Digital Story

 

My project officially began when I made the I Researcher video, which was one of the first tasks on the Media Research module. The task was to create a video that engaged with various ideas and concept that I found interesting and could potentially research. These ideas would then be carried forward and used when writing the first essay Sketching The Field.

I identified areas I was interested in, which included:

  • Photography
  • Photojournalism
  • Identity
  • Ownership
  • Control
  • Truth

In my BA in Photography, we were tasked with writing a short paper to present at a symposium, I based mine on photojournalism and the role of the photographer. Part of this involved investigating the relationship between photography and truth, this was an interest that I carried forward into my MA. However on the Phonar (Photography and Narrative) module, I started investigating how the conventional notion of a portrait having to depict someone, is changing in the modern practice of photography. I was specifically interested in the concept of a social media serving as a digital self-portrait, how the user feeds so much information to the social media platform. In addition to this there is a recent phenomenon of people using fake profiles to exploit and trick other social media users, which inspired the TV documentary series Catfish. Truth is a complex concept in actuality, let alone when it is translated into the digital world. It is almost impossible to truly know whether anyone is presenting a truthful identity online. However a truthful identity itself is also a complex concept, identity is fixed and ever changing, which makes it difficult to identify what the ‘true’ self is.

And now? I’m still really interested in the idea of the social media profile as a self-portrait, the way users take on a really artistic role of producing, editing and curating. They also have to negotiate the complex relationship between image and text. But the inspiration behind this activity is questionable, whether users are constructing these self-portraits purely for artistic expression or unconsciously promoting products and companies. Looking back my project doesn’t appear to have changed dramatically, with many of the core ideas staying the same. However I have worked on narrowing it down to engage with one specific idea in more detail. The real change has been the development of myself, coming from a photography background; I had to learn how to become a researcher. What was important to me was to make sure I would be an ethical researcher, not using the privilege of academia to look down on the people I planned to research. Perhaps the most important concept to consider however was reflexivity, how my subject position shapes what I am interested in and how I as a researcher have the potential to shape what I am researching, through the research process itself. I can’t position myself as an objective individual, observing from a distance because I am part of the world I am researching.

 As it is now, my media research project will investigate the concept of the Instagram profile acting as a self-portrait and the surrounding ideas. First of all identity itself, specifically the visual identity that is created using Instagram as an image-based social media. With more users engaging in the practice of self-representation, the process of creating an Instagram profile could be considered as an artistic process. The user creates, edits and curates both images and text, which then form a collective visual identity. Identity is something that changes over time and it is evidenced in the change of the images on Instagram, however with an identity that is continually changing, can it be considered as authentic? This authenticity extends when considering the amount of effort users put into the process of identity creation, when it could be viewed as continuous and free promotion for the products and companies behind the products and services users buy. Users are effectively positioning themselves as brand ambassadors and showcasing the role each product has in their lives, however it is not just the products the users are promoting on Instagram. When considering the ideology of neoliberalism, the continuous identity constructed on Instagram could be viewed as a constant process of self-branding; selling the their identity to the audience of viewers on Instagram.

I also want to consider the role of the smartphone in the process of identity creation on Instagram, as without this handheld technology, Instagram probably wouldn’t exist. The smartphone has undoubtedly changed photography, both accelerated the process and changed the way in which the user engages with the camera. Despite scholars such as Andre Bazin and Walter Benjamin claiming that the hand of the creator is not visible in the practice of photography, in smartphone photography the hand is essential in the creation, editing and posting of Instagram images. I must also consider how the smartphone will most likely become my research tool. As the application of Instagram was designed for the smartphone, I have identified that I must use it to conduct my research.

Instead of researching other social media users, I have made the choice to conduct auto-ethnographic study. I chose to study myself because I was confronted with the complicated task of both identifying which users to research and the ethical issue of observing them and using them in my research without their knowing. After deciding on auto-ethnographic study, I realised that the project was in danger of becoming uninteresting and without meaning behind it. Simply analysing images on my Instagram account wasn’t a creative, exciting research idea.What would be exciting and creative would be to take the idea of authenticity and neoliberal self-branding further. So with this in mind, the current idea for my research project is to create a fake account on Instagram, selling myself as the product. The account will be titled ‘Brand Becky’ and this will form part of the overall title of my dissertation. I will be posting with the aim of attracting followers and gaining as much approval from my posts as possible. As a researcher I will then analyse these posts in relation to identity, self-photography, authenticity and neoliberalism. There are ethical concerns with this research idea, as there were with my original idea, as this project involves the slight deception of the users who view my profile. I aim to counteract this by including an element of satire in the accompanying captions similar to the activity of the Instagram account Sociality Barbie, which was a satirical account commenting on popular Instagram culture with the use of the Barbie in the images. By using an element of satire, I hope to create the premise that my research critical account of identity creation on Instagram. Like Sociality Barbie, when the time for posting material ends, I will post a closing statement that explains the research behind the account; this will work to debrief the users that see the content.

