tackling the challenge of using photography to visualize something that is both omniscient and covert. Many projects we received highlighted the technologies and mechanisms that enable surveillance, while others focused on the activities of governments, industries, and corporations that are creating and employing such tools. Some projects were international in scope, while others explored the theme from a very personal point of view.
There were a range of artistic approaches, from appropriating existing imagery (for example from historical archives, networked CCTV cameras, or Google Street View), to using surveillance-related technologies in the image-making process, and employing more traditional documentary language to capture fleeting historical events.
The nine artists and projects selected are as follows:
“Watching You, Watching Me” will be open to the public at the Open Society office in New York from November 4, 2014 to May 8, 2015.
Exposed is a compelling survey of 250 works that tackles subjects both iconic and taboo, questioning the ambiguity of surveillance and voyeurism.
The prolific use of mobile phones, cameras, CCTV, and the internet has ensured that we are never alone or unwatched, and that each of us is cast as unwitting voyeurs ourselves. New technology has enabled us to become amateur artists and removed the cloak of innocence that used to shroud candid, amateur shots. Dramatic as it may sound, we increasingly live in a Big Brother society where every move is watched and charted, in, for the most part, the interest of “safety”. We are members of a post-9/11 society that is increasingly content to allow a higher degree of surveillance and intrusion into our private lives as this intrusion supposedly offers more protection. The inherently invasive quality of the photograph is discussed by critics, typically from a more theoretical standpoint than an actual examination of the historical use of photography as a tool of investigation and documentation.
Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera, at Tate Modern, takes as a starting point the unwitting subject – the focal point of the photograph captured innocent and unaware. The exhibition, aims to complete this often negated aspect of art history through the thematic arrangement of five specific strands of photography: the hidden/unseen photographer; voyeuristic photography; the cult of the celebrity and paparazzi; the camera as witness to violence; and surveillance. Exposed demonstrates by its execution that the subject is never as innocent as it may seem. Whether one of Brassai’s prostitutes who are, by their profession, always on stage and posing for a potential customer, or the celebrity figures photographed by paparazzi such as Ron Gallela, the audience is never wholly oblivious.
The exhibition includes more than 250 works of photography and film, brought together by Phillips and Baker in order to comprehensively illustrate each thematic strand. Surveillance photography, from a private eye photographing a cheating husband to international espionage, has perhaps been the least examined in an art historical and critical sense as it is usually seen as a scientific tool rather than an art object. Surveillance footage necessarily involves the use of film as well as photographic cameras and has been used as an artistic tool by artists, like Bruce Nauman, since the 1970s. Nauman’s Video Corridor(1968) consisted of two surveillance cameras placed at either end of two parallel floor-to-ceiling walls so that the viewer was faced with concurrent images of themselves. Through the camera’s placement and the spatial arrangement of the walls to create a claustrophobic space, the viewer stands within a panoptic enclosure in which they exist as both audience and subject. Video Corridor encapsulates the reality of contemporary Machiavellian society: how often do we walk into a store and see ourselves depicted on carefully situated observable camera screens? Works by Nauman, along with artists like Merry Alpern and Thomas Demand, examine and illustrate the prevalence of surveillance footage and the circulated image in mainstream society and how their availability impact our own perceptions of ourselves. By simply leaving one’s house, the viewer steps onto an urban stage and becomes an unwitting performer.
The art critic and curator, Michael Rush, states that, “It is a short leap from looking (fixing one’s gaze upon another) to voyeurism (taking delight in extended gazing) to spying (surreptitiously studying the actions of another).” As children we are told not to stare, because staring bridges that gap between innocently looking and the voyeuristic gaze. Photographers, like Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Weegee (aka Arthur Fellig), are difficult to categorise as they both look and spy, and have certain voyeuristic qualities to their work. Weegee originally worked as a freelance news photographer during the 1930s, chasing down often violent crime scenes via the police radios he kept with him in his car. The resultant images portray an often harsh reality, documenting the aftermath of crime and neglect. There is a vulnerable element to many of Weegee’s images as he captures the fleeting emotions of crime: the fear, the cruelty, the misery, and the defeat. His photographs, in many ways, could thematically fall within each strand of Exposed.
Weegee, like Henri Carter-Bresson and Jacob Riis, among others, photographed the “decisive” moment, those moments lost by staged photography, but encapsulated by candid street photography. To differentiate between voyeurism and street photography has become an increasingly difficult task. Jacob Riis, an American journalist during the late 19th century, was perhaps one of the first street photographers. Riis used the element of surprise, often bursting into dark tenements and quickly taking a flash photograph before scurrying away. He was one of the first to use flash photography in this way – as a form of social awareness using the photograph in order to reveal the depravation and poverty existent in the New York tenements. Baker argues that it is the very fact that the tenement dwellers were caught unaware and by surprise that the images are so powerful, as the photographs capture the true reality of their existence. Walker Evans, whose work is also included in the exhibition, typifies an artist who would fall outside the category of a “street photographer” as his work is of rural early twentieth century society and is slightly more staged. However, Evans, like Diane Arbus after him, had the unnerving ability to emphasise with his subjects in such a way as to draw out the hidden emotions of the human psyche. His images of families and children can often be disturbing and uncomfortable as they depict people at the crossroads and in the throes of exploration.
