Arnatt - Botha - Eggleston - Gaffney - Gushchin - Halliday - Heartfield - Holdsworth - Ketchun - Klepuszewska - Letinsky - Lindqvist - Lipper - Lorant - Lynch - Lyons - Macnair - Montizon - Owens - Phipps - Pickering - Pittman - Shafran - Shore - Soth - Spero - Taylor - Walker - Wall - Wilcox - Wilkhu - Wentworth -
So the pictures aren’t the things themselves. The things become something else when they are filtered through the camera. They are fictionalised and transformed, telling a story that somehow stems from a ‘real place’ yet becomes other. Somewhere we may not recognise should it stare us in the face.
William Eggleston developed a photographic sensibility that may or may not tell us anything about Memphis. But what we do find are exquisite interpretations of a place with their own consistency and pulse. They have a life of their own. The real location, found objects and characters, combined with technology and the photographer’s eye, come together to create a new world, one balanced loosely between recognition and art.
● Where does that leave the photographer? As storyteller or history writer?
● Do you tend towards fact or fiction?
● How could you blend your approach?
● Where is your departure from wanting/needing to depict reality
Make some notes on these questions in your learning log
[7Apr] The distinction between "storyteller or history writer" equates to subjective / objective; photographs about and photographs of; mirrors and windows; lyric and documentary. From the second half of C19th onwards, photographers have been choosing to edge towards one or the other, but not always as a career choice, sometimes on a project-by-project basis, sometimes in different stages of their careers and lives. Consider Rejlander and Lartigue (stories); Riis and Lange (history); Cameron and Cartier-Bresson (both). Szarkowski, in defining his Mirrors and Windows notion, stated that it was "a continuum, a single axis with two poles' and '[m]any of the pictures … live close to the axis" (Szarkowski, Mirrors and Windows, 1978) and this applies to all these distinctions.
I do not believe that it is necessary, or even possible, to choose between fact and fiction because even when seeking to be representational, the choices the photographer (and other participants in the photograph's trajectory from camera to publication and consumption) makes, mean that the resulting image(s) can never be wholly factual and when the varied interpretation of the viewers is taken into account, any 'truth' that the photographer sought to convey is unlikely to be realised.
That said, I tend towards portraying what I believe to be factual. To give a couple of examples (the second came to mind last night when I began considering these questions; the first arose later in the process):
1. During C&N Exc 2.3, illustrating a poem, I chose Henry Reed's Lessons of War: Naming of Parts. I intended to homage Marc Riboud's Young girl holding a flower, demonstration against the war in Vietnam, Washington, 1967, that is, a flower in a gun barrel and spent a frustrating day at the Imperial War Museum with a daffodil in my backpack learning that every gun barrel in the place is sealed. On the basis that the idea is more important than its execution, I then intended to liberate a gun picture and a flower picture from the internet and Photoshop the two together but found that I was incapable of doing it — I cannot appropriate other people's work in that way. I eventually managed to photograph the piece at home (fig. B1).
2. The example that came to me last night is that, as one of Mondrian's principal fans, I sometimes wish I could encounter a rural cloud towards sunset and evoke De rode wolk , fig. B2. I could fake this easily enough in Photoshop (and now I remember it was Photoshop's opening image, fig. B3 that triggered this train of thought), but I would never do so. Yet, curiously, I have no objections to Luminar's sky change software, though I have not used it on this course (yet).
On questions three and four:
3. As already stated, I believe that given the nature of the medium, all photographers are already, inevitably blending their approach. I could move more towards fictionalising any output as required, so long as I am responsible for all the visual input (with the exception, it seems, of replacing a dull sky).
4. As regards my "departure from wanting/needing to depict reality", I have inclination to 'show what things look like' ("when photographed", adds Eggleston) probably because that is what cameras and photography are particularly good at.
how charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably, and remain fixed upon the paper William Henry Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, 1844