Informing Contexts – Week 3

Constructed Realities

This week has been invigorating. Thought and conversation have turned to constructed photographs – those that are construed on their own terms rather than recording the there.

We have explored deliberate images that create fictitious realities and deliberated whether the medium can or can not be more than just a trace of the actual world in front of the camera. Artifice within photography may be clear or hazy – and in which contexts can we feel most comfortable with this idea of deceit, whether intended to con or intended to conjure. We have compared the way images that are ‘made’ to taken where one is produced and directed from its inception to those that are perhaps restaged from real moments, and if this matters.

Learning about John Stezaker’s work this week had an impact on me. In the image below I took a passport photograph of my mum and created an instant film from it which I mixed with a second instant film of a fossil.



I can’t say my work in this style has been made with much forethought and is more, I feel, a reaction to a variety of thought processes that I feel will help me illustrate visually what it is I’m trying to say. But the examples shown in this week’s sessions such as Sandy Skogland to Martha Rosler and Gregory Crewdson to Beth Moon have all provided food for thought in my own practice.

As I focus on using monochromatic contact printing techniques, much of my work is made in the sense that I gather what I need to create the final image. This can be found items, flora, and/or photographs on film or digital negatives. My work often includes sand or soil, natural or household liquids and is a melting pot for a constructed reality. At once based on fact (the reason behind why I create the work) and my own fiction (the way I chose to interpret and display my own preferences within the image).

This week, we have been asked to consider three photographs that offer multiple interpretations of the world using a constructed approach.

My first comes from Keith Carter’s work To Build An Ark:


My second is a wonderful discovery of a collaboration between Asia Kepka and Lynn Dowling:


And my third is by Vanessa Marsh:


In Keith Carter’s work I find a resonance with my own aims. His “leaky Ark” is bound up with a response to human expansion and the strain this adds to the natural world, while the images represent loss and hope in an evolving landscape and yet are still “exquisite in its chaos”.

The frivolity and joy within the joint Asia Kepka and Lynn Dowling project provides a light-hearted approach to the intricate subjects of love and life.

Vanessa Marsh’s constructed realities speak to me and implore me to want to do better in my own work. Her website states her practice is: Exploring the intersections of man made, natural and cosmological power through a mixed media process based in photography.

When I read Carter’s and Marsh’s work, I feel a connection to my own thought processes and preferences. I feel I grasp what they are aiming to achieve, perhaps through an unknown recognition, while the fantasy world of Kepka and Dowling is quite alien to me in style, yet I am drawn to the aesthetic, the colour and what at first looks like simple joy before you delve deeper and gain a fuller understanding of, what for many mere mortals is never attainable, unconditional love.