Work in Progress
Looking at my these photos also led me to look at how different photographers chose to document the family unit. What my father did can be seen as family portraits, albeit in a wider environmental portrait way. I look at these images and I am struck by the innocence of the images, especially compared to the images of photographers like Tierny Gearon whose images are stuck somewhere in the uncanny land leaving me with a feeling of unease and about to phone the authorities.
It was very interesting to look at the differences between Sally Mann’s images and that of Tierny Gearon compared to my father’s work. I have been familiar with Manns’ work for a couple of decades and I have always been a fan. In the end I have to compare the works though and after reading an article from Gearon article in the UK Gaurdian my sense of unease about her work has grown. In the article she chooses to throw Sally Mann under the buss saying that Mann’s images depict more of her children and more of her children's personality “My pictures are about a captured moment, rather than about the person. They are about a feeling, and to that extent they preserve my children's anonymity. They are disguised somehow. I'm showing a moment of life, not part of their personality, and to that extent they could be anyone.”
This showed me that she has very little awareness of her work. The fact that it does not show the personality of the children but just random bits of nudity is more troubling than Sally Mann’s images where the personality of the child can be seen through the series of images.
In my fathers images there is a sense of dislocation, of removal, a person watching and documenting. It is also true that I could find few images of my father, the man always choosing to hide behind the camera. Yet his images, especially the images taken at the lake shows his understanding of fun and of childhood exuberance. As such his images have more in common with Mann/s images that with Gearon’s.
Dissemination of the work isn going to be difficult. We have a very limited band of photographic galleries in South Africa and
even in a city like Cape Town there are only two, both owned by photographers or photographic collectives whose choices of exhibition are heavily weighed down by who knows who. My options would then be took at normal art galleries even though they are usually not interested as they stand to make almost no money from selling the images. I have quite a few contacts with curators but once again, curators are not gallery owners and even though they might be interested in the work they will not go further than show some interest. Dissemination of my work would therefore have to be through something else. I have tried different ways. In the end I have decided to try and stick to a website called Medium. Medium is community journalism page where you can post your own articles. As a tester I uploaded a story with images I wrote to the site. Even with the limited amount of marketing I did for the story it recieved 130 views and 60 full reads in the space of a month. Although not brilliant it can, with the right amount of marketing be bigger than that. The sad fact is that social media platforms like Instagram has now turned into a zero sum game for photographers with your ability to reach new markets now dependant on external forces and an algorithm that only lets you connect with people that you know of have had recent contact with. As a marketing ploy I will therefore revert back to what I knew to be effective, the use of email and snailmail. In the past I have found the use of postcards with my images to be quite effective, if expensive. This might be the way to go again. Through the use of websites like mailchimp I will be able to set up a standard email that I can send out to all my old clients and all prospective clients to keep them abreast of what I am currently working on.
I have been thinki9ng this week about a quote i got from a book called Photographers on Photography. In an interview with Olivia Bee she states
“Photographing a moment helps me move on from it, but keep it for ever.”
I have have been wondering about this. As a professional photographer who has taken a lot of portraits does this apply to me. Given that Bee’s photography is more personal than mine it is an interesting viewpoint. I would argue that the opposite is true for most people. Photographs are not there to help us move on, but to bring us back. Although the mind is quite strong the ability for it to return to the basic moment when viewing a photograph should not be underestimated.
I have been asking myself questions about what I have done and what my style is. It is an interesting question that is difficult to answer through my FMP. Normally I do think I have a personal style that is very specific to me. My portraits, although not completely deadpan is not filled with happyness and levity as I prefer to talk to my subjects about things that are not always the happpiest. In my work taking photos of artists I always find myself taking a photo talking to the artists about the work and about struggling to find inner peace in the work, finding motivation, struggling with the execution. That is usually done while I set up the large format cameras. The result is usually a somber picture, not a picture of joy but more a picture of contemplation. Even when I was still making a living doing mostly fashion photography I rarely had girls smiling in my images. I have realised that I feel a smile on camera can be seen as fake to easily. As such I have always made my models overreact in my images when they had to emote, trying to go for realism instead of shallow artifice.