Moving forward I need to begin creating the Instagram account for Brand Becky, and disassemble the previous research account I had already created. I need to establish a process of reflection in order to continually negotiate my own subject position and I need to identify how I will interpret the visual material I create. Above all however I need to continue reading and researching the concepts I plan to engage with in my project.

Commonwealth

Commonwealth is a series of images depicting virtual landscapes, inspired by and made through the video game Fallout 4. This project is an experiment relating to the concept of naive realism, which proposes that reality itself is a flawed concept and therefore the practice of photography can’t depict the entirety of reality as humans perceive it. The series of images also depicts the journey of my character through the environment of the game world, the Commonwealth and my journey as a player into the gaming community. In addition to this, my series of images supports the discussions around considering video games as art and therefore considering the post-photography produced through video games as art too.

My practice could be considered post-photographic as it is challenging the historic analogue belief that photography represents the real, by deliberately capturing the unreal or virtual. In addition to this, the camera plays a different role in the practice of video games, it is the device through which the player sees and perceives the environment. Just as the viewer of the photograph perceives the world through the frame of the photograph, the player of video games sees the word through the lens of this virtual camera. However this lens is the only way through which an individual can interact with the world, which means that each player’s experience of the game is highly specific to what they see when playing.

Commonwealth is a visual project that aims to introduce the viewer to the world of gaming, through an experiment inspired by discussions around naive realism. Perhaps some viewers will look at the landscapes depicted and believe that they are real, however for some it may teach them to look closer and consider that not everything they see in an image is a version of reality, as reality itself is incredibly complex. Lastly I hope that fans of the game Fallout 4 will see these images, recognise the landscape and be reminded of their own experience of the game, their specific play through and their own relationship with the gaming community.

Below is a preview of the photo book Commonwealth and a downloadble PDF

COMMONWEALTH

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.

 

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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.

 

Why Is This Work Important?

Like many other individuals in the world today, I am becoming increasingly involved in the practice and the community of gaming. Fallout 4 is the first game that I have felt really connect me to the community, however when playing I felt extremely morally challenged by the questions being asked of my character and also me as a player. The entire story of Fallout 4 is complex and non-linear, due to the nature of the game, meaning every different player would experience the order of the story different and perhaps not experience parts of it at all. Whilst I appreciated I was playing a game, I also couldn’t avoid my emotional investment in the story towards my character and others. Suggesting that although the game is a fictional piece of entertainment, it could also be considered as a space in which to explore moral questions that might not, or couldn’t be asked in the context of material reality. There are on going discussions about video games being viewed as an art form, with sophisticated graphics that require a high level of computer literate artistry (Travinor 2009). A new emergent medium has been created through these video games, referencing photo-realism but building on it and creating a new stylistic world. The camera represents the device through which the game player both views and explores their world and more recently, through which the player can produce their own form of photographic-type artistry (Giddings 2013). It is this practice of videogame photography that I wish to produce, the images I intend to create will document the locations I associate with my play through of the story and therefore places I believe my character would most likely remember too. In addition to this I aim to capture the environment that my character travelled through in order to progress through the storyline, capturing these in-between places. My choice to engage with the concept of video games and video game art, is because I believe that gaming is becoming more and more important culturally. The industry is growing due to increased technology allowing for a higher calibre of games and because more individuals are becoming part of the gaming community, myself included.

