I’ve titled this part of my experimentation ‘Responding to Events’, for want of something better; it stems from the final assignment of my last Level 2 module, where I constructed images of cricket in response to a brief to photograph an event. I am, I feel, likely to continue, as part of my Level Three ‘Body of Work, to explore the potential for using appropriation and ‘studio-based’ work to respond to ‘events’. I suppose I might say, in the manner of documentary photography. Last week I read Abigail Solomon-Godeau’s essay ‘Who Is Speaking Thus? Some Questions about Documentary Photography’, from ‘Photography at the Dock’ (University of Minnesota Press 1991), in which she refers to Bertolt Brecht & Walter Benjamin’s insistence that “… reproductions of reality were powerless to say anything about that reality …” and that political photographic practice must be “set up” and “constructed”; in which context she uses the photomontages of John Heartfield as an example. There’s nothing new, as they say, and I guess what I’m doing here certainly falls within this tradition of photomontage, albeit with a contemporary digital twist to it.
A word or two about the production of this image, to begin with; there is probably at least three days work in it, maybe more than four. That doesn’t make it good or worthwhile, of course, but it does suggest I’m serious about it! I have recorded the actual process elsewhere in a notebook and won’t repeat all the detail here, but it has involved:
- researching and sourcing images online (both initially and then subsequently to complete the composition as it developed);
- shooting one part myself and sourcing another from within my own images;
- since these images came in all manner of sizes and resolutions, resizing and adjusting as necessary to bring them to a standard (resolution of 150 ppi in this case, as it happens);
- selection of people, buildings etc in Photoshop to create a ‘digital sketch’ of the idea – below;
- print and cut-out with craft knife, then assemble a ‘physical version’;
- re-photograph that physical montage, experimenting as necessary with lighting (of which I could have done more, maybe), but arriving at this version;
- more research to add additional elements, followed by further digital processing and manipulation to arrive at the final version at the top of this post (and there are subtleties in the detail of, for example, the sky, which are designed to confuse the eye as to how the image has been constructed).
That’s a lot of work; these images are certainly not the same as popping out and taking a few photographs! There might even be questions about whether or not they are valid images within the context of a photography degree. I don’t have any problems with a strong ‘yes’ in response to such a question; and I’m hoping that this one works on a number of levels:
- The subject matter itself, for example; questions about what these people are doing & where they’re all going; and why it matters; and how we know about it; and just what is the media’s role.
- Then, perhaps, questions about documentary photography in the 21st century & the ways in which photographers/artists might respond to events; questions around appropriation and the significance of constructed work versus photographing the ‘real’.
- Maybe also, some questions about what constitutes a photographic image in the digital/internet age; the layers of meaning that I have constructed through the various stages of the process;
- And it also occurs to me that there are issues around the single image versus a series of images – whilst this could certainly form part of a series that more thoroughly explores some of the above issues, I’m also seeking, I think, to make it work as a single image. That isn’t always the case with contemporary photography.
This is part of the experimentation and the process of ‘Thinking With’. It will probably form part of my Assignment One submission and is something that I’m sure I will continue to work with in my Body of Work.