The term “voyeuristic photography” is perhaps best exemplified by an artist such as Kohei Yoshiyuki. His photographic series “The Park”, which was first exhibited in 1979 at Komai Gallery in Tokyo, depicts images of heterosexual and homosexual couples engaging in public sexual acts at night in Tokyo parks. Yoshiyuki focuses not just on the couples in his photographs, but the peeping toms that creep up to watch. These images spotlight the fascination with “looking” – an often morbid fascination that causes people to slow down when driving past a fatal car accident on the side of the road. Intrinsic to the act of “looking” is that of desire and fetish: the camera’s eye captures a moment and thereby possesses that moment. Playboy and Hustler magazines have capitalized upon this relationship between image and audience. The viewer cannot touch the naked woman depicted, but they can own the magazine in which the image is presented; desire consummated in effect. Unlike Nan Goldin, who knowingly took on the role of peeping tom, Yoshiyuki distanced himself from such a label by placing an actual voyeur between himself, the camera, and the subject. Goldin’s photographic series, Ballad of Sexual Dependency, documents the intimate and private moments of her friends, allowing her audience a glimpse into her world. Her subjects know her, and one assumes, had given some form of permission to Goldin to photograph at whim. There is thus a sense of familiarity and comfort in the photographs as they are less awkwardly staged than images by a photographer of an anonymous / unknown subject and consequently have an inherent eroticism. By inviting Goldin in on private moments, usually invisible to the camera’s lens, they are inviting her to participate in that act which is photographed. Contemporary artists, such as Tracy Emin with her Unmade Bed (1999), follow in the footsteps of Goldin, inviting the audience to participate in her private life as she makes it public.
Goldin and Emin specifically invite the audience into their lives, thereby acting as their own subject, and raising questions about participation, distance, observation, and the sanctity of one’s public image. The knowing subject, such as those captured by Shizuka Yokomizo, is an empowered subject as it can create an image of how they would like to be seen. Yokomizo’s series Stranger (1998-2000) was centred on this idea of the participatory photography: subjects were sent an anonymous letter asking them to stand in front of their window at a specific time and date and to stand still whilst she photographed them (she stipulated in the letter that they should close their blinds should they not wish to participate). Yokomizo never revealed her identity and existed as an anonymous entity, appearing as nothing but a dark shadow committing an intimate act. The very participation of the subject in this series exhibits an extraordinary degree of trust and security in the unknown photographer as they are entrusting her with their public persona within that most private of places: the home. Exposed illustrates the difficulty that photographers have with creating a relationship between themselves and their subject, whether they want that relationship to be somewhat anonymous as with Yokomizo’s works, or whether they want their relationship to be personal, as with Goldin.
The photograph is an inherently erotic object, because it visually captures the human form on paper. When photography was first introduced as an artistic medium during the nineteenth century, it was looked upon in fear by many who saw the image as “stealing” a part of one’s soul. As a printed piece of paper the photograph was seen to contain a portion of the human element, thus the inanimate object became somewhat real and desirable. In much the same way that the camera’s lens captured this human element, so does the audience through the act of looking. The politics of looking is an integral aspect to photographers like Robert Mapplethorpe, for whom the historic and prolific image of the “erotic” white female nude became a focus. Mapplethorpe took this subject and subverted it: his iconic images of the male form, and the inclusion of genitalia, shocked many conventional critics for whom this outright embracing of the male nude and of the New York S & M scene straddled the line between photography and pornography. Mapplethorpe photographed intimate sexual acts and captured them in an artistic and masterful way: his images are highly stylized, technically correct, and illustrate his interest in the inherent beauty of the human form. Although he generated a tremendous amount of controversy during his career, it is his images rather than the public backlash that will endure. The value of the erotic image as an art object could be debated ad infinitum, but Mapplethorpe proved, without a doubt, the cultural value of its inclusion within art historical discourse.
Phillips and Baker have chosen photographs that embody this element of the erotic and that illustrate the critical significance of the image as a provocative artistic tool. The photograph is the gaze made real, concretely exhibiting the dialectical relationship between observer and observed and calling into question the legitimacy of looking.
Exposed opened 28 May and continued until 3 October 2010 at Tate Modern. www.tate.org.uk/modern/.