As I have identified, the content in the games can also become an important part of culture as it prompts discussions about both current and futuristic issues, despite them happening in a fictional environment. Likewise, the practice of photography has been recognised as culturally important at engaging with current world issues. In the area of photojournalism and documentary photography especially, photography has served as the means to communicate where perhaps words couldn’t. There have been many iconic images that have stood out and served as the face of some of the most important stories, including but limited to Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Kevin Carter’s image of a starving child and Nick Ut’s image of the girl fleeing a napalm attack. In many of these cases the photographer has been criticised for not intervening in the moment and helping the subject of the photograph, despite these images being the catalyst for social change. Whilst these iconic images may not have directly benefitted the subjects featured in them, in some cases they manage to incite cultural change, a great achievement for a singular image. However there are flaws in photography, past the photographer not always being able to directly help the subject they are photographing. Photojournalism and documentary photography have been the focus of much critical debate about the relationship between photography and truth. The practice of photography itself has historically been labelled as objective, with Walter Benjamin and Andre Bazin identifying the apparent lack of the human hand in the creation of the image, focusing on the mechanical production. However behind the apparently objective mechanics of the camera is an extremely subjective photographer, a human being that has been shaped by their own experience of life. A person that has their own opinion, design preference, style of photography and all of these are communicated through the image; whether the photographer wants them to be or not. Objective photography, in my subjective opinion, is impossible.

So what does a photograph represent if not the an objective truth? And if a photograph doesn’t or can’t represent the truth, then why do we still believe what is depicted in them? So, it would be foolish to suggest that all people believe what they see in photographs to be true. Audiences of images have become increasingly sceptical of the content following various editing scandals in popular media. The first identifiable cases of manipulation in the media can be traced back to the National Geographic Cover of the Pyramids, where the photograph taken was manipulated to bring the two pyramids closer, so that the image could work with the portrait orientation of the cover. The invention and increase of digital technology facilitated a wave new photographs that were altered, shaping certain genres of photography such as beauty; where it is culturally acknowledged that the photograph is probably altered. The theory supporting this scepticism is naive realism, which proposes that the reality we perceive in our own certain way, is definitely reality. In photography naive realism relates to a person looking at an image and believing the photograph to be able to represent the entirety of reality in one frame, despite there being many other elements to reality (such as movement and sound). Naive realism in reality, proposes that as humans we believe that our way of perceiving the world constitutes what reality is, that is because we can perceive colours we believe these colours are reality, despite other animals only being able to perceive shades of black and white.

In my work, I will be using the concept of naive realism, to create a visual experiment. The images that I am producing could be perceived as reality if the viewer doesn’t look closely to pick out the details, some of them are closer to the reality we experience as humans and some of them focus on details that are unrealistic to us (as the game is set in a post-nuclear war environment. These images will aim to serve as an eye-opener for those who believe everything they see in a photograph, whilst appearing to be a normal artistic piece documenting landscapes. However whilst one purpose of this piece is to be a visual experiment on the concept of naive realism, I also want it to explore the sophisticated narrative experience of contemporary gaming. Fallout 4 is a choice-based game, which means that each player of the game has the potential to create a different storyline; from the order in which the player experiences the main storyline, down to the choices that can be made during conversations between characters. This dynamic means that each different player creates their own version of the Fallout 4 story. My set of images document the version of the story that I created through the specific choices I made my gameplay. This work is important because it engages with two concepts that I believe are currently very important culturally: the world of video games and naive realism. Combing these two concepts has allowed me to create a really interesting piece of work that both follows my character’s unique story in the game Fallout 4 and plays on the idea of naive realism, by attempting to trick the viewer into believing that the landscapes in the images are of a real world.

 

List of References:

Giddings, S. (2013) ‘Drawing Without Light, Simulated photography in videogames’ in

Travinor, G. (2009) The Art of Video Games. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell

 

Digital photography: communication, identity, memory

This paper was written by Jose Van Djick from the University of Amsterdam, I chose to read this paper because I hoped it would make a good connection between the use of photography in forming an identity. I have identified important quotes and sections from this stage and reflected on how they could be beneficial for my research project.

 

Photography’s functions as a tool for identity formation and as a means for communication were duly acknowledged, but were always rated secondary to its prime purpose of memory (Barthes 1981[1980]; Sontag, 1973)

First, communication and identity formation are not novel uses but have always been intrinsic functions of photography, even in the analogue days.

This paper acknowledges that whilst communication and identity formation were the prioritised function of photography in the early stages, it has always been part of the practice. Photography has been used for communication and identity formation since the practice began, now it’s role as memory preserver appears to be lessening slightly. Once again, I am being referred to the classic writers on photography such as Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag, which I will definitely pursue in order to strengthen my writing about photography as a practice.

 

While the internet allows for quick and easy sharing of private snapshots , that same tool also renders them vulnerable to unauthorized distribution.

