Week 6 Pop up the unseen & the overlooked 05.03.20
For personal and health reasons I really struggled this week to make it to the seminars and pop up lectures (I had already watched the weeks lessons, and read the weeks works early in the week so hadn’t missed that thankfully). So I sat down yesterday to watch the first of the pop up lectures that I missed that Steph did on the Banal ‘ The unseen an the over looked’. Really frustratingly, I raced home to make this pop up, but when I arrived they were just shutting down, it was so frustrating , and at the time I did think it was short (only about 40mins) . On watching the lecture back I realised, I hadn’t actually missed it, it continued for another hour after that, it was just that every went for a midway break.
In a way it was good though as it meant that I could go over the lecture in my own time, look up photographers that were discussed and play back bits to take notes. Because of this I think I got even more from this lecture than I would of got if I had attended in person, even though it was disappointing to not be there to ask questions in person and be involved in the conversation and to raise the points I wanted to as I was listening to it. It was an odd experience for me as I say, as I am pretty sure it’s the only one I have ever missed since starting the MA , and it all just snowballed from there that week in regards to missing lectures and webinars. As I say though, it worked out well as interestingly, I would never in a million years of considered myself a photographer of the banal, not at all, but this lecture showed me, just as watching Jesses’ lecture on landscape, that actually I work in many areas of photography that I don’t necessarily realise that I do, because it is all under the ‘guise’ of being about mothers, about children, about their interconnection and relationship to each other, and their world, and how that unfolds. It’s a confusing, and exciting thing to of been a photographer for over a decade, to realise that you have hardly scratched the surface of your practice, and really you hardly knew anything at all. I am so grateful that I waited until this point in my practice before coming to the MA, as I think personally, I would of gotten so much less out of it. I would of probably progressed my career at a much much faster rate, but I had so much time to learn about what I like and don’t like, to form a method and a subject, and a point of view, that it makes coming to the MA and throwing it all up in the air and on it’s head even more interesting. It’s like breaking my whole practice up into tiny little segments and jumbling it all up and putting it all back together again. I have no doubt it will look the same at the end of this journey, but the difference is , I will know how it was made and how it goes together. This module, and the pace of it, is really giving me the time to think about these questions in my practice.
My notes and thoughts on the webinar, and the ideas and theories discussed in it are below. All words unless specified otherwise are Stephs.
Gabriel Orozco 1992 pine piano. “Interested in ephemeral work , whimsical, paradoxical” I absolutely adored this image. It was beautiful, I had never seen this work, or heard of this photographer before so I have made a note of him to research his work further. https://www.artsy.net/artwork/gabriel-orozco-breath-on-piano
Breath on the piano. Ephemeral – “theres a melancholy there that you see a lot in this unseen and overlooked”
Forces us to rethink the goal of documentary photography. I really liked this. I think with photography a lot of the time, we are so stuck in our ways of what we think something should be, or do, or say , or achieve, that it’s great to flip things around a bit. I hope thats what I am doing with my work this module, it is certainly part of the aim. My work is documentary, but not in the standard sense I don’t think, of how would automatically consider and evaluate documentary work. The juxtaposition of the work from last module, and the separation that comes from photographing others, compared to the intense scrutiny and look at our own family this module, has made me think about documentary in a new light, and the way that the genre can be looking at essentially the same subject, but in such different ways, from such different ‘gazes’. Jansen says “A photograph is an impulse – and challenge – to enquire” That, to me is what these two bodies of documentary work do, they make you ask questions. Even the structured ‘ banal ’ work, that talks of a trace of something, a trace of someone, makes you ask questions, who was there, what were they doing, where did they go, are they coming back? It is still documentary essentially, but coming from a different angle, formulated in a different way, and delivered up both connected to the wider body of work, but a question on it’s own as well.
Photography slows time down. I was really interested in this idea of slowing time down, and it made me think about my body of work this module, both what I am discussing with it, and how I am discussing it. I think essentially all photography is about that, but from my own personal perspective , my body of work this module, is about trying to slow time down so much, and capture every last minuet. There will be huge changes in our family and house once my eldest is done with A-levels and goes off to university, and there is this melancholy that hangs in the air, constantly fighting with this optimism we all have for the future and what it will bring him/us.
