David Campany, the curator of This Must Be the Place (2010) and who is interviewed in the same-titled article by Aesthetica Magazine, is an advocate of the spatial in photography, rather than just time-based photographic practice. I found various extracts from the interview interesting and have outlined my thoughts in this post.
Campany talks about documentary photography and experimentation briefly – (Campany, 2010). This caught my attention as I had last completed the Documentary module in my studies and had seen experimentation and the mixture of fact and fiction within documentary to work well. I have carried some of this into my Body of Work through the use of composites as well as recently with WiP #10 subverting the conventional documentary tropes by inserting the composites into another image. Campany is ‘pleased to see that documentary has become an expanded and experimental form once again, which is as it should be. It had crystallized into something very unproductive for a while.’ – (Campany, 2010). I think of conventional documentary photography as being based around the decisive moment which I have subverted by drawing attention to the composite element of my images where the ‘decisive’ moment repeats itself. This is mostly temporal though as the decisive moment repeats itself in time. There is an element of spatiality within the image as the people are composited based on where they fit in the frame. However, Campany is more concerned with space in the ‘real’ world so I read on in the interview.
In my experience with my studies with the OCA, there is sometimes an emphasis on finding things which are not immediately apparent within the area local to the student. That is not to say going elsewhere is discouraged; in fact I remember one assignment for the Landscape module to be called ‘A Journey’. In this assignment students were encouraged to explore further afield and there is plenty of scope for exploration spatially elsewhere in the course. However, I noticed some assignments where there was a local emphasis on space. I am in general an advocate of seeing things differently within my locality but my project for Body of Work is a mixture of the local and slightly further afield. Deptford is local to me but not exactly right on my doorstep. Therefore I was interested to see Campany addressing this topic and coming to basically the opposite conclusion to mine. He states: ‘A doxa has grown up around the idea that creative work should begin with the familiar. There’s a huge presumption there that you are going to be able to make something interesting out of that.’ – (Campany, 2010). I can see what he is touching on to a certain degree because while making the majority of my projects local to me, I found I have had to think pretty creatively and hard about how to interpret it in a new way. However, ultimately it has allowed me to think of local places like Deptford differently and been rewarding in the process. So, somewhat in contradiction to Campany, thinking of space locally has worked for me in terms of creativity.
I have noticed though that when I visit unfamiliar places with my camera, I see them in a different way to how I see my local, familiar area. It is like I see many new angles and possibilities with the camera than I do in my local area. This might sound obvious; of course there will be new angles and frames I won’t have seen as it’s a new place! However, I mean it is easier to be creative with the camera in these new places for me. Campany touches upon this while talking abut the work of Camille Fallet, specifically London Photographs (2004-5). Ironically London (or at least parts of London) is local to me but it was unfamiliar to Fallet when he photographed it. In particular, Campany remarks: ‘I don’t think a “Londoner” would notice and photograph that way.’ – (Campany, 2010) when talking about how Fallet sees London as a foreign country or as unfamiliar/unknown. I feel Fallet ‘sees’ London as a fresh place to investigate with the camera as a tool, much the same as I might if I were visiting a new city in Europe I hadn’t been to before.
‘To shoot a colour photograph is to also shoot a black and white one. Every colour photograph contains its black and white equivalent. But you cannot derive a colour photograph from a black and white one. It’s not a symmetrical relationship. I suspect most of us sense this without knowing it.’ – (Campany, 2010).
I had to quote all of this passage because it sums up what I had been coming to terms with in regards to black and white vs colour photography. I don’t think Campany is being negative when he says ‘you cannot derive a colour photograph from a black and white one.’ – (Campany, 2010). Instead he is commenting on the fact this relationship – of black and white photography, for want of a better term, ‘throwing away information’ is not symmetrical (Campany, 2010). I also think he is right that ‘most of us sense [this relationship] without knowing it’ – (Campany, 2010). This is part of the melancholy charm of black and white for me; that the photographer has entered into an unspoken (and often unwitting) agreement. This agreement is that the photograph they created is not only in the past-present but also that it has removed information that a colour one would have possessed, because it still makes aesthetic sense or is compelling to do so. For me this is particularly pertinent with film photography, where you can’t go back to colour. Personally, I chose to use colour in my body of work project because the colour showed Deptford with warts and all, to speak colloquially. The cloudy lighting also accentuates the colours present in my images which I feel makes Deptford stand out more which is a consideration. Lastly, perhaps I was subconsciously aware that I wanted the viewer to have all the information colour photographs can possess in order to make up their own mind. This is important because it ties in with the ‘grand’ landscapes adopting a wider viewpoint like I talked about in my post Alexander Gronsky, in particular Pastoral I (2009-12) and Pastoral II (2008-11). Here, the ‘grand’ landscapes with full colour information appear innocently and allow space for interpretation from the viewer with Gronsky subtly providing visual cues about man-made structures and nature coinciding. My project adopts a similar viewpoint of the ‘grand’ landscape and also with full colour information present but my cues are different. The main cues I’ve employed are a juxtaposition of old and new showing space is linked to time and people composited in each image. I’ve used this technique to subvert the decisive moment trope in a lot of documentary photography.
In Campany’s concluding comments, he concedes that even though he is an advocate of spatiality in photography, ‘all photography is temporal.’ – (Campany, 2010). I agree with this comment. Time is quite explicitly incorporated into my project; there is the exposure time of each image but also time has been compressed through the use of composites. Moreover, I’ve used repeat photography to create diptychs which explore the in-between of two composites and highlight what has changed. I’ve also tried to include different locations spatially throughout Deptford which adds depth to the project.
There is one suggestion by Campany (2010) that: ‘although photographers seek out subjects to photograph they are choosing ones that express something of their feelings for their own medium.’ This is a striking thought and I would suggest through my use of composites subverting the tropes of the decisive moment I am expressing my thoughts for the medium. I would say the thoughts I am expressing are trying to look at things differently in photography. My images might look like traditional photographs (they even have a 5×4 image ratio which is popular in film photography) but they are constructed from many elements which belie their verisimilitude.
Fig. 1 Fallet, C. (2004-5) ‘Estates’ from London Photographs. [Collage] At: https://davidcampany.com/this-must-be-the-place/ (Accessed 03/04/2020).
Campany, D. (2010) ‘This Must Be the Place’ In: Aesthetica Magazine. At: https://aestheticamagazine.com/this-must-be-the-place/ (Accessed 03/04/2020).
Fallet, C. (2004-5) London Photographs. At: https://davidcampany.com/this-must-be-the-place/ (Accessed 03./04/2020).
Fallet, C. (2011) London Photographs. At: http://www.camillefallet.com/expositions/this-must-be-the-place (Accessed 03/04/2020).
Gronsky, A. (2008-11) Pastoral II. At: https://www.alexandergronsky.com/2(Accessed 02/01/2020).
Gronsky, A. (2009-12) Pastoral I. At: https://www.alexandergronsky.com/3607507-pastoral-i (Accessed 02/01/2020).