This quotation identifies that the mutability of digital technology, although allowing the owner to reach new parameters in image-making and editing, it also allows other owners of the technology to use it deceptively. When you add the Internet into the equation, the chances of having complete control over digital images in the online environment is near impossible. Most users of the Internet acknowledge that there is a chance their images may turn up in another context on the Internet, when one agrees to the terms of condition, they are agreeing that the company owns a certain type of right over all the content someone posts. The freedom of the Internet poses a risk to the user that posts content, which they believe is forming their identity. If an image a viewer explicitly thinks of as part of themselves appears in another context, perhaps when another user is drawing on the content to form their own identity, it could be detrimental to the first user’s experience on the Internet.

 

…the increased manipulability of photographic images may suit the individual’s need for continuous self-remodelling, but that same flexibility may also lessen our grip on our images’ future repurposing and reframing, forcing us to acknowledge the way pictorial memory might be changed by ease of distribution.

This quotation addresses what I was discussing in the previous section, users of the Internet have to address the likelihood that the content they post might be repurposed by other users. Whether this would be considered ‘bad’ or not, would depend on the imagined emotional copyright the original poster has placed on the content they post. For some users, what they post might be intrinsic to their idea of identity formation, therefore if another Internet user was to take this content and reuse it, the original poster may feel as if part of their identity has been stolen. However if the user doesn’t place an imagined emotional copyright on the content they post, they wouldn’t mind if the other user was to repurpose the image and use it as part of their own identity construction. In fact on the social media site Pinterest, users are encourage to take other images that they see on the platform and ‘pin’ them on their own digital mood boards. The users can choose to upload their own images, or they can create a mood board that is completely made up of repurposed images.

 

Through taking and organizing pictures, individuals articulate their connections to, and initiation into, clans and groups, emphasizing ritualized moments of ageing and of coming of age.

…anthropologist Barbara Harrison (2002: 107) observes that self-presentation – rather than family presentation – is now a major function of photographs.

The so-called cameraphone permits entirely new performative rituals, such as shooting a picture at a live concert and instantly mailing these images to a friend.

A photoblog, rather than being a digital album, elicits entirely different presentational uses: college students use it to keep their distant loved ones updated about their daily life but individuals may also use a photoblog to start their own online gallery. Photobloggers prefer to profile themselves in images rather than words (Cohen, 2005)

This set of quotes addresses the changed practice of photography in a digital social context and the role of the cameraphone in facilitating these actions. The first couple of quotes identify that individuals take and share photographs in order to find their situation in accordance to the other individuals in their life. However whereas the early forms of social photography revolved around family presentation, current forms of photography focus on self-presentation and the construction of individual identity. The cameraphone is the device that allows this changed form of photography, due to the portability and the ability to perform multiple actions, from producing the image to sharing it on social media. Various phenomenons of social photography have been facilitated by what the cameraphone offers the individual such as the increasing popularity of Snapchat and the selfie: a self portrait with the characteristic aesthetic of being taken using a device like a smartphone.

 

Sometimes pictures are accompanied by captions that form the ‘missing voice’ explaining the picture.

It is the voice in the caption that I also wish to research in my project, as it is not just that image that speaks to the viewer; the textual element is just as important in negotiating meaning. However I want to address the fact that choosing a caption that works when accompanying the photograph, is a highly artistic practice. This is where I can bring in discussions from the world of photography in relation to cultural theory, which I believe will give my project a greater depth and produce new forms of knowledge.

 

Digital photography is part of this larger transformation in which the self becomes the centre of a virtual universe made up of informational and spatial flows; individuals articulate their identity as social beings not only by taking and storing photographs to document their lives, but by participating in communal photographic exchanges that mark their identity as interactive producers and consumers of culture.

Some theorists have claimed that personal pictures are the equivalent of identities (‘our pictures are us’) but this claim appears to understate the intricate cognitive, mental, social and cultural processes at work in identity formation (Chalfen 2002).

Having one’s photograph taken, as Barthes observes, is a closed field of forces where four image-repertoires intersect: ‘the one that I think I am’ (the mental self-image); ‘the one I want others to think I am’ (the idealized self-image); ‘the one the photographer thinks I am’ (the photographed self-image); and ‘the one the photographer makes use of when exhibiting his art (the public self-image or imago) (p-13).

Cultural ideals of physical appearance, displayed through photographs and evolving over time, often unconsciously influence the mind’s (idealized) images of self (Lury 2002).

Instead, control, over one’s ‘self portrait’ is a subtle choreography of the four-image repertoires, a balancing act in which photographic images ‘enculturate’ personal identity.

In this day and age, (digital) photographs allow subjects some measure of control over their photographed appearance, inviting them to tweak and reshape their public and private identities.

