Ways of Seeing

In order to undertake additional research across a breadth of photographers and photography genres, a forthcoming project will “steal” the ideas of fellow students in the hope of providing insight into the way they and I perceive the same subject matter. The intention is to escape beyond my comfort zone and using foreign ideas may serve as a mechanism to pursue this.

An original intention of the project is to highlight that ideas cannot be stolen because the method and creativity which lies behind the artist is different to another. Images are stolen all the time on the internet, laws have recently been passed which attempt to provide compensation to an original artist whose ‘orphan works’ are stolen and used online (The Instagram Act). (Available at The National Archives)

I find it interesting that one can take inspiration from another and recreate a derivate or new work of art. What’s the difference between stealing or copying an idea or paying homage to another artist? Is there even a definition for this and would the victim or celebrated individual agree to the fact they’ve been ripped off Daily Post (2013) or respected? BBC (2009) .

We all see the world in different ways, and this may become the foundation of the project, the message I wish to portray, it’s purpose is to highlight that it’s possible to recreate without theft nor homage, just by simply seeing things in different ways. Berger (1972)

Ordinarily, people cannot learn new subjects, or develop in their skill set unless risks are taken and attempts are made to trial something new. For me, it is the reason for undertaking further education in photography.

The above image is a sample shot based on the idea of a retired mathematics teacher, who is undertaking further education in photography. The original idea of the student was to rearrange clothes pegs in precise and specific geometric patterns. I had not seen her original images nor spoke with her about her idea however, after arranging pegs into a geometric shape myself and taking a few shots, I was satisfied with the result. This increased my determination to use other people’s ideas for my own project and the development on my own part is to do so, without stealing, without homage and without offence. If offence is taken, it’s theirs to take.

I also wish to research the artists which my fellow students have researched as research is an area I am lacking. I am unfamiliar with so many photographers and artists; it’s difficult to appreciate both photographs and photographers. I hope that by researching their inspiration, at least eleven different photographers and/or genres I will benefit by enhancing my own understanding of photography while appreciating both the joy and difficulty in creating photographs.

I believe the project has a strong concept, which I can demonstrate, yet the challenge is to ensure the project is not simply a collection of random images based on an idea, or a collection of ideas. Even if the viewer does not understand, or care about the concept, they must find the final set of images aesthetically pleasing when presented together. They should speak for themselves without the need for introduction. Susan Sontag (1977) The thought of invading their ideas with my own photographs, featuring a part of me in some format appeals. I intended to conceptually belong within the picture, not just to sequestrate the idea.

Each photograph will use its own technique which may harm the visual impact of the overall project. For instance, an idea for a single image is to take dozens of photographs then rearrange them into a final image, not different to David Hockney’s photo collages. How could I unify this concept with the above image of pegs?

I welcome the challenge, not just for the additional research and burying myself in other peoples works, for my own research in understanding how very different concepts can belong together in conceptual thought.

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The Interpretation of Photographs

Lewis Bush makes some excellent points on the interpretation of photographs.  The written or spoken word, body or sign language is a means of communication which most people understand, provided they speak the same language.  Yet so many photographers and artists can agree or disagree on what they feel is a good or bad photograph.

If two people consider the same photograph as remarkable, you could say they speak the same photographic dialect.  If many people praise a photograph, you could consider they speak the same photographic language.

What then, when people disagree on the same photograph.

Consider the above image, by Kevin Carter during the Sudan famine in 1993.  In my opinion it is one of the best documentary photographs ever captured highlighting harsh reality of famine.  Carter was heavily criticised for taking this image because he was seen as a secondary predator beside the vulture and not helping the child.  Yet starving and dying children were common place then, and not just in Sudan.  And not just then either.  Carter Killed himself that year due the “memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners”.  I wonder how many people would view this image with disdain if they had realised that 20 people an hour were dying at the food station just down the road?  The child was not unique.

One could argue that viewers are reading different messages or metaphors into images before them.  Why is one photograph greater than another, is it because of its content, or it’s visual impact.  Is it because one photograph can document an event and another highlight the beauty of a celebrity?  And who are the people who agree, disagree, or overlap on their reaction.  Is it because they are emotionally touched by the message of the image, or because they can ‘read’ the photograph and indistinctly understand the context.

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Other people, (with varying degree of overlap) may consider the above image as a simple snapshot of home life.  Perhaps it is for some people but for Richard Billingham and his fans, the context of the above photograph (From Ray’s A Laugh) provides an insight into the poverty and deprivation of youth.

We each appreciate photographs in a different ways.  We obviously enjoy viewing images, we instinctively and immediately appreciate the aesthetic quality of images before us.  Yet our views can be quite different to each other, despite a large overlap in photographic genres.

This is part of the language of photography, which Lewis Bush speaks of, over at Disphotic  there are no solid rules, there are no guidelines and the grey area between communicating a message, and understanding a message is vast.

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