Taking work for my FMP this has not become a problem but I have now had to ignore my own style and tried looking at my father style. A lot of his images are shot quite wide and overall quite different from my style. I dont actually know if my father ever developed his own style. He was probably a competent photographer but someone that never had enough money or time to develop his photography past skill-full into style-full.
Looking at re-photography I am left with some burning questions. as someone who has taken pride in his creativity for the last decade or two I am now sitting with the possibility of mimicking someone else photography and style. ven though it might be close to home as the images are all my fathers, it is not easy for to look at the images and critique it for he angle, the exposure, the framing, the focus. All of these things are things I would normally do on my own images and it is strange to do to someone else images, I am also now bound to the stricter rules as I have to follow the other images as a guideline. All in all it is more mentally challenging that I anticipated.
On of the interesting things about the rephotography that I have read is the fact that we must see photograph as something from the past. The moment it has been taken it belongs to a moment in the past and the photographs as “material traces to the past” (Muntean, 2015).
The questions about where I see myself in the photography industry remains. I, like most photographers suffer from imposters syndrome and as such never think that I really fit in anywhere. My experiences with the photographers and curators in Cape Town has also not been good. A snobby city as it is, there is always an upturn of the nose when you mention that you are not from town. Further issues occur when I look at specifically what the galleries seem to promote, which is usually neither forward thinking or progressive but mostly just rehashing the same old photographers with a few millennials thrown in to make sure the social media of the exhibition takes off. Is this the perfect way to do the work. It might just be. I am currently talking to a curator of a local art gallery, not photography but more along the lines of very expensive well known artists, about doing a few photography exhibitions there. She at least seems to understand the importance of photography and how we should use the power of the image to draw people in but in the end, she still has a board she has to answer to and that is still a problem.
Even though I have been a commercial photographer for a long time i have stopped doing commercial work. I, like a lot of smaller photographers have come to the point where we will do anything we can. I cannot afford the luxury of choosing what I want to do, I do the jobs I get. There are some things I will not do, I suck at weddings for example, but the rest of the time, you send the job, I will do it. Even though I would like to do more documentary work the fact of the matter is that there is no work for documentary photographers. I know quite a few people that work for NGO’s but when I enquire there I always get the same answer, “We just don’t have the funds.”
I have to say that I have enjoyed collaborating with the other photographers in my group. In the beginning of the course we were forced into groups and I was lucky enough to find a group of likeminded individuals who, even though we live in very different places, seem to support and understand each other. I guess because we do live in different countries and work in different fields there is no competition between us which serves as a great leveller and means we talk to each other about our work and our thoughts about our work, things we would not have expressed to someone that is closer at home and in competition with us.
Researching photograph has been a bit more difficult that What I am usually used. Essential research in the sciences uses strictly peer reviewed and accredited articles on mostly costly pay to view platforms. As such most of the research used either a quantitative or qualitative basis where we used concrete figures to hypothesis and prove our research. As a post grad student I spent hours getting and creating data by taking watersamples from coastal brown-water lakes every ten meters.
As such there will be a form of quantitative research in my work. I have to first find all the old images from my father and through trial and error find out the exact locations that he shot these images. As such there will be very little qualitative research in my research although the final result might be more qualitative than quantitative.
This is one of the reasons the Rephotography is actually interesting. Looking back I realized that rephotography is a tried and tested scientific method (McLeod 2019) that has been used for more than a century. As such this form of photography should actually appeal to my scientific background.
On the other hand the FMP is a very personal project so it is difficult to get others to understand the work.
My work did continue though as I started looking around town for images. On an interesting note I had a look at the images a photographer took of my parents at their wedding. It was in our town and at a church I used to go to when I was still a student. My grandfather was a minister at this church about 60 years ago and actually died in office. It was weird to compare the new images to the old as there has been so much change in the town.
It is interesting to see how much of other rephotography features more urban and architectural photography and the search here is for changes that has happened in the area since the original photograph. This is not true for my work though as mine seems to be more personal than most other rephotography.