Part 5, Exercise 5.2

Exercise 5.2 Traces of Life without People

For this exercise, I did what I usually do which is go out with my phone in my pocket and see what comes my way that suggests the signs of life without people being in them.  This works for me because I am better at finding things that interest me to capture rather than over thinking it and trying too hard.  I suppose that in the back of my mind I had the notion that there is a lot of evidence of people through the things that they leave behind whether intentionally or not.  While doing photoshoots for the last assignment, I noticed that more and more people are leaving flowers taped to benches or trees to signify that they are remembering a person, whoever they might be, and particularly where there is a view of the sea.  So I have included a couple of those as well as recent ones of the same things as they make up a set of similar images.  There are others that are more random as I snapped them as I walked along, one dog walk through the woods and back along the street, the other while out doing the next exercise on looking, in Torquay.

My approach to this sort of photography would be a casual one, looking out intentionally for things that are similar;  in this case, flowers taped to a bench or tree.  Remembrance.  Then sometimes I like to photograph all the graffiti I see on walls and in doorways, and this is something that I have done all over the world from my hometown to wall art in Hong Kong.  I also like to use my phone as I like the square format, it’s a personal preference and probably harks back to me remembering the photos we took when I was a kid on the instamatic camera.  That’s probably where I got the photography bug as I was always interested in taking snaps on holiday.  So I use the camera on phone, I don’t actively seek these things out but I keep an eye open and I like to use an app called Retrica that uses filters, my current favourite is a natural looking one but the contrast is harder rather than softer.  I like this app because it has more control over the light in it which can be useful when taking photos in very bright light.

Here’s the one I did on graffiti, which is all about not knowing who did it or sometimes what it means to the viewer:

This is the selection that I did on my usual dog walk from my home to the woods and back along the roads:

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Finally, the flowers on benches:

I could go on with this project as this is something that I am interested in, the idea of absence and I touched on it in Assignment 4 with the theme of love, loss and homesickness.  I think that this last set of images of flowers attached to benches is tied up with our sense of who we are and where we come from, and how important it is to retain the connections to people and places once they may have gone.  Some do it through flowers on graves or at favourite places, some do it through celebrating birthdays or anniversaries of those people who have gone.  Personally I think I do it through taking photographs of the places that I go, the things that I see and the memories that they bring up on seeing them again, particularly if it was a good time.  They are my aide memoire and it can be bittersweet when a photo of one of my parents comes up as they are both now gone.  But then a load of photos I took on a holiday to see my sister in Australia last year come up and it is brilliant to go through and see what inspired me about the places we visited.  They are my connection to the place that she lives and so informs something about myself too.

Interesting exercise, and maybe could be a pointer for where I go for the final assignment.  At the moment, there is no inspiration at all so this will be a good jumping off point.

 

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Part 5 Reflection Point 1

Photographer – storyteller or history writer?

I think it is a little of both, a photographer is both a story teller and someone who sets history in the images that they make.  There is a little fact and fiction in every photograph through the choices made by the photographer in what to include and what to leave out of the frame.  These choices are important too, and can decide whether what we are seeing is a truth or a fantasy.  Eggleston appears to pick up on colour in objects, (although I am looking at them online where the screen brightens all the images in a way that may not be right in their place.) and has the implied presence of people.  Wentworth appears to have no people but still the implied recent activity of people.

 

Personally, Fact or fiction?

I suppose that my approach is more that of fact, of wanting to represent something that I see in the way I see it.  I am, to all intents and purposes, a snapper of things that catch my eye rather than a serious photographer.  But I can see that on certain occasions, the angle of a particular shot could be tending toward the fiction as I consciously crop out something that may spoil the frame, ie a person, a rubbish bin, a car passing through, someone crossing the path and so on.  So a phot of a wide open space may in fact be just one small part of a place that is teeming with people.  An example springs to mind from when I went to Washington DC in the USA and I visited the Lincoln Memorial.  One photo I have is of the monument with no-one around it – I zoomed a little to isolate the monument and waited for that moment when no-one else was nearby.  The next one is the wider angle with lots of people as it was a really busy day.

 

How could you blend your approach?

Maybe doing what I did at the Lincoln Memorial, wait more for a better moment and move to change perspective.  I am very good at standing still rather than move around.  I enjoy snapping things that I see, such as a lock where someone put two round stickers to look like eyes.  Or graffiti that is colourful or in an unusual place.  Visiting cities and new places means a different look at life so It is important to look beyond the usual things that visitors will capture.  Look further and wider, look behind me, and find another view of a place that I don’t know.  For other subjects, the same approach can work – step back, think, watch, see and then capture.

 

Where is the departure from wanting/needing to depict reality?

I think that when you stop and start to look around you rather than reacting instinctively then that can be the departure point.  Travelling and visiting other places away from home is an opportunity to try a new way of photographing what I see.  It is my natural instinct to capture what I see.  I find it difficult not to do that.