"The series “Mass Surveillance” is the result of a photographic survey of the thousands of publicly accessible webcams live-streaming around the world. It is a reflection about how our daily lives, in general, are constantly monitored and controlled.
In documenting this phenomenon, the first impression is that the apparatus of the surveillance camera carries an inescapable and uncanny quality. Pictorially and precisely, its images connote the so-called ”state of exception,” a condition within law when all rules and all laws are suspended. It is the state of exception that underwrites the state of emergency, under which so many places have fallen.
While the security camera is intended to protect and police, the public webcam takes on the outward form of entertainment. But more disturbingly, these streaming images are utilized today to underwrite regimes of power, where normal rights of privacy are permanently suspended.
“Mass Surveillance” collects images from all over the world: a kindergarten in Japan to the streets of London. Insofar as these images were gathered from the Internet, “Mass Surveillance” presents the apparatus of the traditional surveillance camera in its contemporary iteration, the webcam. Thus, the final images take on the distortions of the device while pushing them further, emphasizing digitalization, pixellation, and the very process of being (re)photographed.
Given the physical ubiquity of such cameras today—and add in their footages’ presence on the Internet—and we arrive at a moment where the state of exception is no longer an exception, but a universal."
Since 2010 she has been working on a long-term, perpetually ongoing, project, Mass Surveillance, which is the result of a sustained, photographic-documentary survey of the thousands of publicly accessible webcams available on the Internet. The presence of this wide network of surveillance cameras illustrates how public, as well as private day-to-day activities are constantly monitored and subtly or explicitly controlled. The series is composed of still photos shot with a digital camera through the screen of a computer while attending freely accessible webcams’ live-streaming sessions on the Internet and aims to question the increasingly intricate connections between privacy rights and surveillance needs in the post-9/11 world.
- taken from Gaia Lights website
MASS SURVEILLANCE 2016
The Mass Surveillance series is a systematic sampling of thousands of publicly accessible webcams, which for very different reasons offer free, live-streaming services and broadcast a range of activities that cover private and public space, urban and domestic environments, and seemingly remote and/or wild landscapes worldwide. The series is composed of still photos shot with a digital camera through the screen of a computer while attending freely accessible webcams' live-streaming sessions on the Internet and aims to question the increasingly intricate connections between privacy rights and surveillance needs in the post-9/11 world.
For years I have been documenting all sorts of streams, freely available and easily accessible on the Internet, photographing all kinds of extremes and weird practices happening on surveillance cameras and distributed online, for God knows what reason.
I have always been intrigued by the perpetually increasing extent of the popularity of this phenomenon, recognizing a lack of information and, more importantly, of specific and adequate regulation or accountability.
The Internet is a gigantic planet, some would say dark planet, and as any other communal experience needs limits, boundaries, and rules in order to healthily and democratically function. Technology is certainly faster than the legislator nowadays, but this should represent an incentive to confront the problem, not an excuse/alibi to remain passive.
I believe in the power of visual knowledge and in the progressive force of photography as an important tool to raise consciousness and inspire reflections and actions toward positive changes within the regulatory apparatus of the Internet, especially when related to surveillance practices and abusive interpersonal relations.
The Mass Surveillance series is focused on the limits and dangers of the Internet as ideal platform for the broadcast of everyday life, much of which occurs without the subjects or the participants ever knowing they are conscripted “actors” in a strange carnival.
This Series is for all of the unaware victims of abusive surveillance practices in the hope that my efforts will suggest/inspire a change in the way the Internet’s wilder practices are perceived today by the majority of aware and unaware citizens and above all by sleeping legislators.
In this series and written document above, Gaia 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 the images which 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.
At some stage, I would like to try and manipulate my images to have this kind of appearance to see how they work and how it changes the meaning.
"In our increasingly intrusive electronic culture, how do we delineate the boundary between public and private? “Surveillance Landscapes” is a body of work that interrogates how surveillance technology has changed our relationship to—and understanding of—landscape and place.
To produce this work, I hack into surveillance cameras, public webcams, and CCTV feeds in pursuit of the “classical” picturesque landscape. The resulting visual product becomes dislocated from its automated origins and leads to an investigation of land, borders, and power. The very act of surveying a site through these photographic systems implies a dominating relationship between man and place.
Ultimately, I hope to undermine these schemes of social control through my blurred, melancholic images—found while exploiting the technological mechanisms of power in our surveillance society."
Images taken from http://www.marcusdesieno.com/surveillance-landscapes/m67a5gdxcw025r88sananaoaefcbr2
I really like the aesthetic of this work - the landscape viewed through the grubby glass of the CCTV lens, does indeed invoke a sense of possession upon me as the viewer. The natural aesthetic of nature obscured by manmade machine.