Student Cormac513273 — Online learning blog at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/
Submission: Photography 1 — Context and Narrative
Title: Two sides of the story
I decided to photograph a paved (pedestrianised) up-market shopping street. The ‘two sides’ are:
- set of images showing a particular street as a “shoppers’ paradise”
- set of images showing the same street as a place where people work
The rationale behind this decision is explored in my online blog entry at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/assignment-1/ . From this blog entry:
“The aim of this assignment is to capture images from two target populations on a street – the ‘shoppers’ and the ‘workers’. There are several broad approaches to photographing these groups. The first is to attempt to document each group in the manner of straight documentary (for example see fig. 1.). Rosler (1981: 317) describes this type of documentary practice as one ‘in which an image is caught or created out of the stream of the present and held up as testimony, as evidence in the most legalistic of senses, arguing for or against a social practice and its ideological-theoretical supports, …’.
A second approach is to photograph members of each group in the manner of street photography i.e. avoid any attempt at social investigation and simply document the popular life on the street. A strategy which overlaps with this second approach is one championed by John Szarkowski (1967, cited in Rosler 1981: 321): ‘A new generation of photographers has directed the documentary approach toward more personal ends. Their aim has not been to reform life, but to know it.’ Among the photographers referred to here are Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander.”
In preparation for and during the Assignment I researched the work of:
Polly Braden (please see my Learning Blog entry at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/assignment-1-other-photographers-polly-braden/) and
David Levene (please see Learning Blog entry at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/assignment-1-other-photographers-david-levene/)
Work on the course material made me familiar with the work of Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander as noted in my Learning Blog, for example: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/research-point-i/
After my first shoot on the street (please see results in my Learning Blog at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/assignment-1-photos-1/) I reflected on the experience (please see my Learning Blog at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/assignment-1-further-thoughts/) and considered the necessity to have two elements present in the images, that of ‘documentary’ and ‘aesthetics’, concluding:
While acquiring the preliminary set of images … for this Assignment I walked up and down the street (a street that is familiar to me) attempting to ‘see’ it anew with my photographic aims in mind. My intention is to repeat this process, each time returning with a set of images for consideration and analysis.
Later as part of my research I watched Tate video of photographer John Riddy talking about walking the same route everyday as his way of getting to know a place, until, ‘after a while something will click’ (please see my Learning Blog at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/assignment-1-reflection/).
There followed two further shoots are recorded in my Learning Blog at:
followed by two Reflections recorded at:
In the Reflection (a above) I was concerned that by concentrating on the ‘aesthetic’ element in the images that two clearly distinguished sets of images would not result from this strategy (see Gallery #1 and #2 at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/assignment-1-photos-2/). I concluded that:
Better was to try for a visual contrast between the two points of view – this would, almost by definition, include the compositional/aesthetic element and the documentary/objective (through the choice of ‘object’ or field of view for each of the two ‘points of view’ or image sets).
I attempted to implement this decision in the next shoot and the result was six pairs of images (one from each set) which conveyed a difference that complied with the aims of the Assignment (broadly ‘shopper’ and ‘worker’) but also held visual interest (please see my Learning Blog at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/assignment-1-photos-3/).
Also at his time I researched the U.S. photographer Anthony Hernandez and his book Rodeo Drive, 1984 (2012). Looking at this work confirmed my decision to work in colour, and also of interest was:
Hernandez manages to convey a sense of wealth, privilege and even excess without relying on photographing associated objects but relying on images of people alone. I had not considered this aspect in thinking about the Assignment (from my Learning Blog reflection at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/assignment-1-reflection-ii/).
I attempted to implement what I had seen in Anthony Hernandez’s work in the next shoot (please see my Learning Blog at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/assignment-1-photos-4/). The results were satisfactory and I concluded in my Learning Blog (above):
Conclusion: I will continue with this strategy, and see if it will apply to the second category ‘worker’; but it may help distinguish the two points of view if I continue with the previous strategy for this ‘worker’ group.
I implemented this decision to photograph the ‘worker’ group on the next shoot (please see my Learning Blog at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/assignment-1-photos-5/). However, as recorded in the Blog entry, the results were disappointing because:
the subjects proved unsuitable. Hernandez relied on photographs of the people themselves (‘shoppers’) to convey the sense of wealth and privilege, but it was not clear from the photographs I took of the ‘workers’ what I was trying to convey — there was not a ‘wealth’/’poverty’ contrast. The contrast between the two groups (‘shopper’ and ‘worker’) was in the actions of the people, that is, the people were ‘working’ and therefore would contrast with previously photographed ‘shoppers’. However, the photographs taken here of the ‘workers’ are not very interesting visually.
The next shoot I undertook was in the evening/dark and in the rain. This was an attempt to add visual interest to the final selection of seven images from each category. Please see my Learning Blog at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/assignment-1-photos-6/ where I conclude:
The dark and the rain were more limiting than I anticipated, and while many of the photographs had visual interest they proved difficult to match with the aim of the Assignment and to pair with the previous images taken during this Assignment.
However, two images were obtained that were consistent with previous photographs and were included in the final selection (below), one from each category as illustrated in ‘Gallery: ‘worker’ and ‘shopper’ photographs’ in my Learning Blog https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/assignment-1-photos-6/.
The Assignment in relation to the course’s Assessment criteria points are discussed in my Learning Blog at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/assignment-one-conclusion/
The Final Fourteen Images
The seven images from each category are displayed full size in in my Learning Blog ‘Gallery: ‘worker’ vs ‘shopper’ series paired’ at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/assignment-one-conclusion/
Additionally the images are illustrated below in ‘comparison format’ i.e. ‘worker’ vs ‘shopper’:
Above is the sequence that I considered the most successful because each series from each of the categories are related to each other or ‘matched’, so that when viewed side by side the combination is greater than if each sequence is viewed separately, ‘in isolation’.
In the first two pairs above (images 09142416 and 09142239* ) the ‘reversal’ is interesting in that the ‘worker’ category image suggests ‘laid back’ while the ‘shopper’ (leisure) is one of intent, interest and alertness. There is a visual parallel here also: three people, sitting/standing. I was alert to this sort of reversal in later shoots but did not obtain another worthwhile pair.
Similarly, the ‘matched pairs’ starting from the second row above:
Images 09142452 and 09142184 – ‘professional’ bag / shopping bags, packages
Images 09142761 and 09142677 – ‘sad’ (working) /‘happy’
Images 09142812 and 09142701 – movement (working) /standing
Images 09142679 and 09142718 – ‘giving’/‘taking’ (consuming)
Images 09142756 and 09142730 – ‘lonely’ /‘gregarious’
Images 10143673 and 10143639 – ‘functional’/’fashionable’
On concluding the Assignment and reviewing its progress it is clear that the work proceeded in a manner other than the somewhat rigid approaches I initially considered (please see above and my online blog entry at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/assignment-1/). The final images are perhaps a mix of the two approaches i.e. that of ‘straight’ documentary and ‘street’ photography. The influences of photographers Polly Braden and Anthony Hernandez (above) are present but were constrained by the comparatively narrow aims of the Assignment in producing two contrasting series of seven images.