Once given the brief of ‘Sense of Place’, I was immediately enamored with the idea of people or objects that embody a sense of place, opposed to a location or area. This was triggered by seeing peoples sentimental photos and portraits in their wallets or purses, and wondering what this picture or person may symbolise to them.
Given that everyone had just moved from their childhood homes to a new, different place, I imagined that this is a sentimental brief for us all. With this in mind, I began to think about what gives me my sense of place when I feel alone or am away from home. Ultimately, it is the people we love and cherish that ground us when we are worried or sad that are our ‘sense of place’.
So, I decided to photograph my friends, with an emphasis on capturing their surroundings as well as themselves. This is in order to remind myself, and the audience, that although the pictures may have been taken far apart from each other, they all symbolise a sense of place to me as the subjects are those who embody it.
After researching into other photographers and photographic theory, I have approached a set of goals I would like to achieve throughout the project. I would like to provide a contemporary discourse into the inside of the lives of generation Z. As I am ‘generation Z’ age I believe that I can provide a realistic contemporary discourse into the lives of those who are often misrepresented throughout most mainstream and right-wing politics.
I will be using a kodak point and shoot as opposed to a digital camera, for various aesthetic and quality reasons. I believe film photography to feel a lot more authentic due to the ‘one-shot only’ nature, and the fact that film photography is what many of us still have for our family albums. This allows for the connotations of nostalgia and warmth, creating an immediate relationship between the photos.
Whilst providing a statement however I am also aiming to show the loving, affectionate manner still held between early-adults, in a sophisticated and stylistic manner. This is with the intention to further disturb stereotypes held about young adults while providing a loving set of photographs between friends.
Sontag speaks about how ‘Photographs help people make sense of a space in which they feel insecure’, becoming the bridge of communication between a photographer and its subject. This allows us to connect with not only our surroundings but also the people who occupy them, who then become part of the scenery in their own right.
She says ‘…when the human landscape is changed, biologically and socially… cameras are here to immortalize this’. In this sense, it can be considered that photography’s purpose is to capture and explain the years and landscapes around us. Doing this enables us as Billingham said ‘make sense of the world around us’, whilst also preserving it past its own life.
Sontag states ‘photographs are a grammar, and importantly ethics of seeing’. There are some experiences, cultures, people, or places that cannot be justified using just words, and so photography grants an outlet for this.
In such turbulent times in our own lives, moving out of home, photography has been helpful in my ‘finding my sense of place’, as it immortalizes the people that make me feel most at home – allowing me to make sense of my new ‘place’.
Richard Billingham’s 2000 book ‘Ray’s a Laugh’ is an insight into Billingham’s very British home, taken in a very unforgiving, raw style, with the harsh flash and use of framing capturing your attention.
In an article from www.americansuburbx.com, Billingham says ‘It’s not my intention to shock, to offend, sensationalize, be political or whatever, only to make work that is as spiritually
meaningful as I can make it –in all these photographs I never bothered with things like the negatives. Some of them got marked and scratched. I just used the cheapest film and took them to be processed at the cheapest place. I was just trying to make order out of chaos.’.
This strong but simple quote provides some intriguing points – He was not trying to make a statement with his work or push a political agenda, he was simply documenting his life around him, as it happened.
As the work ages, it is considered a visual marker of life in the Midlands in the late 80s/ early 90’s. With vivid and overexposed hues of bright colours, alongside cigarettes, alcohol and body tattoos, the pictures provide a commentary on working-class civilians of the era. If the pictures were released nearly twenty years later however, they could be considered as what Jensen (2004) calls ‘poverty porn’. This is ‘media that exploits the poors’ condition’, and so with the Billingham family under the poverty line, it could be seen as exploitative. However, as the photos were taken by a family member and under no malicious intent – and so become an iconic discourse of early 90s family life.
Billingham’s attitude towards photography has inspired me to be spontaneous within my own style, considering the relationship between what/who I am photographing and the style of how I am photographing. The use of a point and shoot camera here is an advantage as it can be easily stored and carried.
