As the first half of my flexible two-year MA in Photography comes to a close with the assignments’ deadline today, it provides a good opportunity to recollect where I have come from and where I now plan to go.
Full circle would be one way to describe my experience. But I am now much clearer on my methodologies, and I am so much more confident in how I choose to make my work and what direction my practice will take in future.
The results of my camera-less techniques will not be real-life documentary in style – although the powerful story behind the Harena Now images relates to political, societal, geological issues and more, the images I produce in response to it are designed to spark conversation and further uncovering of the issues.
At times I have wondered if this has the potential to lessen the impact of the work and what I am saying about the global sand crisis.
Would harder hitting images of death, corruption and destruction represent the message I want to convey better – that this is a global problem that needs to be addressed promptly?
I have come to the conclusion that the answer is no.
Sontag said in On Photography that: “Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.” (1977:24).
Perhaps by making photograms, lumen prints, etc. that do not literally confirm the realities of the story I am sharing there is a chance they will not be lost within the deluge of images people consume today. That something within in them will make the viewer stop and wonder, what’s that all about?
Previously, I have mentioned the struggles I have felt when considering how original my work may be. Before I discovered how Meghann Riepenhoff creates her cyanotypes I was making images in the same way. Worrying about using the same techniques as another is not a matter I feel I need to spend too much time deliberating, it is what I make from those techniques and how I go on to share them that is important. Each piece I put my name too is unique to me – I made it. It is my own photographic voice. It conveys an element of my touch, it includes part of me – a trace.
Returning again and again to the cyanotype process has links to the fact that the unexposed iron salts can, if desired, be washed away in a river or the sea; that it stems from the early days of photography and that a woman botanist, Anna Atkins, first used it to illustrate her books on British flora, particularly seaweed, which resonates with my coastal home; that the colour blue in all its shades has always drawn me to it.
It is a process I feel I have a certain bond to – like an old friend that you may not see for sometime but when you get-together its as if you were never apart. In future I hope to push what I can do with the process even further.
I am incredibly excited by the new path I am taking with my practice. Yes, the core concept of raising awareness of environmental issues through the use of the least toxic camera-less alternative photographic processes has been constant, but now my topic is determined and ideas about how it will ultimately be shared are ready for further investigation.
SONTAG, Susan. 1977. On Photography. London: Penguin.