Interview with Marcus Bleasdale

My research paper has been inspired by my experience studying the module Phonar as it conveyed an urgency to adapt the practice of photojournalism to confront the complexities made more complicated by the digital age which I wish to replicate in my research paper. The Phonar interviews with practitioner such as Marcus Bleasdale addressed ideas that I could use so I went back over the notes I made in relation to Phonar and evaluated their relevance to my research paper.

Marcus Bleasdale is an award winning photojournalist however like Sebastio Salgado, he didn’t start his career in photography; he started working in a bank. Whilst working at the bank Bleasdale started experimenting with photography and the crises in the Balkans caught his attention, as it did with many members of the bank. However whilst the people around him were thinking of conflict in terms of their own investment, Marcus sympathy towards the victims and subsequently left his job to pursue a career in photography. After attempting documentary photography Marcus Bleasdale reflected on his practise and identified that he needed to be educated in how to effectively construct a narrative. After studying photography he then began his career in photojournalism, perhaps not knowing how effective his work would be.

Bleasdale began work in the Democratic Republic of Congo examining the conflict and those affected by it; working his way down the river documenting the population. Previous bodies of work produced by documentary photographers didn’t depict any change whereas Bleasdale wanted to expose the truthful situation rather base his work on a preconception. Marcus Bleasdale professes that photography is working to understand the concept or issue and the impact on the people involved; if your thought process is right you can effectively engage and reflect. Engaging on a personal level is extremely important to make the work strong, if there is no passion behind the content the higher authorities won’t be persuaded to instigate change. Bleasdale was personally affected and engaged by the conflict in the Congo where the issues of commerce were exposed; consumers of electric products are fuelling conflict perhaps without realising it. The body of work produced by this examination of the Congo was ‘The Rape Of A Nation‘ and can be considered as the most well known content from Marcus Bleasdale; however despite the strength of the work there is a reason for this awareness.

Marcus Bleasdale has identified along with other professional such as Fred Ritchin and Stephen Mayes, that magazines are not the only source anymore; digital technology has expanded the capacity to reach people. A photographer is an author of an idea and as such they are relied on to both produce and publish the work; the supplier role of the photographer has been extinguished. Therefore as publishers the photographer must draw on inventive methods to get their work seen by different audience; perhaps considering using an existing body of work in a different manner. A body of work can be constantly evolving, assuming different forms to engage with different audience, Marcus Bleasdale has taken this idea and applied it to ‘The Rape Of A Nation’ through the process of collaboration. It was taken and transformed by visual artist Paul O’Connell into a series of comics which were created to engage with a younger audience. In extension Bleasdale is also developing a video game called ‘Blood Minerals’ which will reflect ideas about The Congo conflict and aim to address another demographic. Bleasdale stresses that it is important to include a take action feature as without one, the audience can be captivated by the piece of work but without a means of taking action both everyone involved with the image are rendered helpless.

Evaluation:

I would consider Marcus Bleasdale to be a photojournalist who has confronted some of the challenges to photojournalism and negotiated them therefore he is a perfect example to use in my research paper. In particular I wish to reference him in association to the context and form of the final visual outcome, his body of work Rape Of A Nation has been shaped and adapted by him to engage and suit different audiences. This also means that his work has been adapted to suit many different environments which is the influential factor for the change of form; for a younger audience he chose comics, to engage with digital natives he chose to make a video game. I believe that one of the current challenges to photojournalism is the environment in which it is perceived as this can have a factor in how the work is read. I plan to use Marcus Bleasdale and contrast him against practitioners such as Broomberg and Chanarin who have made work that comments on photojournalism however if they were read and seen in the same environment it would reduce the capacity of each piece of work to communicate effectively. Overall it has been really useful to revisit this interview in order to discuss Marcus Bleasdale’s practice and ideology accurately.

 

Reference: Bleasdale, M. (2008) Rape of a Nation [online] available from <http://www.marcusbleasdale.com/index.php#mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&s=0&p=0&a=1&at=0&gt; [5 January 2015]

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