Repeat photography would, retrospectively, have been a great idea had my initial move to Dubai in 2009 been at a time when photography was more than just a pastime linked to travel for me. Dubai is an exceptionally dynamic and fast changing place, and I wish I had thought to document it. As it is, going through what few photographs I took in Dubai itself (rather than on travels from Dubai) there is very little I can use as a comparison. The only possible one is a shot I took from the viewing platform of the Burj Khalifa in 2010, shortly after it opened. As documented in the coursework section, I had a go at repeat photography using this one image. Other than that, I don’t think either repeat photography or rephotography has much impact on my current practice, though it is something I may well consider on my return to the UK.
With the development of my project, I found that rephotography (most often unconscious rephotography) and repeat photography have both played something of a part in my practice. Whilst researching possible sites for photographing in Northern Ireland, I relied on photographs from the Troubles to pinpoint locations, in particular in and around South Armagh. In particular, when researching Crossmaglen and its sports team, I used the following images:
I also found that during my research, I had unconsciously taken on board several images from the following article, which I then, also unconsciously, went on to recreate.
With regards to appropriation, this is something I have often considered whilst pursuing travel photography. For many, and I have counted myself among them in the past, the art of travel photography is that of creating the image of the place they are visiting that best sums it up for an audience, be it slide shows for long-suffering neighbours in the past, or the social media audience of today, what they expect of the place. I have mentioned this in previous units – there is an urge to create what are essentially recreations of not just thousands of other images, but also of most commercially produced postcards available in the shops surrounding the destinations in question. Examples from my own archive:
As I have previously stated, such ‘karaoke’ photography is indubitably satisfying (particularly when it comes to social media response) but is it really a form of appropriation?
During my short trip to Bangkok this weekend, I did consider a) buying postcards and then seeking to recreate as closely as possible each picture and b) taking pictures of the postcards themselves and posting them on social media as actual pictures. But as it turned out, I really did not have enough time and wanted to at least try and pursue my idea about photographing the actual experience of travel.
Much of my work is not obviously collaborative. I used to take street portraits when I travelled, both candid and otherwise, but following some of the discussions in the last unit, I have become more uncomfortable with the idea of a white, western, middle-class man taking pictures of ‘the other’ in order to highlight this ‘otherness’. Not to say I don’t take photographs with people in them, I just prefer trying to distil the essence of places through the places themselves. However, it is inevitable that there will be some people in my photographs, and in these instances, it is my view of the subjects rather than the subjects themselves that will be paramount, largely because I am trying to get a particular idea or vision across. For example, on my recent trip to Thailand, I took many photographs with people in them, but the ones I ended up processing and using in my tentative project are the ones that say something about the nature of travel, be it the combination of boredom and consequent space for idle reflection:
To the need for diversion:
To the excitement of the unknown:
And didn’t include other photographs from the same shoot that didn’t fit my narrative:
There is still a great deal of difficulty for me regarding the ideas about crowdfunding and how my methodology might change due to the practical problem of my impending relocation to the UK – the final form of my project is still very much up in the air, thus I have no clear audience or indeed final form in mind. Should the project take form as an examination of borders within the UK, there may be a possible crowdfunding target audience, particularly in these pre-Brexit times. However, at this stage, and until I actually make the move in a few weeks, it unfortunately remains uncertain.
Looking at the recording of time, particularly within the genre of travel photography, I tried, on a journey from central Bangkok to the airport at sundown, to express the changing of light as the taxi moved on, by photographing the many roadside billboards, using the same camera settings for each. The nature of the journey – mostly fast moving, through the window of a car, meant that this was less than exact and, I hoped, added to the impressionist nature of the project, and might form part of a project looking at the nature of the process of travel itself, rather than just photographing destinations.
Though I quite liked the idea here, I felt it wasn’t entirely relevant to the material in the presentations and will consider doing something, when I have more time, which actually looks at the manipulation of the medium itself as this is an idea that is entirely new to me.
Regarding the task to make images using unfamiliar apparatus, I found this incredibly difficult without exemplars (though I can clearly see why none were given). In the time available, I tried manipulating Fuji Instant film (I remember this was possible with Polaroid film and a teaspoon) to no avail. And given that I spent most of the week in a hotel in Bangkok I was at a bit of a loss. I also tried using a GoPro camera to photograph Bangkok as, given that I am massively inactive, an activity camera was something of a novelty. Not sure how far this counts though, as really it’s just a camera with a fisheye lens… The ideas about expectations and using elements beyond the usual camera-Lightroom-publish work stream did make me think about having a go at a long-dormant idea about psychogeographical travel photography using Instagram-type filtering though. I was very pleased with the outcome, using a professional camera and tripod to take the photographs and then an add-on filter service to add text and graphics. This got to what I consider the heart of why many (most? Or am I a snob?) people take travel photographs – ultimately, neither the photograph itself, nor the background truly matter – the important thing is to show that you’ve been there.
