Our discussions this week have centred around the appropriation and remediation/remixing of photographic work.
Much of my work is created from scratch using natural materials. On occasion I use negatives from my own work but I will also access images that others have shared for free even in commercial works. The latter is rare and is mainly used if I find a photogram I am trying to create is lacking a certain element that I can not photograph myself. Using work that someone has shared openly for this purpose does not pose an issue for me. I feel on those rare occasions that I am collaborating with the originator but in the knowledge that they have chosen to allow me to do so. My intent is not claim other people’s images as my own and if I do work this way it is always combined within a multifaceted piece that overall has my stamp on it.
I have always had a fascination with old photos. I can spend hours trawling through my mum’s images from the 40s and 50s. I have also used her passport photo from the 50s as the basis for one of my images. I could not know who took the picture, and, as it is a passport image I would suggest that in that context it is unlikely the original photographer would have been too bothered by my reuse of it some 50 years later.
In a previous post I liken this to the work of John Stezaker. He has said that he doesn’t want to add new images to the world considering their saturation in society. I find that an interesting point, but he is creating new images even though reusing old ones. His work very much has a Stezaker style.
We discussed an ‘argument’ between photographer Susan Meiselas and Joy Garnett regarding Garnett’s painting of part of an image Meiselas made. In a Harpers Magazine article from 2007 both share their viewpoints and the final outcome. You can read that here: firstpulseprojects.com/On-the-Rights-of-Molotov-Man.pdf
For me, I feel that if my images were used in a context that was in opposition to my own beliefs or the any message/meaning I attributed to my own work, I too would feel aggrieved. But if my work is used by other artists to create new works that are sympathetic to the original then I think I’d be okay with that. It would be good to even look at it as a potential collaboration.
I am influenced by so many sources. I have had so many ideas since stating this course that I thought were original to me, only to find out that someone has already done that (Meghann Riepenhoff with her ocean cyanotypes for example). Most recently, thinking about ways to share my work I hit on the potential to use an old fairground fortune teller booth that could print out a postcard with my images and a ‘fortune’ regarding my topic of the human impact on the environment. It could be a travelling exhibition and be a novel way to engage people who may not normally attend gallery settings. But I told a scientist I had worked with on my 6000 Flowers project and she said, “Oh, that’s amazing but I’m sure an environmental group has done something like this”. I will find out more on that but I think the point is that trying to find an ‘original’ technique or view point is nigh on impossible in our saturated world so perhaps being more accepting of appropriation, remixing and reusing materials is something all artists may have to grow accustomed to.
To show this, in our task this week to produce a short film to give an indication of our project direction, I decided to (on the whole) solely use other people’s work. I accessed footage via Pond 5 and Pixabay, while I used music from Kevin Mcleod. I took one image from a news website and did include two of my own pieces very discretely. My peers felt overall that they clearly understood the direction of my project but they wanted to see more of my own work. But is the film not my own work as chose the content, edited it and shared it as a representation of my proposal? It a fascinating topic.
I’m not clear how much these methods will go on to be used in my project as I am aiming to create work from and within nature, using rock, sand, the ocean, etc. But it is definitely something I will be considering and will stay open to.