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.