Module 1 : Positions and Practice Week 2
Interdisciplinary Approaches with Photography
This week I’ve been looking at various aspects of interdisciplinary approaches within photography. Photography is a particularly scientific process, but a unique process. It has allowed, not only a historical and scientific record, but has been utilised in an interdisciplinary way as a means of both science and means of expression. The early pioneers of photography were interested in the chemistry and how they could capture the world around them. It’s worth thinking about how these developments have shaped our cultural meanings and values we hold in ‘the photograph’.
The world was amazed with the detailed record that the photograph could produce and it’s hard to imagine how it literally shocked people who saw it for the first time. With practitioners like Fox Talbot thinking about it as ‘nature's drawing’. Early photographers were driven to capture the world around them.
Fox Talbot used a variety of practices, contact printing leafs and natural material along with photographically capturing microscopic images of plant stems and insect wings. Talbot’s work is an example of interdisciplinary use with science.
Today photography is used in many disciplines; scientific, forensic, advertising and art, it is everywhere. Our perception of photography has evolved from its naive roots of a truthful record into the complex art and communication tool it is today. Initially, people often accepted the photograph as unquestionable truth, this led to some notable practitioners taking advantage of people.
Photography and the Moving Image...
One interdisciplinary area that has particular relevance to my practice is that between photography and cinema (or moving image). I use moving image and video within my practice a lot. I think of video and stills separately as two standalone tools for different purposes. When I looked at the way that a photograph holds the viewer's attention I noticed how we attribute ideas of the past and mortality with the still image which can lend itself to certain applications. The moving image on the other hand, has a set of characteristics that can be applicated for desired effects. We think of the moving image as ‘present’ and we get a sense of looking in. Perhaps I could explore the merger of the two practices together. What deters me from doing so is the practical implications. What would the end product for my project be? If it did incorporate both disciplines, how would I exhibit them? To have a video and images online could both work, in a gallery setting a video can be displayed alongside stills. Perhaps I could use still images with video (moving image)?
There has been lots famous examples where stills have been used within film. By freezing the image it allows the narrator to break up the linear timeline and refer to a previous time or character. It's also been utilized as a sign of the past and of mortality. Directors have focused the camera on a photograph to signify a deceased character. It's also been used in a way to spare the audience the pain of an unfortunate ending. This is a prime aspect of photography's interdisciplinary nature.
Our Relationship with Photography Knowledge and Truth...
I think that the progression of technology allowing everyone to be able to make images and share them at speed, has watered down a once powerful, less questionable truth that images once held. I think of it like currency, when there are relatively less images in circulation they assume an authority and were often simply accepted as record not expression. As time has progressed and with the advent of Photoshop, the viewer knows that there is a chance the image can be manipulated and therefore question it's legitimacy. This also links in with the global nature of photography, in that the over saturation of images desensitises the viewer. An important factor we should think about, is the cultural and social context in which we consume images. Potentially, would we regard images we saw in a courtroom to be legitimate and question them less than images we see in an advert?
I would say the digital camera has had the most profound effect on photography. It has allowed more people to both create and consume photography than ever before. The rise of photoshop and image manipulation has also made images very untrustworthy and has had a profound effect on how we think of the photograph today compared to perceptions in the past.
My Interdisciplinary influence
I was challenged by some of the ideas we discussed, especially when questioning interdisciplinary influences. It made me look even closer at how relevant the interdisciplinary influences are. I had a think about how that relates to my practice. We were asked to think of a non photographic discipline to draw from. I chose music, specifically Bangers- Church St in Ruins, it’s relevant for my current project and highlights to me how much I draw creatively from music.
I first heard this song whilst studying in Falmouth doing my Ba, my FMP looked at themes of consumerism. As the project developed I started shooting shopping centers at night when no one was around. I explored mannequins in shop windows and the work was becoming very dark and sombre.
I personally connected with this song and took a little solace in someone else's shared view on some topics. Whilst working in Korea, I had a moment when listening to it, looking out of the window at the city lights and similar scenes made me think about how much (if at all) the other art I surround myself with affects my practice.
Church St In Ruins, written by Bangers
Hearing the Beach Boys playing on this rainy high-street
makes me chuckle at the amount of surf shops here.
I've tried, there's just no waves in this town.
Just more coffee shops that we could ever hope to drink in
and I don't care how cheap their drinks are,
I'm better off at home.
I kind of find it offensive that everything's for sale,
coupled with the realisation that there's nothing here I need.
It's strange, I don't hate my job and I'm not living on the breadline,
but spending money still seems strange to me.
On the plus side when I'm outside I repeat mantra-like
"The last thing I need is any more things"
Implementing stills into video within my practice
I have realised that I have used the interdisciplinary nature of stills within my own video work. Here is a music video that I shot in which two simultaneous narratives are tied together. The first is a linear narrative which follows a character on a night out, the second we see an image being constructed. The image is made into a jigsaw, piece by piece the image is put together. In another twist the album cover is actually an old photograph where the copyright has expired and become public domain. So an unknown photographer from the early 1900's has contributed to a music video in 2016.
I will look into exploring more into how I can combine my video and still image work together. However, I feel like I can only do this when I’ve honed down what the finished product will be.