Reflection on Photographic Currents

When I first signed up for Photographic Currents, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the class. Although I have always had a peaked interest in photography, I had never had the opportunity to take a class in it. Originally I thought that we would be looking at and taking pictures from a more technical perspective, but found that I really enjoyed looking at photography in a broader sense. Looking at the ideas behind a photo or photo set along with the cultural implications helped me not only look at photography in a new way but to take a different approach to my own photography.

As for my own photography, I have always taken lots of pictures but began seeing how I myself can use photography to create art. Despite my amateur level, I found a lot of inspiration in Photographic Currents for future photography projects I want to pursue. Even if I had ideas before, I didn’t have the confidence to follow through with them because I felt intimidated not knowing anything about photography. This class has given me the confidence to finally follow through with my ideas and has gotten me in the habit of posting my work on a blog for others to view. Through out the semester I have kept a scattered list of ideas that I hope I follow through with over the summer. One that I definitely plan on doing is rephotographing pictures of me and my siblings when we were younger. My parents 25th wedding anniversary is coming up and I think giving them a book mimicking these old pictures would mean a lot to them! In addition to those, I’d like to do something where I take a picture of what I’m doing at the same time everyday for the whole summer. I think it might be tricky if I’m in a position where taking a picture wouldn’t be appropriate but I like the idea of people getting insight on what I did throughout the summer, but at the same time no insight at all because the one second it takes to make a picture isn’t representative of the whole day. I may try to experiment more with video too, I’m not sure. I’ve been thinking about stringing together a loop of snapchats taken. I went through the snapchat folder on my phone the other day and to me it seemed like snapchat had become the new home video. I think making a snapchat homevideo of my summer could be really interesting.

It’s hard to sum up this class in just a couple hundered words, but overall I’m extremely grateful for having taken it. This class gave me the push I needed to feel confident pursuing my own photography projects and think outside the box. I have developed a new and deeper appreciation for photography and look forward to seeing how I am able to continue incorporating photography into my everyday life.

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Barbican Photo Exhibition Reflection

Being an outsider in the UK, it was interesting to see other outside perspectives of London and the UK. I only wish I had been looking at it as an insider because in that way I feel like it would have meant more for me. Having only been here a couple of months and having barely spoken to any British people, there is only so much of the culture and country as a whole I have been able to pick up on making it harder to put meaning behind the pictures. For instance, if the same exhibition was set up but it showed outside perspectives of America, where I’m from, I think there are a lot more details that I would pick up on more quickly due to my familiarity with the country and people in it.

Because I felt this barrier I wasn’t making connections between the pictures as quickly as I would have liked to I found it difficult to gather what an outsiders perspective of Britain was or how people from different locations around the world perceive Britain differently. While I found this disappointing because I felt that was the point of the exhibition, I did find the pictures quite interesting. Many were very striking, sticking out to me as soon as I walked into a room.

For the pictures that really caught my attention, I found myself circling back to a question we have discussed in class: is there such thing as a documentary truth? The more I try to put meaning behind these pictures the more complex the answer to this question seems.

In the literal sense the answer is: yes. Knowing these are older pictures, they weren’t retouched or photoshopped. The camera captured the image and there for what happened was real in some sense. However, there are so many biases on the part of the photographer, subjects, and viewer that it is nearly impossible to know the authenticity of any photography.

For instance, one of the pictures that stood out to me was an image of a man playing the bagpipes in the bathroom. Did the photographer really just find him casually playing the bagpipes in the bathroom? There are multiple possibilities for how this picture came about. Perhaps the man was not originally playing the bagpipes but was just stopping in to use the bathroom and had them with him. On his way out the photographer could have put up his camera lens and the man decided to pose for the picture. Or perhaps the photographer inserted his own bias and asked the man to put the mouthpiece up to make it appear as if he was playing. It seems odd that there isn’t a tip cup of some sort in the picture to show the man there playing on his own free will. Thinking about the photo being staged makes the photo seem insignificant even if it is silly, its authenticity becomes ruined. But even if neither of those situations are true and the photographer did stumble upon him, there is still the bias of how he framed the picture and what he chose to include/not include which can effect how the viewer interprets the photograph.

No matter what, I believe it is impossible to have a truly authentic unbiased picture. Personal bias will always come in, but I think it’s important that as a society people try to take that into consideration more than they currently do. This exhibit itself shows contradictions everywhere on what Britain is as a whole, essentially drawing out the bias of each photographer based on what they focused on. The biases fill our society especially in the media and society needs to learn to think critically and take it upon themselves to fill in the gaps.

Podcast Reflection

The Digital Human’s piece called “Capture” on BBC Radio 4 is an amazing piece exploring the implications of photography on our lives. I immediately connected to the podcast as it talked about a lot of the same stuff that inspired my first project in Photographic Currents, “My Shiny Teeth and Me”.

