Untitled, Brighton June 2016. Copyright James Bellorini

WINDOWS AND MIRRORS

‘Photography, the window, offers us views of the world outside our own, but it also allows the world a glimpse of the photographer and their own unique vision. It is simultaneously a window and mirror.’ from Windows on the World course material by Jesse Alexander.

This week, week one of the M.A. and already the mind expansion begins. Perceptions and past presumptions start to shift. It’s subtle but enough to make me ask the (healthy) question who/what am I as a photographer?

I recognise the simultaneity of the mirror/window analogy in the quote above, but it begs the question: which comes first in me, the mirror or the window? Being a commercial photographer , it’s easier to acknowledge being a ‘window’ as I am always, by definition, putting a frame around something and freezing time at the press of the shutter button. Inevitably there’s also the curiosity and fascination with form and light, which a window will always describe. It’s also easy to comprehend why some of the first ever images taken were of windows (Fox-Talbot’s Oriel Window, for example).

Oriel Window by Henry Fox Talbot
Working Title/Artist: [The Oriel Window, South Gallery, Lacock Abbey] Department: Photographs Culture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date: 1835 or 1839 scanned for collections

Interesting to think that in the action of making these images, they instantly became mirrors of the practice itself by being windows (if that makes sense).

I acknowledge that the individual mirror is an important driver for the act of photography: the motivator, if you will, as reflected in a photographers personality, history, cultural upbringing etc. Some togs would put the mirror directly into their work and present it directly (who?). For me, it is definitely a more latent, though inescapable, part of my photography. Good time to ask myself: when have I ventured into work driven more by ‘the mirror’ than a brief? What has been the outcome when I did? Worth being aware of this as I start to think longer-term about my MA project. Maybe it will open up new ways of approaching the ideas that are already rattling around my head.

Action: Explore my ‘mirror’ in the context of project/s?

The Global Image

Untitled, London 2015. Copyright James Bellorini

A big question posed this week is whether photography still has the power to bring about change?

It’s easy to acknowledge that photography today is utterly global thanks to the advent and ubiquity of the smartphone. This has parallels with the introduction of different photo technologies throughout history (I’m thinking here of the photographic pioneers but also of the introduction of, for example, the Box Brownie and other consumer accessible products). Photography has always moved at speed, and responded quickly to advances in technology. Nothing new there. Though the knowledge that over 100 million images are made PER DAY just for uploading to Facebook alone makes me realise that photography’s power and influence is diluted and reduced in its importance simply by the amount of images out there (image fatigue that runs parallel with information overload and, for example, compassion fatigue).

I think, because of this ubiquity and the social media platforms photos appear on, photography does have the power to influence change but on a short-term basis or on the personal or local levels.

The ripple effect of photography’s ability to effect change is much smaller than it was in the days of, for example, the Vietnam War. Sure some images do still have the power to stop us in our tracks (I’m thinking here of the image of the dead Syrian refugee baby on a beach that was published a few years ago) and make us aware of an issue. But to change anything? The cynic in me says: not anymore. I mean four years on has anyone really attempted to solve the issues around the refugee crisis that the sad loss of that child symbolised?

Historically, I can think of a few images or bodies of work that have inspired unity and/or change:

Walker Evans & Dorothea Lange’s work in the American Dust Bowl during the Depression; Nick Ut’s famous image of children running from a napalmed village in Vietnam; images from The Battle of the Beanfield when police violently evicted New Age Traveller families in 1985; the images of the Earth photographed from Apollo 11 Command Module (as described in the course material); images from both the erection of and fall of the Berlin Wall; the image of the unknown man standing in front of a line of tanks during the protests in Tianenmen Square, China in 1989. I could probably cite more.

Interestingly these all come from a time BEFORE digital photography. I’ve found it harder to find images that have added to the collective memory (like those I’ve mentioned above) since the advent of digital technology. Is that true? Or is that just me?


SCRAPBOOK AND OTHER RANDOM CONSIDERATIONS

Portrait of Space by Lee Miller – I love this image. It appeared on some course material this week.

Portrait Of Space by Lee Miller 1937

Jacob Riis. Stereoscopes. Topographic ‘versus’ landscape.

Synchronicity around heritage and place project?

Interestingly, the week finishes with an interview with Don McCullin on Radio 4 reminding me of what inspired me when I first picked up a camera. I’m moved by this.

Big questions: what have I been doing photographically up to this point? What/how can I move forward differently?

In my work, I’ve often thought about how to talk about all the other images out there. Not the ones made by photographers and artists, but the less pedigreed ones that play equally important and vital roles in our lives – the photographs that don’t get framed, but which deliver the news, sell clothes, get you a date,…save lives. Self-conscious and artful photographs can trigger aesthetic appreciation and arguments….but so can, and so do, many of the seemingly banal and workaday images of and in the world.


From PHOTOGRAPHY CHANGES EVERYTHING by Martin Heiferman