David Thomas Smith – Anthropocene

As a group we were assigned a photographer to research and make a presentation based on the following questions. The presentation had to last ten minutes, which meant we had to all contribute ideas in order to answer the questions fully. The questions, the presentation and my own personal response to the questions can be seen below.


1. How would you describe the journey the photographer / artist takes you on?

2. Are there key stopping off points?

3. What do you learn along the way?

4. Can you find an image that inspires?

5. Create and a 10 minute presentation.


Slide 1


Slide 2Slide2

Slide 3Slide3

Slide 4Slide4

Slide 5Slide5

Slide 6Slide6

Slide 7


1. How would you describe the journey the photographer / artist takes you on?

David Thomas Smith takes the viewer on a journey through which he transforms the appearance of the world we live in, from recognisable aerial photography, to digital images that appear to resemble fractal, geometric patterns. He takes the viewer on both a visual and intellectual journey through the images and the description of the project. Without reading the description of the project the viewer could only experience the visual journey, where it appears that the world is being represented in a geometrical, artistic manner. If the viewer is like me, they would be wondering whether they could buy prints of these images and hang them up on their wall because they look really good! However if the viewer also reads and takes the time to understand the description of the project, they would see the images in a new way. Proving that although an image is said to be able to speak more than a thousand words, sometimes text is needed to help the viewer understand.


2. Are there key stopping off points?

As I identified earlier, the key stopping off point of the journey is when the viewer reads and understands the description, because it is this textual element that gives the project a new dimension. In the description the viewer learns that the images are in fact a comment on capitalism and the effect capitalism has on the landscapes that it uses to make money. For example these landscapes represent industries including but limited to oil, travel and infastructure. Some of the images document the urban landscapes in which the individuals employed by capitalist ventures operate on a daily basis.

3. What do you learn along the way?

The viewer learns to see the world in a different way and encourages them to consider their initial reaction to the images compared to how you view them when you know the meaning behind them. My initial reaction was to check if these images had been made into a product, which is quite interesting and really demonstrates that capitalism and consumerism is everywhere! I think it also comments on the tension a lot of artists feel towards the relationship between being a free artist and needing to sell their work to pay for their living. Some artists may choose to seek employment in another sector to support themselves and their art, however many do choose to sell their art in order to make money. A short investigation into David Thomas Smith’s website and social media shows me that he doesn’t appear to sell his artwork, at least not from an online store anyway. He might indeed enter negotiations about purchasing the pieces he exhibits, however this is not advertised on his website or social media.


4. Can you find an image that inspires?

All the images from this series inspire me, perhaps it would be better to talk about the images that inspire me slightly less. That would be the image that is featured on slide 7 in the presentation above, purely because out of the series featured, it appears to be the less complex visually. This may mean that it is the favourite for another viewer, but I find that the really complex and detailed images earlier in the presentation are much more interesting and visually appealing. The desire to buy them as a series of prints is really strong, however this would probably deconstruct the statement that David Thomas Smith is trying to make.


Overall I was so pleased that Paul Smith introduced me to this photographer because I personally love his work. I will definitely be continuing to follow his work online and if he ever does an exhibition that I would be able to attend, I will definitely go (not just because that might mean I can buy merchandise with his images on them!). However on an academic note, I feel that his work really demonstrates the visual journey that a viewer can be taken on, when you use digital technology to transform the visual content of the image. With this visual technique, David Thomas Smith makes a really sophisticated statement about capitalism and the manifestation of its effects on the environment. In addition to this, this series of work really demonstrates how text can be necessary for the viewer to really understand the meaning behind the project. Without the description of the project, I wouldn’t have been able to know for sure that the interpretation I drew from the images was the same statement as the one the artist intended to make. However there is something really interesting about leaving work open for anyone to make their own interpretation. Of course as we have investigated in previous lectures, the concept of naive realism proposes that there is no way to represent anything in a photograph, so no matter how hard the photographer tries to make a certain statement, it will probably always be interpretably different by the viewer.



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