This section draws on the concept of using photography as a tool for building identity, there is so much in this section. I particularly want to draw on Barthes’ four repertoires, or the four images of self the individual has, including the public self the photographer represents in an artistic context such as an exhibition. I want to propose that the individual on Instagram is drawing on all four of these ideas of self at once, in the fact that the individual is creating and curating an image of self by posting material on Instagram, regardless of whether the individual is physically visible. The images posted on a user’s Instagram account could be considered as a collective self representation and the user is the curator of that. Therefore the user is viewing themselves and their own identity, as both the subject of the image with an emotional investment in their own self-image and as a critical observer, the creative professional that is curating their self-image.

This paper has been really beneficial in supporting some of the concepts I have been proposing, such as using photography to express and build of a representation of the individual’s identity. This paper has examined the shift in the priority of photography, from memory preservation to identity formation. However when I consider this paper in relation to Andre Bazin’s writing on the ontology of photography, I feel I can strive to create a new take on photography in the context of Instagram. When an individual is creating an identity through imagery and publishing this identity on a platform such as Instagram, it could be considered that the platform is the basis for memory preservation, preserving the identity of the individual. However when creating this collective visual identity, the individual becomes both the subject and photographer, the creator and curator. The individual in question takes on an emotional and professional role in the construction (and perhaps preservation) of identity. I will further research the reference in this paper when it draws on Barthes and the four repertoires of identity and relate this to my own research.

New visualities and the digital wayfarer: Reconceptualizing camera phone photography and locative media

This is one of the first papers I looked at when working on my Sketching the Field essay, where I had to identify and establish an area to research on and research accordingly. This paper is by Larissa Hjorth and Sarah Pink, both of which are writers who are consistently producing new knowledge about the role of visual technology in culture. Both researchers are from the the RMIT University in Australia, so despite being to identify certain cultural similarities between the UK and Australia, I have to acknowledge that this article was made about locative media in the location of Australia. I was interested in this paper because it touches on Instagram and other photography-based apps and the role that this portable creative technology has on the subjects they researched. I have identified specific quotes and ideas in this paper that I believe will be important and relevant for my own research project.

 

On average, Barbara takes a picture via Instagram at least twice a day. She views the application as a succinct way to mark a place and time for both her own personal memory and also as a sign as part of her journey throughout life.

This paper conducted a series of interviews with 10 participants who acknowledged the use of photo-sharing apps such as Instagram in their lives. Obviously this quotation is a result of the data collection, the writers are able to make statements about user activity, because the user themselves have allowed the researchers to analyse them. These interviews and the data the researchers have collected are constantly drawn upon in the research paper in order to support the theory that they have engaged with, in order to produce new forms of knowledge about the subject. It is this data collection, that provides the evidence and support behind the notions the researcher tries to make. Without this data, the researcher can only make assumptions about what could be happening culturally; the data allows the researcher to make a statement and say that a cultural activity is definitely happening.

 

Talking about where you are provides an excuse to talk and share with your absent copresent (Gergson 2002) friends.

Echoing the sentiment of the postcard, sharing camera phone images says, “I’m here and I want to share it with you” (Hjorth 2005)

I have made comparisons the the travel imagery on Instagram and the dynamic of the postcard, however now I have a quotation in writing to be able to support this. I will be looking up this citation in the list of references for this paper and reading Hjorth’s piece of text in which this quote originates. Often when writers use a quote and cite it, they are pointing the reader to go and explore another piece of text, that despite it being relevant to the project, it probably couldn’t be included because it might take the paper off in a different direction. There are quite a few of these quotes that Pink and Hjorth have embedded in this research paper, that most likely points to another research project of theirs, which would provide really good theoretical support for the discussions in this paper. The other works of these authors would no doubt support my own research idea, therefore it would be beneficial for me to read them.

 

 

Through sharing playful pictures of places as part of everyday movements, camera phone practices provide new ways of mapping place beyond just the geographic: they partake in adding social, emotional, psychological, and aesthetic dimensions to a sense of place.

In-between places like trains, busses or the walk between one building to another are no longer contexts for just “killing time”. These wayfarer spaces, as an embedded part of everyday life, have now become key moments where new forms of visuality (Ingold 2007), and sociality are generated, through camera phone photography and the digital copresence associated with locative media.

