I’ve been reflecting on why most of the first set of images for project 3 (provisionally entitled Out of Place) didn’t work and think its about not being odd enough and firing up the viewer’s interest in the vista. So I’ve been playing and experimenting with a couple of images to try to evoke a sense of being out of place through distortion.
The first photo doesn’t really work at all well.
Whereas the second image does.
The question is why?
Firstly, I don’t think the photo of the bathroom is surreal. It’s a straight photo that has obviously been digitally distorted. If you compare it to the second photo we see that enjoyed a much more subtle effect. Indeed you might not even notice the image is not quite what it seems at first glance. It is only by spending a fraction more time viewing that one can see that the image is slightly distorted.
Accordingly the second image of the wheelchairs invites a prolonged gaze and some thought about what one is viewing and why the image is as it is whereas the first one does not.
But is it surreal?
Looking at Surrealism Today here didn’t help answer this question as the examples of work on the site were so different from my photo. But my photo did fire the imagination and wasn’t obviously digitally manipulated of glitch photography. Indeed I felt my photo was closer to some of the older surrealism of people like Andre Kertez’s Distortion (Bourcier, page 87). In any event I am not trying to make images that fit a category but rather evoke a sense of disconnection with the world. So in that sense I think this works.
But the second image shared a feature with one photo from my first attempt at this approach in that its quite closely focussed and disconnected from its context so I wanted to try to fuse the two approaches and used these two images below to try it out.
Both work quite well with the subtly of distortion but its the last image of the bathroom scene that works best. I am really pleased with it’s outcome. The photo’s formal qualities – the arrangement of items within the frame – work well but would not provide a sense of disconnectedness on there own. But by applying a very slight distortion to the tiles and using light to evoke atmosphere the image moved from a formal straight evocation to something a little more odd.
I don’t know whether I can create enough subject matter to grow a set using this technique by itself because for example the two photo above show wheelchair wheels and so repeat themselves a little. But I will continue exploring and experimenting.
Andre Kertez, Distortion # 70, (1933), in Noel Bourcier (ed), Andre Kertez 55, Phaidon Press Ltd, 2001 illus