Surfaces and Strategies Week 4 Strategies of Freedom / by Chris Chucas

Thrownups band from London Punk Rock Documentary Photographer © Chris Chucas-CRJ 5865  May 17, 2017 Falmouth University Ma Documentary Photography.jpg

This week we’ve been looking at Photography’s role today. With todays world of over saturated visual media on social networks, and the abundance of security cameras and automated image making robots like google earth, many look at human operated or traditional image making in a different way. In this new world, many think of traditional image making as not just a way of looking at the subject matter but at photography itself. I partially agree, but like a broken record I would also say that each individual would look at image making in their own way.

I also believe that many people still view photography in an older more traditional way. A photograph can be an object, it’s one way of capturing a moment and what they choose to capture says a lot about them. This global and democratic approach to photography and how it applies to non-professional or the everyday person as well as the artist or the professional has been massively inspiring and a driving force within my own practice. Artists that play on the snap shot aesthetic (often from being an armature and playing with camera and photography) have been massively inspirational.

Martin Parr, Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, all have images that have a snap shot quality to them. They are believable and culturally accessible to most people. We know that photography can be a massively powerful tool and can be a force for positive change, as well as a dangerous tool that can mislead and divide people. When looking at how artist like these make images and more importantly why they do, it is inspiring. Going back even further people like Dorathea Lange, Lewis Hine, and Ansel Adams used their images in this traditional way that photography has worked. I think that there is still room for that in today’s world.

It doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. There are artists looking at ‘post photography’ and ways of fighting against the more traditional methodologies of image making. There are plenty that are not. I would say that I am one of the latter. My practice is more focused on the relationship between artist and subject with the hope of positive and united change amongst communities as my desired goal. Although one could argue that there is potential in exploiting these traditional ways of working with cameras and image making, I believe that one can work in a more traditional way and hope to refine the technical aspects and finesse ways of working in order for it to be instinctive and second nature, thus enabling themselves to think about everything else. 

I agree with Joanna Zylinska who makes the point that, “The Human agency required to make a decision about what and how to photograph is only one small part of what goes on in the field of photography, even though it is made to stand in for the whole of photography as such.” I feel that that human agency is a huge part of it.

Although this can be true. I don’t feel like it is applicable in my practice. I think hard and analyse many more aspects and not just aimlessly take images of random places I find myself in.  How I act, the conversations I engage in, my body language, the time of day, method of communication with my subjects all have an effect. It’s not a completely chaotic random chance. I admit there is some, but it is not the all empowering and dominating force.

Within my practice I’m striving to produce visual work to portray my subjects in a sensitive manner for positive change. I’ve experimented with different formats of camera, 120 film, 35mm slr, 35 mm Holga, smart phone and DSLR cameras. I have decided to continue with my dslr and off camera flash/natural light way of working. I feel it allows me to archive work I wouldn’t be able to using other formats. The speed and review qualities that come with it are impossible to replicate using film. It also allows me to show images with subjects of the back of the camera which helps a lot. As I have mentioned in previous posts, responsibility is one of my major focuses throughout all of my work, especially this project. It is in separable to me as an artist. I am experimenting with different approaches but the more I progress the more I’m finding that my main methodology of working is where my most successful work is working. I’ll continue to explore these alternative ways of working. I am asking people I’ve met with before to send me images with the ideas to curate them into a piece of work. I’m more interested in the newness of it and want to push myself but if it’s like the other experimentation I’ve done, it won’t be as successful. I’m comfortable in my main approach of working, and having been doing it for years I feel like I am progressing with it. I think it’s important to have confidence in what you do, it’s great to try new things and see what happens, but during this project I’m finding that the original method produces the strongest work.

Some of the great photographers that inspired social change particularly in America post 1900 have installed that morale obligation in me to think about what and how we work. I take great inspiration from later photographer’s like Goldin, and Clarke that have found a way of working that maximises the success of their work. Finessing a method to allow them to concentrate on their relationships with the subjects of their work. It is this freedom to adapt a methodology that applies to my practice more than asking questioning of ‘meta’ nature. I find a lot of work that deals with such issues to be alienating to most people and I’m more interested in connecting with people over a wider spectrum of understanding (amongst art and photography).