Everyone with social media accounts knows what its like to sort through pictures and decide what is a “worthy” picture, myself included. I noticed, as the podcast talks about, that this means we are advertising a certain image of ourselves that may not be representative of who we actually are. Without going into too much detail, the “My Shiny Teeth and Me” project aimed to show a less filtered version of myself by choosing to take sequential pictures of myself getting ready in the morning. I believe that these pictures may tell a very different story about who I am than my Instagram account might.

Aleks Krotoski, the speaker of the podcast, also focuses on how this obsession with taking pictures can not only keep us from truly experiencing our life but can even make ourselves alter our memories. This podcast came at an interesting time as this is something that has been rattling my mind all semester. Being a college student abroad in a new country for the first time, taking pictures has been huge among friends and I but there are instances where I questioned their authenticity.

For example, the first week I was in London was not great, but it didn’t appear that way on social media. I remember being exhausted coming off the plane and starting the flat hunt right away, trying to make friends, and find things to do with people I barely knew. When my flat mates and I finally had free time it was down pouring and we opted to go to the Natural History Museum. I remember feeling uncomfortable and awkward the whole time being the new person among a group of people who all already knew each other. However, this is not how it looked to anyone who saw pictures of me on social media.

One of my roommates took lots of pictures that day and put them up on Facebook not long after. I remember all my aunts commenting “looks like you’re having so much fun!” And it did, from the outside those pictures made it look like I was having a great time enjoying this new city I was in but it was a false representation of reality. Even seeing my aunts comments made me feel like I was fitting in more with my flat mates just because it looked like I did, which isn’t accurate to how I was feeling. But that memory certainly began to alter even if it was just for a brief period of time. I began to find that throughout the semester, I began believing I had a lot more fun doing things than I actually did. Partially because that was how it appeared but partially because I myself was trying to remain positive about things and the more I told other people something was fun after the fact the more I believed it.

Overall the podcast was interesting, and tackled a lot of ideas I have been wrestling with all semester. I think that in general photography is a good thing, I have been in love with photographs since I was a kid. However, I think it is important that we are more consciously aware of the realities surrounding the photographs otherwise they become a representation of fantasy rather than reality.

Bayswater Pubs

Having a preexisting interest in pub culture, it was no surprise that finding an archive featuring pubs in the London Archives attracted me attention. The archive contained pictures from every pub in London that existed during a certain year. London is a huge city, looking at all of these picture of pubs was fascinating.

When thinking about how I could respond to this archive, I thought about the neighborhood feel pubs often have. In a way, neighborhoods help make pubs what they are. Each acts as a gathering place for people all over the neighborhood, a place to hang out with friends and meet new people. The pubs are a pivotal part of a the social life within any given neighborhood, making each neighborhood’s pub scene unique to its own.

Residing in the Notting Hill/Bayswater area, I decided to focus on the pubs in my own neighborhood. While many were pubs a visit frequently, some were ones I had never been to in my four months here. I choose to photograph the pubs at two separate yet important times in a pub’s week: Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. After a long week of work and having a day off to relax, Saturday night is the prime time for people to meet up with their friends for a drink and let loose a little. Sunday on the other hand can be more of a family event in some cases and is less about drinking and more about connecting with others and eating a nice Sunday Roast.

While the bulk of pub culture occurs with in the pub, each pictures provides a little insight into what each pub might hold. Each of the pubs are unique in their own way and as a whole are telling of the pub culture of the Bayswater neighborhood.

 

The Prince Edward

The Champion

The Phoenix

The Bayswater Arms

The Prince Albert

The Redan

The Porchester

The Leinster Arms

MITRE

Archive

I find myself over and over again revisiting the ideas of sociology and how things change overtime. I am fascinated by how people interact with not only each other but as well as things and how those interactions change overtime.

When searching through the London Archives, I found myself immediately drawn to a series of pictures showing pubs throughout London. Pubs have long been a tradition in places like London, and have acted as neighborhood gathering places since their existence.  Traditionally, pubs sit on the corner of a street crossing. This is because being on the corner allowed pubs to advertise themselves from two different angles, pubs are in view of people walking down two different streets which means more business.

The photographs of the pubs in the archive, as some are shown below, certainly show this idea of corner pubs and was the start of my inspiration for my response.

 

 

Thinking about pub culture more, I thought about how a neighborhoods personality is somewhat defined by their pub culture. Pubs act as a community gathering space in their neighborhoods and everyone local knows the best pubs to go to, so what better pubs to photograph than the pubs in my own neighborhood, Notting Hill.

 

 

The original photos from my first walk around the neighborhood were quite preliminary, as I was still trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with the project. Originally I was thinking about photographing the pubs from across the opposite street corner that the pub lies on. After receiving feedback on the shots, I decided that the best angle would be from the side and I would try to take a similar shot for all the pubs to keep the photos uniform.

