We all know that the problem nowadays is not so much about finding information as selecting the appropriate information. We have access to so much information now that it can be difficult to sort out what is relevant to our own interests and practice.
One way I try and keep up to date with current trends and thinking in photography is to subscribe to the three networks above. However it’s only been in the past few days that I have begin catching up with issues by beginning to peruse the current annuals and journals. Two thoughts popped up whilst doing so: the variations in the production values of the three publications and the reasons behind them; and what I get out of viewing such journals.
Variations in Production Values
The first thing that came to mind was the variations in each of the publications production values. Seeing the journals sitting on top of each other made me wonder about why some of the choices had been made. Some, such as the number of pages, might be driven by cost of content but other things like the typeface, and layout were quite, quite different. For example, Aperture looked quite busy and complex when compared to the other two journals. Moreover, I thought that the Photoworks annual had a good, clever contents page compared to the other two journals, given that they are all about visual culture.
If I produce a book there will be a lot to think about: will I produce it from scratch or use some form of template? Will, and if so what, written material should accompany it? Who will the target audience be? The list goes on, and I am getting near the point in the MA where I will need to make some decisions about what products to create.
What I get out of the journals
The second issue: what I get form these journals seems clear to me and can be categorised as form and insight. For example, when I first pick up a journal I tend to flick through it and see what catches my eye. Thus my interest in piqued by the form and colour of an image or series of images. For example, in Source this meant that I first looked at the series of images under the Helio Leon title as they exhibited a strong enigmatic quality (p17); and in Photoworks the image with the article entitled Collaborating with Machines drew my attention because of their simplicity and repetition (p157); while it was a more traditional simple monochrome landscape image that caught my attention in Aperture (p120-121). Thus my reading tended to be driven by the aesthetic in front of my eyes and nothing else. In that way I get to think about much broader subject matter than I would choose to read about if given a blank sheet of paper and in that way I begin to explore in different directions. For example, the article in Source took to to David Lynch; the one in Photoworks took me to the writings of Erica Scourti; and the image in aperture stimulated a little practice in form and expressionism at the bottom of this post.
But then, usually after some time, I go back to the journals and begin to read odd bits and pieces. This isn’t study. Rather it’s just contextual reading. In this case it’s usually the front index or titles that drive me to an item, either because I know someone of the person or subject under discussion or the title entices me in. For example, in Aperture the work of Boris Mikhailov was under discussion and I know of him and some of the controversy around his methods and so got drawn to read that first; in Photoworks an article entitled “Real Britain 1974: The Co-optic Project” grabbed my interest because it referenced a time and place I knew as well as indicating a method that interested me (collaborative photography); and in Source the item of self published books took my attention as this might be one of my MA outputs. Such reading and thinking led to this.
Realist, Expressionist, Formalist
The original image was shot last Sunday when visiting my sons’ flat. We then went out for a meal at Stratford and so caught the DLR from Bow Road. When home I kept this image because it seemed to me to suggest a little inconsistency. The DLR is fully wheelchair accessible and but that I mean I can get on any part of the train through any door. Yet looking at this train opposite I noticed that one window had the wheelchair symbol and wondered why.
Then when home and looking at the image it seemed to me to encapsulate something that I have been working on in my research paper. That is how to trigger a new sense of seeing within the viewer. For example, David Benjamin Sherry’s Alternative America series uses colour hues that signal a departure from the conventional or “straight” landscape but he is not explicitly directional in evocation. So this led to me trying out three different approaches and considering their effects.
The first approach was realist and so the viewer is shown a window to the world with the pretence that he or she could be standing where I stood and looking at the train. Thus there is nothing in the image to make any connection to disability as a social phenomenon unless the viewer is aware of the Social Model of Disability. This is also true for the monochrome version of the image. Monochrome processing is conventional and so the view that is offered is conventional (save for the aspect ratio).
But the middle image is explicitly different. The colours are off and clearly constructed. Thus I have tried to entice the viewer into relooking at the image in the same way that David Benjamin Sherry’s has for his Alternative America series.
But the approach only partially works for me: while it challenges the conventional view of the landscape it does not offer or evoke any sense of the nature of disability as I see or experience it, and so unless I can orientate the viewer to that view I think I will have failed. So maybe my approach should be as much about associations and contexts as they are about content.
B. Burbridge and C. Davies (eds.) (2015) Issue 21: Collaboration, Photoworks Annual, Published by Photoworks
J. Duncan and R. West, (eds.) (2015) Source Issue 83 Summer 2015, Published by Photoworks North
M. Famighetti (ed.) (2015) Aperture 220 The Interview Issue, Fall 2015, Published by Aperture