Hjorth and Pink transform the notion of place and movement in this paper, in relation to the use of locative, portable media devices. These quotations identify the transformation of the concept of place, to not just consider the physical location of the subject, the photograph or the content of the photograph. Physical presence is not the most important element of social media, the concept of copresence is perhaps more important, as the viewers of the image and the content are together in the same virtual location. Place could also refer to the subject/photographer’s emotional location in the world, the culture and communities that they associate themselves with, how they place themselves in relation to other people in the environment. The notion of place also becomes interesting when you introduce the fact that many people make images when they are moving geographically. Which place becomes more important, the place at which they choose to use their cameraphone to post a photograph, or the location in the image they are posting? How can you identify where a social media user is, when they are posting on a vehicle that is moving like a bus or train? The portability of media technology provides new discussions around the term place, which I will certainly draw upon in my research project.

 

The two moments in everyday mobile media practice we have opened this article with are examples of the millions of intimate media vignettes across the world that are at once photographic, social, locative and mobile. 

Here the authors discuss how the material produced and the activity of these Instagram users can be considered as photographic, social, locative and mobile. They are photographic because of the actuality that camera phone photography has become embedded in culture. They are social because they encourage interaction, even if it is just from copresent friends. They are locative because this activity can be geographically placed, due to many photo-sharing apps allowing the user to tag their location. They are mobile, as the images are most commonly made when the subjects are moving through different environments, both geographically and culturally.

 

By movement we refer to the idea spatially as well as temporally, with many camera phone filters romanticizing the now into analogue-looking genres.

By movement we refer to the idea that we refer to the idea that we inhabit and at the same time are creating a world in movement, an ongoingness, that we contribute to through our own mobility and that of which mobile media play an increasingly inevitable part.

Ingold in fact contrasts wayfaring to what he calls transport.

Place, therefore as conceptualized here follows Massey’s notion of place as “open” a “constellation of processes” forever in movement, changing and unfinished (2005).

This means a departure from the dominant “network”paradigms in visual/media culture and Internet studies, towards a focus on “emplacement” whereby people, images and technologies are always situated, in movement, and part of and constitutive of place (Pink & Hjorth, 2012).

These quotations all relate to the concept of movement and how, like the concept of place, this paper talks about movement in a different manner. Movement in this paper does not necessarily exclusively refer to the physical transportation of the user/subject, but broadens to consider an more abstract notion of movement. This abstract concept of movement includes and refers to the environments the users themselves make by using Instagram, moving through their own creativity, their identity and their place culturally. Movement does sometimes refer to the fact that the user/subject is travelling, and that photographs were made whilst the subject was travelling, however movement should not always be considered to mean physical travel. Hjorth and Pink propose a shift from considering environments to be made up of networks, to considering the theory of emplacement, which is made up of these abstract notions of place and movement and how the subject is situated in them.

 

As Pink has argued, photographs are not simply about what is represented in them, but they are emergent from what was above, below, in front, and behind. They stand for not just the thing or person that they depict, but the trace made through the world by the photographer who has produced them (Pink 2012).

Pink’s take on photography and representation in this section is really interesting and I definitely want to find in which text she discusses this further by tracing the citation to the references section. This quotation acknowledges that the photograph is not just a static, fixed moment in time that is contextless. A photograph is shaped by the photographer who made it, the content that is being photographed and the device that is being used to make the image. The photographer themselves are shaped by their own life experience and the environment they are photographing is shaped by their presence. In this case Pink is referring to the subjective influence these photographers have on their images, from tracing the various routes they take in their lives, to evidence of their design preferences when editing the image. The viewer of the image can also trace the voice of the photographer in the accompanying caption by their use of language.

 

Here it is important to recognize that all forms of presence (including face-to-face) and intimacy are mediated: if not by technology then by language, gestures, and memories (Hjorth, 2005; Mantovani & Riva, 1998).

Despite some proposing that the communication through social media is heavily mediated, the writers here remind the reader that all forms of communication are mediated. The speaker and the listener, even in physical face-to-face communication are still presenting themselves in a certain type of way and choosing the manner through which to communicate to each other. However the mediation appears to become more complex on social media, particularly Instagram because of the communication being split between visual, textual and sometimes through sound in the case of a video. I want to extend this concept of mediation and communication and relate it to discussions in the photography world about the image and truth. Representation and mediation are two concepts that collide on social media such as Instagram and I believe it is important to investigate that.

 

Through the narrative of the trajectory of the photograph the story brings together the affective, material, social, and temporal elements of the routines and rhythms of everyday life.

Far from banal, a-contextualized images, these pictures deploy the newest of filters and photographic tricks to give a sense of the poetic and unique and are then overlaid electronically onto places.

