In the feedback I received from my tutor on assignment three, I got a fairly extensive list of suggested reading and viewing. I’ve been taking a look at some of the items on there, and thought I’d put down some initial thoughts and summaries.
There are three photographers I’ve looked at – representing a spectrum of how photography represents the subject; moving from documentary, to staged “realistic” shots right through to highly manipulated “melodramatic” images. Within my images the “documentary” style images have been staged – with the “read no tweets” image being an even more deliberate creation.
First off were a couple of pieces on Martin Parr – a contemporary documentary photographer, who’s work has divided opinions on what it means ethically. Firstly, there was this essay by Gerry Badger – who has worked with Parr in the past, and this street photography blog post by Eric Kim.
Martin Parr’s work has been seen as confrontational; as critical – framing in an unpleasant light (figurative, not literal!) – the subjects within. I tend to agree with what Gerry Badger’s said – in that I don’t find this to be the case. Looking at his images there is a sense of humour in there, but it isn’t “nasty”. I read this blog post by Parr on Argentina’s Mar Del Plata beach and I’m even more convinced he regards the subject, location and atmosphere in a favourable light. Perhaps, as Badger suggested, people are projecting their own prejudices on to Parr’s work.
Looking at Parr’s work one image really stood out as a shot that really amused me – it’s of people lined up to take the clichéd shot of them holding up the leaning tower of Pisa (the second shot on this page). The fact that most know exactly what they’re doing, with the ridiculousness of it when shot from another perspective, really illustrates Parr’s humour – it’s critical but not unpleasant and first-and-foremost it’s funny.
Philip-Lorca Di Corcia
Lorca Di Corcia’s work is essentially setting up and manipulating shots, but in a “documentary” style. Most, but not all, appear far too “clean” and cinematic to be pure “documentary” photography, taken “in the moment” – but there’s still a sense of realism to them.
In the YouTube video I watched, Lorca Di Corcia’s central theme is the idea that what we see on the outside of a person isn’t who they are – “life is a performance” – and he’s essentially playing on that theme with his images to create representations of archetypes.
Photography is often seen as representing “truth” – but Lorca Di Corcia challenges that in two ways – by manipulating the subjects and highlighting that the outward appearance doesn’t represent the inner-truth of a person.
Crewdson goes another step beyond the staging of Lorca Di Corcia. I’ve downloaded the documentary on him which I’ll watch in the future. In the meantime I’ve watched this preview on Vimeo and this goes into a very artistic creation of the image – from sets, actors and post-production. The final result is more like a photorealistic painting or the results of a block-buster film. It’s obviously staged, but it still aims to represent “life”. There’s a bit more on him here and I may post more once I’ve watched the documentary.