Week 7 Strategic Choices
Photographers have a huge range of skills and techniques that they call upon to make work. In addition to this there are also strategies and methods one can follow in order to produce work. This extra element to the creative process serves as a framework in which work can be produced. In some cases the actual process or framework becomes more central to the idea behind the work or the meaning or intended message.
One such method or strategy that I am fairly new to is 'Psychogeography’ defined as "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.”
We can utilize this formulaic and rigid way we use the space by breaking it up with something new and different. One artist who uses not only public spaces but random meetings with complete strangers is Gillian Wearing.
It's amazing that Wearing is able to get such honest and personal responses from these strangers. By approaching them in the st and working in this way it seems that it reboots the interaction. We all walk past each other and interact for the most part with social conformity. By approaching strangers and asking them to share something personal with the the artist it is breaking this conformity.
I’m not an expert in these methods but I do find it really interesting how practitioners interact with the environment around them. Sociologists have looked into the effect of the urban environment and how it affects the mood and actions of the people within them. One theory that springs to mind is that of the Broken Window theory, in the most basic form it suggest that urban areas with broken windows, run down buildings and low level disruption including graffiti and vandalism encourages larger scale disruption and with it organised crime.
The nature writer Robert MacFarlane describes Psychogeography;
“Psychogeography: a beginner’s guide. Unfold a street map ... place a glass, rim down, anywhere on the map, and draw round its edge. Pick up the map, go out ... and walk the circle, keeping as close as you can to the curve. Record the experience as you go, in whatever medium you favour: film, photograph, manuscript, tape. Catch the textural run-off of the streets; the graffiti, the branded litter, the snatches of conversation ... Log the data-stream. Be alert to the happenstance of metaphors, watch for visual rhythms, coincidences, analogies, family resemblances, the changing moods of the street. Complete the circle and the record ends. Walking makes for content; footage for footage.”
Rober MacFarlane, 'A Road of One’s Own'.
Times Literary Supplement, 07.10.2005.
One after thought that’s come to me when looking at this exploration or ‘derive’ needed from the participant when making work in a such a way is the subjectivity of it. Each individual will have a previous history with environments of a similar nature, they may have watched news reports or watched films depicting dangerous urban environments. I think it’s a great way to experiment but it is not as independent as one might think. Our personal histories and understanding of the world around us still affects us even subconsciously.
I see chance as being an element of photography that can be key but not necessarily all the time. It is dependant on the individual. The image maker or author can use this as a tool in their work but it is not necessarily needed in every project. In relation to my own practice I think I would like to expand on the word ’chance’. Chance indicates a spontaneous act out of your control, I would say that by being equipped and ready to capture a moment you increase your chances of said event being captured enormously. The more time you spend trying to capture a spontaneous moment the better you get at doing it, so this increases the ‘chance’ of being successful. I think chance is an important factor, but it's not as magical and out of reach as some might think. Dedication to your craft studying body language and practicing working this way is probably more relevant.
As for experimenting with embracing change or new opportunities I believe that this can be a great way to push yourself and learn. I was set a micro project by a fellow student on the course. I was given a brief to photograph people and an environment that I wouldn't have normally.
Having a very busy freelancer schedule along with studying has left me with very little time. I had plans to meet a friend for dinner and decided last minute to take my camera along and photograph him in some of the places that we ended up. It was really interesting, after dinner we went out for some drinks. I went to a venue where I work as a photographer. I started taking images of Dave, and before I knew it I was being asked by everyone to take their photograph. When I tried explaining I wasn't working, I realised it was going to be very difficult to communicate in such loud place. I ended up taking everyone’s image. I tried to focus more on Dave but the more I did the more other people forced their way into the shot with him. Does this say anything about the selfie culture we find ourselves in? It’s really interesting how by me holding a camera at the people around completely changed. It made me more approachable, people who would not have spoken to me were now actively trying to get my attention and really wanted me to photograph them?
It was also strange to see my friend Dave suddenly be treated differently. Did anyone think he was a celebrity?
All of this caused by someone holding a ‘professional’ looking camera has me really interested in our relationships with strangers and the public view of the photographer.
On Reflection perhaps this is too close to my other practice and by using a friend it's still not out of the normal formula enough to really engage with the concept of disrupting the norm. Also people on a night out probably expect a photographer to be around. I definitely need to look at re attempting this micro project.