I would like to attempt to provide a contemporary discourse on the lives of generation Z aged adults, having all recently moved from their childhood homes to live around the UK. I feel this is an age category overlooked and even ridiculed by the media, so I would like to produce a personal perspective.
This week we booked some Canon 5D’s to experiment with, in order to attain some photographic inspiration and get to grips with the technical aspects of using the camera.
After some trial and error, I was able to take these images. What I like the most about the photos is how such an everyday, boring object is made to look artistic thanks to the lighting and composition. This idea of making something so ‘everyday’ look interesting and beautiful is one I’d like to explore further, as I think as human beings we can often dismiss the beauty in something just because we see it on a regular basis.
However, I would like to look into other avenues of photography such as a film camera or a point and shoot camera, as there is a certain aesthetic and feel from film photography that is unachievable with a digital camera.
In Petra Collins’s ‘The Teenage Gaze’, she captures moments of adolescence from a creative adolescent perspective, giving a fresh a stereotype-free view of young people, not dissimilar to being a ‘fly on the wall’. Collins’ age and personality allowed her to capture personal, intimate images of turbulent moments in the teens’ lives, as well as providing a contemporary discourse on their lives and the culture they live in.
The moments being lived by the subjects in the photos are ones you’d rarely see captured on camera, as they can be considered regular, daily occurrences for the teens. However, by having an outside perspective it allows for the pictures to become a monumental frozen piece of time.
Collins’ also takes advantage of the lighting, location, and props within the shots in order to create beautiful imagery.
I would like to emulate certain aspects of her work by taking documentary style photos over a period of time, in order to create a visual diary of my own sense of place – but from an outside perspective. I am aiming to capture affectionate, loving relationships between the adults of ‘generation Z’ firsthand.
Within these images, much like Collins’, I would to take advantage of and pay particular attention to the available natural light in my pictures. I will be using Kodak 200 iso colourplus film and an Olympus Mju-ii to take my photos – meaning I will need to be using either strong, natural light in my photos, or a flash.
All photos from: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/search/pins/?rs=ac&len=2&q=petra%20collins%20teenage%20gaze&eq=petra%20collins%20teenage&etslf=6747&term_meta=petra%7Cautocomplete%7C0&term_meta=collins%7Cautocomplete%7C0&term_meta=teenage%7Cautocomplete%7C0&term_meta=gaze%7Cautocomplete%7C0
Peter Marlow is a point of inspiration to me, as he has a very simple yet effective way of photographing the subjects’ relationship with their surroundings. These people have all let Marlow into their private spaces/their familiar surroundings and allowed him to photograph them in their ‘natural’ habitat. They all relate to their surroundings, and in some ways, their surroundings reflect aspects of their identity. So I started thinking about how pieces of peoples’ surroundings can reflect conscious/unconscious characteristics of a person, but in particular, myself.
When a photographer enters a home/location of someone they are photographing, it will mostly be somewhere they have never visited before, allowing for a complete, objective, unbias view of their surroundings. This means that they may notice features that would go unseen when living, or visiting, a location on a regular basis. When living at home, I felt as if I started to take advantage of the small items and surroundings that made me feel in ‘place’ and comfortable, and moving put a real emphasis on these little nick nacks or well-lit corners that I had almost forgotten about. So, my goal is to go home after nearly 3 months away and come back with fresh eyes, allowing for a new appreciation and exploration of the house I lived in for 17 years.
All photos accessed from https://www.magnumphotos.com/?s=Peter%20Marlow
Ali Mobasser was interested in the resemblance between his own and his mothers’ own ID photos, and how these, matched with other characteristics such as a fingerprint, results in a representation of ones identity. This is relevant to my own project due to the sense of identity and nostalgia held within these photos – I would like to explore other peoples’ own relationships with their or someone close to them ID photos, particularly when they’re used as a sentimental object.
Photo source: https://www.ft.com/content/6c455e1c-f018-11e7-ac08-07c3086a2625
Copyright: Ali Mobasser