These two quotes describe the photography of the Instagram user, not dismissing the fact that they record their everyday rituals, but rather acknowledging that this practice of photography is central to the lives of many. The photographs are an important part of the subject’s creative expression and therefore become important for the researcher. The seemingly uncreative photograph of an everyday task or journey, is actually an important moment of creativity for a subject that perhaps would not engage with photography if they didn’t have a cameraphone or an app like Instagram. As a researcher I’d like to focus on the important role of Instagram as one of the photo-sharing apps available in facilitating and encouraging creativity from people that wouldn’t perhaps self-identify as artists.

 

This paper has been incredibly useful, in both supporting the other research I have done and giving me new ideas and concepts to research next. I have identified that Larissa Hjorth and Sarah Pink are influential writers who have written a number of texts on subjects that are extremely relevant to my research. Therefore I will be seeking other work from these two authors in order to build on the research I have already done and to see if there is anything that is discussed in the other papers that I might have missed in this one.

 

 

Research – Presentation Strategies

Having not taken part in an exhibition before, I wasn’t very familiar with the different options I could take for my own project, therefore I needed to conduct research to widen my knowledge and figure out what would be the appropriate decision for my project. My tutors had recommended I seek the installation shots of the different projects or to visit them in person if possible, this would enable me to see how the prints were displayed and how they worked within the particular environments they were exhibited. I attempted to research a wide variety of different artists, what their work investigates and how they were/are displayed. This would give me my own ideas as well as seeing what sort of methodology is appropriate for the work that is of a similar nature to mine.

 

Kennard Phillipps is a collaborative movement making work since 2002 to respond to the invasion of Iraq; the work seeks to challenge the concept of power and war internationally. Their cause has brought various different people together offering a range of skills to create work for different environments including gallery spaces, printed matter and online spaces. The piece I am particularly interested is also based on a politician, in this case the subject is George Osbourne and his quote ‘Britain is turning a corner’. The piece uses newspapers with economic figures as the basis before using alternative methods to overlay another design and element of subject matter.

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The piece is printed on newspaper which is a really interesting choice to use when responding to political and controversial matter. There is always a subtle indication that anything printed on newspaper, is the news from professional news organisations, our traditional gatekeepers who are meant to have a responsibility towards the public and publish the truth. This notion has been combined with the practice of politics, where information is given to the public in a matter that is meant to sound as positive as possible, being manipulated as much as they can to make sure that no negatives can be taken. A speech or a promise from a politician is always taken with a pinch of salt as they can be no way of knowing what they are telling is true, or what they have chosen not to tell. The medium of print also means that people can really get in close and look at the numbers and figures behind the artwork, looking at the detail may broaden their interpretation of the project. The act of taking something in their hands and looking at each part of it is not available in the online spaces of the Internet, the only function that comes close to this is the ability to sometimes ‘zoom in’ however this does not always achieve the best results. This is something I really need to consider with my images, I had previously thought of displaying them on a screen as this would indicate I am investigating a digital concept, however this would make it hard for the viewer to see the detail in my images. In a printed version of my image you can really see the individual numbers more clearly and a static print on a wall would be much more effective for the viewer and radically improve their viewing experience. These prints could either be separate prints featured on the wall, or all of the images could form a printed book. This piece has also opened up another avenue for my project, using alternative materials to print on as I have identified the newspaper has brought another element to the project. I need to consider whether the materials I use for my project compliment or destruct the notion I am trying to express.

 

Christian Marclay is an artist who explores the relationship between fine art and sound, attempting to produce pieces which explores the dynamics of both mediums. From January to April in 2015 there was an exhibition showcasing a vast majority of the work from Marclay’s work which in turn, demonstrated the vastly different outcomes each project produces. I was particularly interested in the work exhibited in box frames, Marclay took sheet music from songs and put them in frames with warped bullseye glass. The songs themselves indicate onomatopoeia, or reference the art of painting which Marclay envisioned having a dripping, wet sound, therefore the frames reflect this notion by replicating a raindrop.

