Week Four – Surfaces and Strategies: Strategies of Freedom.

What exactly is non-human photography? Can it really exist, as at some point in the creation of an image there must be the involvement of the human hand, surely?

Joanna Zylinska has said that, “The Human agency required to make a decision about what and how to photograph is only one small part of what goes on in the field of photography, even though it is made to stand in for the whole of photography as such.”

But Vilem Flusser, in his book Towards the Philosophy of Photography, challenged photographers to consider freedom and to probe their practice in the pursuit of it.  It is not a freedom from though but a freedom for. I commented in a previous post that the desire to feel original is something that many artists need to address and overcome. With the continuing rise in the human population, what can really be claimed to be original or unique? And can photography ever be anything other than human-centred?

In my own practice, I have put aside these feelings of wanting to be original. In the space of a few months when I have hit on ideas that are original to me, a little research has shown that other photo-artists I have been unaware of have done something similar. So the idea may not be original, but my interpretation of the process and the outcomes I create may be.

As I work predominantly in photograms, lumens, chemigrams etc. I do not often make use of the ‘mechanics’ of photography. I use no lens and nor do I ‘click the shutter’, but am I not using other ‘appartus’ to make my work? Geoffrey Batchen spoke about making simple cyanotypes saying, “And we have, in a way, the most elemental kind of photography, in which nature gets to represent itself, without any mediation by the human hand” (Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. 2016). Yet without his input, and mine in my work, nature would still be nature but it wouldn’t be making recorded photographs.

I also made two simple cyanotypes this week that tried to lessen my input further by simply pegging cyanotype fabric to plants growing wild in the hope that their shadows would create an imprint. Is this freedom from or for?

I seem to have naturally been pulled towards outwitting the lens in my work to date. My business, ShutterPod has specialised in camera-less techniques for some time, although this is not done to pander to any anachronistic tendencies as digital means do play a role in my practice. However, even the use of digital for me is not about total control – something I find unappealing – but it is about playing with what’s available to you to discover new ideas or results.

The notion of smuggling something into photographic/other visual apparatus is a new concept for me – it’s not an expression I have heard before. It relates to works such as those by Robert Overweg who becomes a photographer of the virtual world by entering online games, not to play but to seek imagery. This is something that I am intrigued by but I doubt is a line of photography I will follow. That said, I sometimes use negatives made from historic images or artwork to detour from what people think is in the image to what was really in the image such as in the anthotype below. Could this be a form of smuggling in a human intention?

Book References:

Zylinska, J. 2016. ‘The Creative Power of Nonhuman Photography’. In: K. Kuc and J. Zylinska, eds. Photomediations: A Reader. London: Open Humanities Press, pp. 201–224

Online References:

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. 2016. ‘Curator’s Introduction to Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph’ [YouTube] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOyLWa0S97k&feature=youtu.be [accessed June 22, 2017]

Overweg, R. shotbyrobert.com [accessed June 22, 2017].