I’ve had a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the apparent prominence of ‘film-based’ analogue capture of images by photographic artists – including several of those mentioned in my earlier post here. I ‘stirred the pot’ some weeks ago, in the OCA Flickr Group, resulting in this discussion; and there have been others in that forum, including this one. Of course, artists will work within the medium which, in terms of process and outcome, delivers work that satisfies their creative objectives – I have no concern about that, why should I. Naturally, many of the artists whose work populates the gallery walls began their practice before digital capture was either available or affordable, and that work is already created, so would represent the pre-digital approach (though there does seem to be a strong trend toward digital print methods). That ‘bee buzz’ has more to do with the question of why there doesn’t seem, as far as I can tell, to be some stronger indication that young, up-and-coming photographic artists are working extensively with digital capture and exploring the creative possibilities that digital methods can offer. It’s an open question; but also one that concerns me personally, in that I work wholly with digital methods and have no intention of doing otherwise. I do also sense a wider struggle to come to terms (understandably) with what the digital/internet age ‘means’ for ‘photography’. I might just be missing it, but is there extensive critical discussion of the question?
So – here is a topic that interests me – and, whilst browsing a local second-hand bookshop, I came upon this publication from 1963, which might just act as a medium for some photographic ‘thinking-with’. Much of this book reads like a foreign language, to me. (Brief pause, here, to confess that I have failed two exams in my life, one of which was Chemistry – and the other was an equally foreign language, Latin.) Consequently, I find myself looking at it, and through it, rather like a historical artefact – something from another age. It occurred to me that I might approach it as a subject for a studio project, seeing it as a kind of metaphor for the whole of film/analogue/traditional photographic practice. It might be a ‘taking apart’, a ‘deconstructing’, maybe a ‘subverting’, or even a ‘glorifying’ – I even had the idea that I might, eventually, literally take it apart bit-by-bit and photograph the process. And, without jumping too far ahead, I could envisage an ultimate outcome in book form, perhaps as a part of my final Body of Work. So, I have begun the process and here is a selection from the images produced so far.
I found the references to “photographic theory” on the book jacket interesting – the use of the word ‘coherence’ and the reference to theory as “… a good servant but a bad master …”. We, students of Photography in 2014, are likely to read that rather differently than it would have been read 50 years ago.
The physical characteristics of the book itself, photographed in a kind of forensic manner, reveal signs of age, mysteriously-shaped stains that suggest chemical reactions over time – rather like the chemically-based process that is its subject; odd scribbles that must have meant something to someone in the past – shades of the photographic archive.
The process doesn’t have to be restricted to ‘taking photographs’; this page spread has been scanned into a PDF, which has been opened on the PC and a ‘screen-shot’ taken – thinking about the ways in which the scope of current technology compares with that of 50 years ago.
But then taking that whole process even further, manipulating and re-presenting material; adding elements that both emphasise the ‘gulf’ between these approaches and ‘enhance’ the visual impression, but also applying the deliberately clumsy ‘Photoshop’ methods that I’ve used before.
And/or going in a different direction by using a deliberately ‘modernist’ aesthetic to present the subject; believe it or not, I had in mind Ansel Adams & the Yosemite National Park when I made this one.
This work, plus the images of ‘Tapes’, and some work I’m doing on the Self-portraits, is beginning to move me towards a second assignment submission in the next few weeks – hopefully.