MODULE 4: INFORMING CONTEXTS. WEEK 11.
It can be surprising as a practitioner to find elements in ones practice that had been, not forgotten, but almost overlooked or taken for granted; that have crept into the work almost subliminally, only to suddenly be ‘seen’ at some point when one’s awareness of the work takes a step forward. This has been my experience this week whilst reviewing the body of work created during this module for our end of term submission deadline.
This awareness comes in the form of a recognition of the ‘found’ in my practice. This is more than just objet trouve, although there are strong elements of that; it equally includes found locations, personal documents, and even people. I recognise that it is an extension of the improvisatory way in which I work. It also contains the element of the real-time or active discovery within, for example, an actual event that is contained in the reportage background of my commercial practice, thus bringing an almost documentary aspect to the work.
In essence one could argue that ALL photography is ‘found’ in some way, we discover moments in time that we want to freeze with the camera. But my recognition is a deeper one in that I’m seeing just how symbiotic it is with the subject of my project practice. It contains within it the commonplace sensations of surreality, dislocation, and discovery that are a core part of being mixed-heritage or third-culture. The act of finding is akin to journeying or progressing unexpectedly (which also has strong resonances with the storytelling and literary elements of my project). These found aspects become, in some cases, way-posts pointing me towards the next step of my work or pushing me to revisit something. Of course this all chimes deeply with the space between reality and fiction that I am attempting to embed in the project. And it is a process that I now see helps me to keep the work alive and unexpected.
I can equate all of this to the ‘archaeological’ journey of discovery that was the motivation behind Christian Patterson’s project Redheaded Peckerwood (see the image above and the video referenced below). He ultimately chose to present images alongside facsimiles of related material (some fictive) to his audience so that they might experience a similar sensation of discovery.
What does this look like in practice for me then? Take the two images from the ADE & EVAM sequence presented here. In these the location is a found one. We were originally going to shoot in another part of the building with a very different aspect. I had not seen this particular space before but chose to use it on the day as it spoke to me in a more pertinently theatrical way. Some of the objects were likewise found in the immediate vicinity and arranged within the image – not the picnic, that was the device around which I wanted to make the images in the first place.
Another example are the children’s angel wings in the image above. I found them discarded in the street whilst on one of my regular walks in my neighbourhood. They have become a repeat motif across the work in this module and been utilised in a number of ways: more directly as a simple prop in themselves or also as a device to shoot through (as in the image below).
There is also, inevitable for many photographers, something of the Situationist flaneur in this process, roaming through my home city as ‘an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitring, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes’ (Sontag, 1977, p.55) and discovering artefacts, places and people with which my work can unfold further.
One final point is to recognise the element of chance that exists within the found, something that is part of the same motivation and creative impetus (and it’s worth referencing here my CRJ post The Importance Of Chance).
REFERENCES & RESOURCES:
Sontag, S. 1977. On Photography. London: Penguin.
Online article. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Found_object
Online article. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/found-object
TransformerStation. 2014. Christian Patterson Talks About Redheaded Peckerwood. [Exhibition Interview]. Available at: https://youtu.be/VEREs7PRcik