Richard Wentwork. 1984. Making do and getting by – welly in the door. Steph mentioned these images feel like you have seen them somewhere before but you don’t know where. This is an interesting concept, and one that Sherman played with lots in her history paintings, where they were modelled after images but not specific copies, this feeling of knowing you have seen something before, but can’t quite put your finger on it, seems to be used by many artists. Is it a way of engaging the viewer, making them sit up and take notice more, or is it the byproduct of the fact we have all consumed SO much, that you cannot help but combine small elements of lots of different art pieces, concepts etc into any piece of work?
The human presence Eggleston talks about in his book. ( Reminder to self …. I have to go back to his book again !)
“The banal is the new exotic” I have wondered about this. Is this just the new fashion, we take images of ‘boring , everyday’ things, because everything else has been photographed. So people go out of their way to photograph the unphotographed, or rather the unpresented, therefore making it seen, and then no longer special. The fashion is over, and what comes tomorrow? It undoubtedly stated with instagram and social media and the food photos, ‘shelfie’ photos, everything has been seen before. But has it really? My shelf is different to yourself, the light on it in the summer is different to the winter, theres different things on it on Monday to Friday, and by Sunday it’s now covered in dust ….. I think really , like we were discussing in the webinar with Sarah earlier, everything may well of been photographed before, but not in each individuals own exact way, at that exact time, with their exact purpose, therefore, one could just as easily say that NOTHING has been photographed before, as everything has been done before, and nothing it new or originally, instead, everything is new and origional and nothing has ever been done before.
We don’t see 800 people photographing the Mona Lisa, it’s new ways of seeing places. This made me think about our trips to Paris, to see the Mona lisa, The Palace of Versailles, the self portrait of Van Gogh at the Musee de O’rsay , in all these amazing places, surrounded by all these wonderful, breath taking pieces of art, I kept taking photographs of the crowds watching the art. Just waiting for something to happen, would it speak to them, move them, give them some profound knowledge, alter their entire being for the rest of their existence. It was intoxicating watching these people, never knowing which amongst them was having a epiphany moment about their life. I didn’t realise until they were shown a few weeks back, that other people thought these things and took these images as well. I’ve never done anything with them, I only look at them by accident every now and again when going through the thousands of photographs of our travels and I come across them. But I love them when I find them, like secret that I forgot about. The mystery in them is palpable to me. (Martin parr small world)
“Can a banal or mundane subject be beautiful?” I am not sure how I would of answered this question before coming to the MA, but my answer now is most certainly a loud resounding yes. I’ve seen so many images of boring, common place, everyday things, some I have photographed myself, that once one confers meaning on something, and if that person is a talented photographer, they cannot help but beautiful. I am not one of these people that think every boring image is beautiful, there has to be a level of technical skill, and ability for an image to be beautiful to me, but certainly, boring subjects can be beautiful, they made beautiful, they are created, but the person who saw the beauty in that moment, and captured it. The same object, photographed by the same person, could be absolutely nothing, to anyone.
“No fixed meaning” Definitely something I am striving for with my images. I have a very specific meaning for all of them, they are thought out, researched, some planned, most not, but even when not they are executed minutely , this then gives them all a deep personal meaning to me, but the viewers meaning , or rather interpretation, may well be very different. This module has taught me to let go of that a little bit. Before, I needed everyone to know what I was trying to say, this module has made me feel a lot more at home with the idea, of it being ok for not everyone to understand what I am doing, or why I am doing it, as long as it speaks to the people it is trying to communicate with, that is the important thing.
Jansen. Charlotte. 2017. Girl on girl ; Art and photography in the age f the female gaze. London, Laurence king.
Orozco, Gabriel. Breath on piano (1993). Artsy. Available at https://www.artsy.net/artwork/gabriel-orozco-breath-on-piano (Accessed 05.03.20)