The feedback from my peers suggested that I also explore the pubs at night. I was not able to photograph them on a weekend night at first but went around to begin getting a feel for what the pubs may look like at night.

 

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The above pictures show my first attempts at the nighttime pictures and reshoots for some of the pubs trying to get the same angels. I was not entirely happy with where the project stood at this point, but brought the pictures to the review session and again got good ideas for where to take it.

Originally my focus had been just showing the pubs, with out people during the day and at night. However not having people in the pictures makes it impossible to truly get a feel for the culture each pub inhabits. After all pubs wouldn’t be what they are without the people. Keeping the day and night idea, I decided to take pictures of the pubs on a Saturday night and again the following Sunday afternoon. These are both busy times for pubs, but each shows a very different atmosphere for pubs.

The final product that came out of this process is available for viewing on my new post “Bayswater Pubs”.

 

 

 

Karasu

Upon walking into the exhibition at the Michael Hoppen Gallery, I immediately found myself lost and unsure of what to think of the photographs. The exhibition was of work by Masahisa Fukase who photographed Ravens after his with Yoko Wanibe divorced him. I felt that perhaps my feeling of being lost is a lot how he likely felt post-divorce and that his work reflected that.

The photographs I found myself most drawn to within the gallery were the ones that were not explicitly of ravens. My favorite was one of a cat mischievously looking towards the camera after eating one of the ravens. I felt this picture in particular was quite dark. I don’t know much about how his divorce went and if he took a picture like this intentionally, but to me the cat represented his wife and the Raven was himself. Divorces can be straining and after going through one he may feel as though his wife had taken the life out of him because of how emotionally draining they can be.

The exhibition in its entirety was very well done, I felt it grew on me the longer I was there. More than the emotion behind the pictures, I found it quite interesting how he was able to show ravens in so many different way. Each picture offered its own unique perspective, something that I enjoy.

Bussing By

In a bustling city such as London we are surrounded by strangers that we don’t think twice about. Many city goers in particular spend a lot of their time on public transportation keeping to themselves despite the people they are surrounded by. These pictures capture people riding various double decker buses in the Notting Hill area in London. Each picture shows people through bus windows, some noticing their picture being taken and others not.

If these pictures were to be displayed in a gallery, they would appear in a different way. A full collection of bus windows would appear and put together like a puzzle to complete a full double decker bus in order to complete the project.

 

Saul Leiter Reflection

Walking into Saul Leiter’s exhbit at first look appeared to me like any other photographers exhibition, but at a closer look I found myself completely blown away by his work. I loved that in a lot of the pictures, the focus of it wasn’t always quite clear, Leiter required my full attention to think about the pictures and decipher exactly what is going on in them.

The picture I was most drawn to was one that at first glance, looks like it focuses on the back of a man’s head. However, as I looked closer I realized in the back there is a group of people all looking at something. That something turned out to be a man laying on the ground who looked like he had just been hit by a car. I found it interesting how Leiter choose to draw the viewers’ initial attention away from the purpose of the picture. I later found out that the title of the picture, which I had forgotten to read, led the viewer to look more closely at the picture and find the man laying on the ground.

A common theme among Leiter’s work is an obstructed view of the subjects face. Normally a persons face is a key part of how we identify them and by hiding their faces from the viewer, they can now become anyone. I found that I could put myself in the picture or imagine someone else I knew in the picture as the subject. The missing face allowed me to complete the picture how I choose which I quite enjoyed. I’m not sure if this was Leiter’s intent, but I felt in doing this I was allowed to give the picture my own individual meaning, different than what others would take away.

My favorite part of the exhibit, aside from the pictures themselves was the quotes on the walls above the pictures. There were three quotes in total, but two stuck out to me the most. The first read “it is not where it is or what it is that matters, but how you see it”. This really resonated with me because as described above, I felt like I was able to make my own meaning out of the pictures and this made me feel encouraged by Leiter to continue doing so. It’s all about perspective and I felt that it was something that Leiter really valued. The second quote was farther back in the gallery and read “Photographs are often treated as important moment, but really they are little fragments and souvenirs of an unfinished world”. This is a truly beautiful quote that I now wish I could paint on my own bedroom wall. I don’t know a lot about photography as an art, but I have always had a passion for taking pictures and this quote perfectly encompassed why I love to so much. The world is constantly changing, but the “souvenirs” allows me to go back to different times in my life. A picture I take can bring back so many more memories than what is captured in that single moment, its amazing how much a single photo can mean to me or any other person.

Overall, I felt that for Leiter photography and people viewing his photography was a very personal thing and that was important to him. While I often feel like an outsider in the art world (being new to art), I was really able to connect to Leiters work and appreciated how much I was able to take away from it.