When a guest speaker came to my uni and asked a room full of documentary photographers ‘who considers themselves an artist?’ only one person raised their hand. I never considered my photography art and to be honest I didn’t like the idea that someone else would. When I began my first year I viewed art photography as flimsy yet attractive – not informative while still beautiful like the label of documentary photography.
But over the course of two and a half years I’ve learned a lot about my work and how I perceive documentary photography being labelled as art.
Going out into the world and photographing the public isn’t glamorous at all. While working on Silent Communication the members of the Bridge Club expected me to be around for only a day, to snap some shots and to go. One woman told me she thought I was simply there to show the rest of my class what a Bridge club looks like on the most basic level (which sounds like the objectives of the worst degree in the world). I ended up spending three days a week with them for a few months and by the end of it they were making no attempt to hide the fact that they were sick of me.
Had I been doing photojournalism or another kind of photography course maybe I would have been in and out without them even noticing but I’ve realised that’s not what documentary is at all. Documentary is researching and knowing your subject better than anyone else and that means putting a huge amount of time and effort into immersing yourself into it. It means being so familiar with what you’re working with that you’re able to translate someone else’s thoughts and experiences into images. To not call that art I think would be a pity.
It’s been a while since I last posted but during my break from university I’ve been pondering new ways to represent Alzheimer’s. When I was at uni and constantly working on my project it was like I had a continuous conversation with my father about his Dementia but now the train of thought is lost. I revisit the notebook we kept to share ideas and the notes I made of things he said to me to come up with new images but occasionally I worry that the pictures I make are of made up scenarios and symptoms. However, sometimes I also think that this isn’t such a massive issue… even if these images are not from his point of view they are from mine and that’s still something worth photographing.
I’ve just uploaded one of my first projects! Silent Communication is a series I did for my universities ‘Communities’ module in which I visited a local Bridge club produced a body of work on their body language and social cues.
View the work here!
‘In One Ear (Out The Other)’ is a series that explores Alzheimer’s, both what it is like to live with it first-hand and live with it in another member of the family. This book contains dramatized photographs of ‘scenes’ from my father’s everyday life since being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and conceptual photographs that relate how he sees himself and his ‘new’ life, as well as how I see him.
Although I know how I view my father’s Alzheimer’s I do not know what it’s really like to live with it therefore I had to collaborate with my father to produce the most accurate representation I could. We kept a notebook together so I could let him know what I wanted him to tell me without him forgetting what the project was about and took his notes from that to turn them into photographs. This includes his new hobbies, responsibilities around the house, how he experiences problems with his memory, and how he has been coping with his diagnosis.
Since I first had the idea to base my project around Alzheimer’s I wanted those who read my book to experience as well as they could what my father experiences. Doing this through the format of book was sometimes limiting but I used repetition, the breaking up of images and the occasional pairing of photographs to create the illusion of memory loss and misplacement but also of association and familiarity – everything I see in my father and my father sees in everyday life.
View this project here
I recently received my copy of James Cahill’s Flying Too Close To The Sun, a book looking at mythology and the ways in which their stories have emerged in art, both old and new.
It looks like an incredible read and as I progress I will be posting more about this book and my thoughts on it.
It’s still early days for this blog so I’ll start with some photos from my most recent project ‘In One Ear (Out The Other)’, a series that looks at Alzheimers; what it’s like to live with it first-hand and in the family.
More on this to come!
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