I have been swirling around for a while with various ideas about how to make 6 images that show different selves, thinking about voice, death, age, family/friends/various people in one’s life – relationships which make us who we are, the interconnectedness of a self, the illusion of self, ergo the illusion of other, reality, networks etc. All very big topics and I need to find a simple and direct way to move forward, and which can act as a containing idea.
‘What makes me Me, what makes you You?’ is the ongoing inquiry I’ve been exploring since I started reading about cross-cultural child rearing practice when my eldest son was about 8 months old. He’s now nearly 14. Since doing so I have learned a lot about culture and how it acts as a reality filter.
Looking at what I’ve been playing with recently:
- I felt the proprietary filter in iMovie was probably a bit crass
- It may be, but it also may be exactly what I am exploring in this exercise. I’m going to learn Premier Pro later this week and that may afford more options but I quite like the simplicity of iMovie.
- I’ve been looking at filters and screens for a while and perhaps began most notably with the image below
- I then, influenced by Bryan Eccleshall’s Digital Rain series, started playing with slicing up filters as follows;
- In an interview/video of Pipilotti Rist about her work, she discusses a generalised fear of colour in art and describes why she opts for quite a vivid colour palette which is in some way manipulated and enhanced. By doing this she rejects the perceived sophistication one finds in art. It used to be that mono or black and white signalled art and colour advertising – although certain photographers started breaking with that tradition as far back as the 50s and 60s, namely Saul Leiter and William Eggleston. (I got a lot from this interview in fact)
- My friend, Jenny Baylis, in her Film Studies MA thesis (2001) which is titled Cinematic Chromophobia: The Case Against Colour, looks at David Batchelor’s Chromophobia, arguing this fear was at the time “manifest in both slow and troubled history of colour film processes, their adoption by the industry, as well as traditional film theory”. (Baylis; intro) Both Jenny and Rist link this fear in some way to racism and feminism, and ultimately to a fear of “the fall of culture”. (Baylis; 8)
- However, as far as I can tell, digital photography has changed this to some degree although the majority of art photography has a certain ‘tasteful’ relationship with colour. Now colour is acceptable, even preferred by many photographers, and black and white might be ‘acceptable’ but only if shot ‘authentically’ on film. Maybe this is because black and white might be seen by some non-academic photographers as ‘artistic’ as well as by commercially minded clients and makers of photography; hence some photographers can revel in a sense of superiority when working in colour now. The culturally loaded, fetishised value judgments people (even clever ones) like to espouse have shifted somewhat. Nowadays black and white is a little bit gauche (unless shot on film – just about – by some). In photography, it would seem, colour film, and therefore not overly altered or manipulated digitally (or seemingly not) is cherished. Indeed, I once read someone refer to digital conversion to mono as ‘perverse’.
- Film itself is, by some, considered the superior medium despite the fact – as discussed by former OCA student John Umney in a piece he was writing “…the vast majority of major project work at degree show is digital. Most work at exhibition by contemporary artists is digital. Artists, like Collins and Townsend (and there are many more besides), have found that the aesthetics around analogue serve their narrative demands not because it provides some loftier agency.” (Umney 2017; personal email)
- Filters – oh, the culturally loaded value judgments here! (I criticise but I am part of the culture in which I exist and hold them too.) To use an Instagram filter is considered by some, or many, a faux pas or at any rate somewhat naive. To emulate film stock, a trick only for advertising and commercial work. And yet, all of culture is indeed a filter. We humans exist only through culture and the filters which shape our reality, and which often tell us what is ‘normal’ and ‘natural’. That isn’t to say there aren’t a lot of unpleasant images about with heavy filters on them (not least of which are some of mine). To rely on a proprietary PS filter is considered by some ‘unpleasant’ – and indeed they can be quite ugly, it’s true.
- I played with some filters that create patterns and animated them together. I didn’t much like the end result after all, they seemed pretty ugly to me – and have ditched the idea of using them. But I may return if I think they can offer something in the direction I am heading.
- I have been looking at the Snapchat filters for a while wondering what one might do with them – and how/if I might use them in this course, even as I was finishing off UVC. When I was taking these images earlier this year, I thought wow, this app is like the pool in the Narcissus story. It is designed to appeal to our most vulnerable inner vanity, fear, frailties, and it captivates us, traps us into to looking for the lost self, which moves further and further out of reach as we do – because a self is a process and perhaps the process benefits from direct contact with the other and not from contact via a cold, digital information system, one that only shows us our socially/commercially imposed ideals. (Mirror, mirror on the wall….)
- Last night I chatted with my nearly 14-year-old son about the sort of images he and friends post online and about some of the academic assumptions in the course folder. Does his generation feel these images are an authentic reality, an enshrined moment? Not according to him (perhaps this social habit serves to undermine anyone’s ability to trust and believe what they see rather than convincing us of truth….) This morning in an article in the Guardian, we are told that social media “is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other,’” and “ripping society apart” according to former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya (Wong 2017) This subject is BIG and extremely complex.
- So – I think I’m going to focus on Filters and Screens as my main containing topic. The work will ultimately contain a great deal more besides but I am going to try and just stick with this container as much as possible.
- I’m going to use whatever garish, tasteless, gauche and naive filter I think necessitates being used.
- I’m not going to write much more now, except where required (well, I’ll attempt not to). I will work through the exercises, probably not in the right order as it’s easier/quicker to work alone than it is to find and spend time with others so I may simply get on with the self ones first.
- Finally, before I go – there was an article shared in the FB OCA Photography group recently which pertained to be “A deep analysis of Melania Trump’s social media photos,” it really isn’t, and which “reveals a woman in hiding from the world” (Imbach, 2017). And I don’t like to give energy to the revolting shitshow by reposting or even discussing that family, but I was quite amazed by the assumption which underpinned Imbach’s argument, which is that it is healthy and normal to be on show. No, it isn’t! The images in the article were quite horrible as images go, and at first, I assumed that they were childlike in their rendering. However, looking through my son’s feed I see that while there are plenty of images with way too much structure, sharpening, vignetting, and saturation for my own tastes, in fact, a good deal of images made by 13/14-year-olds are far more sophisticated than the ones made by said wife locked up in those towers. Who knows I may emulate some of what they are doing for a few Section 3 exercises? What I did notice is that the girls, many ‘seemingly’ feigning horror at the idea of being on show whilst also inviting it and fishing for compliments as young girls do – is that they are hiding. Literally. They are feining their desire to hide as well as being compelled to do so. It’s such a lot of conflicting turmoil to live with. They make images with their faces covered by hands, fast food bags and digital drawing. The Snapchat filters hide them too. And no wonder! It is awful to be on show. And this generation is under pressure to be on show at all times. Of course, they want to hide. We use screens to protect ourselves. It’s about self-preservation in a world that pressurises you to be on show always.,
- One last thing – Grotowski knew theatre could not compete with film and TV, so he eschewed all technicalities and any tricks of production. He sought to utilise the actor’s main tool – the body alone. Being a digital photographer, I will embrace what digital can do in this assignment and not try to compete with film at all.
Baylis, J. 2001 Cinematic Chromophobia: The Case Against Colour, University of Westminster 2001 Thesis for Film & Television Studies
Umney, J. 2017 Personal email addressed to me
Rist, P. 2016 Colour is Dangerous YouTube [Accessed 11 December 2017] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdLuwX2uRTM