I found the exhibition brief to be impossible to complete due to timing – for 10 days I was in the process of moving from the Middle East to the UK, had very limited internet access (which meant I was unable to join a group) and nowhere to exhibit physically – I have not lived in the UK for nearly a decade and have no contacts. Furthermore, in terms of my current practice, I have yet to start on the actual project due to geographical constraints.
However, I have been able to identify a couple of possible outlets which I will look into on my return for future reference.
With the photobook and workshop sections, I don’t foresee there being a problem (once the project itself is finally underway) as I was aiming towards a photobook anyway and I have run several years’ worth of after-school photography workshops in my day job – my new post teaching in a sixth-form college should also allow plenty more scope for this come the new academic year.
The photobook mockup is something I will return to once I have sufficient photographs.
EDIT (week eight)
Although I still have a large amount of photography to do, having now photographed the Scottish and Welsh borders, I feel I have sufficient material to approach a photobook. I have, thus far, been very influenced by books that combine text and photography and this is how I foresee my ultimate project developing. Once the photography for this unit is complete, I should have a much clearer idea as to what form the text will take, whether it is separate thoughts/pieces/essays (Douglas Coupland’s City of Glass and Souvenir of Canada, for example) or a longer, more detailed piece (Agee and Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men). I like the idea of it being some form of creative writing, but think that the project might benefit from factual information to supplement the photographs. Two possibilities at the moment would be fictionalised eye-witness accounts/micro fiction based around the events leading to the photograph, or extracts from historical sources that describe the events.
In terms of sequencing, again, this should become clearer once the photography is complete. For now, I have sequenced the photographs geographically, though I am hoping a coherent thematic sequence might emerge. To this end, I decided to bind the book using openable steel rings, meaning sequencing can be changed as and when required. It also occurred to me that this is quite a good metaphor for borders – they seem strong and unchanging, but a look through history will show that this is not the case and they can be changed.
EDIT (week eleven)
There is a clear, thematic link emerging now the photography is complete. Thus I now see this as being a photobook with minimal, if any text, leaving the viewer to contemplate the parallels drawn between the different borders. As the project here is limited to 18 photographs, I would divide it into six sections, each looking at a different aspect of borders in the British Isles, with three photographs in each, the first two showing how the Welsh, Scottish and Manx borders are mostly (at least visually) a long way in the past and contrasting with the last photograph being of something much more raw and recent in Ireland. Ideally, the book would contain more than the 18 photographs int he portfolio, and this will be something to consider further regarding the final project.
Agee, James & Evans, Walker (2006). Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. ? ed., London: Penguin
Coupland, Douglas (2009). City of Glass. Revised ed., Vancouver: D&M Publishers.
Coupland, Douglas (2002). Souvenir of Canada. 1st ed., Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre
Over the past four years I have successfully run workshops for beginner photographers at the secondary school at which I worked. These took the form of eight, weekly, one-hour sessions and usually had 7-10 participants, a group size with which I felt very comfortable, being small enough to facilitate individual attention but large enough to allow the participants to work in pairs or small groups. The structure of these sessions would generally be to introduce the session focus (eg composition or depth of field), to explore some examples as a group, for me to set a challenge and the participants to spend 20 minutes or so pursuing it, then the group coming together to view and critique each other’s work.
These sessions worked very well in the context of an international high school, and were a popular choice among students.
However, with my new post approaching, I would like to try something a little different, and this exercise gives me the chance to explore that.
Firstly, the participants would be different. I will be teaching at a sixth-form college which offers photography as an explicit course (though I will not be teaching it). Thus the workshop would need to move away from teaching the basics and assume a certain level of understanding in its participants. As I have not actually started at the college yet, I do not know what the format for extra-curricular activities there would be, but I would approach this through either a one-off six hour workshop on a weekend, or six one-hour workshops after the teaching day is finished. I envisage starting out with a project idea (in this case, ‘borders’ to bring in my current practice) and look at different ways one might approach this. Initially, perhaps, I would ask individual students to spend some time exploring this, either theoretically or practically (the advantage of several one-hour sessions here is that it allows for work to be carried out between the sessions). Following this, we might look at collaboration – how might their ideas merge or, indeed, juxtapose with one another. The next stage might be production – digital, analogue or using another format. The final stage, and something which would be being considered from near the start, would be how the product would be consumed/exhibited.
I have always found that in my day job, teaching literature, that every time I teach a text, no matter how well I think I know it, I learn something new from the students as they learn. I am really excited about the possibility of actually doing this workshop, as I really think that working with other photographers and understanding how their creative process differs from my own, will teach me an awful lot.