Four Corners

Friday, 4 September 2009

Star Trek, Harry Potter and Hyperphotography.

I wished my photographs (the old ones) would move - or talk - to be a little more alive. But I can't talk for them. That's why there's so much written about photography today - by "experts". Contemporary photography is competent, often exquisite. It's easy to look at, and I prefer it if it's not in colour and not about whores in India or South America. The few photographs I'm trying to make show my interior against the landscape I'm in. At times I put in words -Soup - Strength - Fate - Blind. - Robert Frank

…The photograph should be more interesting or more beautiful than what was photographed.- Garry Winogrand

...In the end, maybe the correct language would be how the fact of putting four edges around a collection of information or facts transforms it. A photograph is not what was photographed, it’s something else. - Garry Winogrand

I am sometimes accused by my peers of printing my pictures too dark. All I can say is that it goes with the mood of melancholy that is induced by witnessing at close quarters such intractable situations of conflict and joylessness. - Don McCullin

Captain Kirk and Harry Potter walk into a bar....

Not really.

I was going through more transcripts of my interviews today and I came across a conversation with
Steve Pyke , he'd been talking about sitting at a diner by a window with William Egglestone when, after an unfathomably long pause, big Bill lazily looked out of the window and drawled very softly, "That's beautiful".

Steve recounted looking up and seeing all the elements of a perfectly distilled Egglestone moment come together for a fleeting instant. And then track away into oblivion. He went on to describe the feeling and the power ;

SP: ... it's kind of why I love Arbus, y'know, because she photographs the extraordinary and makes it kind of exist in an ordinary way ... then suddenly you walk out and everything you're looking at is an Arbus ..... she makes you see the world in a different way, and that's an amazing thing to be able to do.

And great photography has always done this. It hasn't always been the photographer's vision in the end. As translucent layers of editorial attention were heaped on the image. It was cropped , edited, sequenced and titled, away from the care and intent of the original witness. But nevertheless, photography has prescribed it's vision and in turn, effected ours.

But what now ?

In a world where instant global communication isn't something that only Captain Kirk can do, the vast majority of us have access to record and transmit our versions of events. Perhaps even the same events that a real actual "Pro. Photographer" also recorded.

I wonder, how does the power relationship change when our other witnesses to the event, also pitch their versions into the mix?

Not only do they change the edges of the frame that "our" photographer erected but they contextualise them and him too.

Of course photographers like Winogrand have always done this with their acerbic wit, and we as viewers have had to laugh at ourselves when they did so, but with Harry Potter the paradigm shifted. Well not actually because of J.K. Rowling, but when the characters in wizard photographs wave back at us (and they do), they're no longer objectified.

When our photographed subjects are active participants with their recorded version of events they challenge our photographer's view of the world. When Fred Ritchin talks about Hyperphotography, he describes the coming together of these elements into a pixelated non-linear structure. One in which we can click on any of the subjects to see and hear their version of events, perhaps even whizz out into space and get an overview of the whole
smörgåsbord from Google Earth.

But, even as much as I hate myself for thinking it, I can't say I'm that thrilled frankly.

I mean, I'm not sure if this stripping away of the conventional layers of editorial control won't just reveal an amorphous mass of Joe Public. And he's an idiot. I hear him on talk radio ranting on endlessly with his small minded, self righteous bigotry and how - never minding the fact that we're a nation at war, someone should bloody well sort out the permit holders only parking on Peachtree Crescent or by God and all that's holy he'll write to his MP.

I mean , and again I'm not proud of it , but I know that I am actually a pretty lazy ass dude. I kind of rely on the integrity of professional journalists to explain their points of view to me and to be economically dependent on their reputation for the fairness and balance of that view. In much the same way that I avidly follow the work of some photographers whose vision constantly changes my way of seeing the world for the better.

So when the elevator girl in Robert Frank's Americans recently recognised herself and went on to tell her story; I'm not actually sure that it would necessarily have added that much at the time to Jack Kerouac's original introductory ode to her, I mean,
to be fair, I'm not sure how long

would have held my attention ... ooh, nice shoes


  1. In these nonlinear / hyperphotographs in which potentially any viewer can become contributor do you think the idea that "no moment is more important than any other moment" (S.Sontag) will become more widely accepted, or (and perhaps this is the same thing) cheapen the original photograph to a point where it becomes throwaway or a small footnote in a larger 'narrative object' or 'hyperphotograph'?

  2. I was working on the principal that it was only the protagonists sort of answering back, but yes a situation where everyone could contribute might become a forum for debate. And as all points of view are expanded upon with infinite depth one can imagine a replaying of the issues depicting the event and yes this circular journey would complete in a nebulous moment of impotence. A bit like the UN.

    Say in the instance of a stone thrower in Gaza photographed, with his target soldiers in the same frame. As we journeyed into intimate portraits of both we would have a better understanding of what brought them to that moment, and at that point we as viewer might act as an arbitrator for peace and reconciliation.

    If that final summative control is removed from the viewer then the infinite number of contributors entering the debate would simply continue the dialogue within it. In this particular example that forum for debate might be a great thing but as with open blog comments, the people that might get involved would be a motivated few - not always the best contributors to open debate and free thinking.