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These box frames are a really interesting idea and they really help to make the concept behind Marclay’s images clear. The space between the sheet music and the glass means that the audience can still see part of the music to recognise what it would be, without the warped glass becoming too much of a restriction. However the glass adds an extra element which works to convey the idea of water Marclay identified in the creative process. The actual box frame would indicate to me that these portraits are a study, in this case a study of sound. The brown frame, the white mount and the slightly aged tone to the paper of the sheet music all aesthetically reference zoology studies in which the scientist would preserve species such as insects. The idea of preservation and observation could be really effective for my project as it would indicate I am preserving a method of portraiture that might become common place. It could create the idea of the human race being preserved in a way that is convenient and legible for computer technology. In this case it would appear the box frames are a good idea, however when referring back to my reflection on the Kennard Phillips work, I remembered how important is was for the viewer to get close to a piece with detail, especially if the detail is the most important part, not the effect of the overall artefact. The distance between the glass of the box frame and the content would be detrimental to my project as it would obscure the view from the viewer and make their viewing experience limited as a result. The viewer needs to be able to get up close to my prints and examine the detail, a box frame would not allow this close interaction as the glass would act as a barrier.

 

Emma Critchley is a visiting professional to our course and previously gave a talk on her artwork before making herself available for tutorials on her work. She showed many installation shots of her work in the talk and this enabled me to really see how the work interacted and existed in the physical environment. She also explained that the creative process can either be impacted by the intended environment or the work itself can demand a specific type of space to be effective. Critchley’s work ‘Figures of Speech’ was an abstract investigation into the way communication is made and it is altered by a change of environment. Critchley photographed people speaking particular words underwater, capturing the release of air made with each element of speech.

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These images are displayed in a very clean, abstract style with no captioning or artist statement, the work stands alone within the exhibition alongside the other elements of the project. They are displayed in thin black frames, so as not to distract from the image content, working to merge into the black background of the image. The photograph evidences that the pieces also have a specific lighting set up, the spotlights proving the viewer with the ability to examine the images in more detail, however the glass could work to make the viewing experience less effective because of the glare. Without being at the exhibition myself I can’t criticise the choice of glass without seeing how the pieces react being in a spotlight. Lighting is definitely something I should consider when producing my pieces and picking the presentation method, as the background of my images is mainly black, having glass may make it harder for the viewer to see what is in the image. With Critchley’s images it doesn’t matter as much because the viewers don’t have to get very close to the pieces due to the size, however since my pieces are small the viewer would have to get closer, increasing the risk that they might not be able to see. However the use of the black frame is something I can definitely apply to my own project, if I was going to use a frame it would need to be dark to merge into the subject matter and not distract from the image content.

 

I was recommended to research the artists of the Carroll Fletcher gallery, as they experiment with concepts and issues centric to the digital revolution. The first I chose to research was Thomson and Craighead, who have produced many different pieces of work which have operated in both gallery spaces and online environments. They often adapt the pieces to suit the different environments which can help to extend the lifecycle of the project, their piece Beacon began as a gallery installation however now that the installation is over, a digital version is now featured on the Tate website.

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Online Version

 

Although the gallery version looks different from the online version it doesn’t necessarily mean that the project itself has changed or become less effective. It has simply had to adapt to suit different environments, the flip screen installation wouldn’t be able to operate online however it would have had a powerful physical resonance in the gallery space. The online web version wouldn’t have had such a great effect in the space of a gallery, but it does have the ability to withstand and exist continually whereas the gallery installation has a limited amount of time to make the statement. I need to consider the longevity of my own project and decide whether I need to make certain steps to adapt the project to exist out of the gallery space once the degree show and free range are both over. My project needs to be able to exist afterwards online to continue making the statement and also to improve my exposure as a photographer after the exhibitions have finished.

Another project from Thomson and Craighead is London W1W which was exhibited in the Museum of London in 2013, existing as a series of fly posters. The pieces consisted of a number of tweets, statuses and other social media activity over a specific portion of time which where then made into artwork and pasted on the wall in location.

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In contrast to the previous piece, this body of work is very perishable, only meant to exist for a short amount of time. These fly posters will only exist until new exhibitions are put over the top of it, they will either scraped off or painted over. This presentation method is extremely appropriate for the subject matter it is investigating, the limited life span of this project represents the fleeting nature of social media, each thread representing the raw thoughts of the user at a time. The idea of the piece having to be removed or painted over represents the individual trying to change their representation by removing the content they have chosen to share, however like with the physical piece of art work, there will always be a trace of that information left behind. Although this piece of work won’t last and be viewed continually like Beacon will be, this presentation method is extremely effective and works completely for the concept. This is definitely a different element I hadn’t considered before, when seeing how Beacon would continually be seen by audiences, something I believed I wanted for my project. However after being introduced to another form of presentation which is although limited in time, is proven to be more effective I have found I need to be open minded and respect what is right for my project, not just what would be good for exposure. Ultimately if the project isn’t effective, it won’t stay in the public eye for very long which would mean my profile as an artist and photographer would suffer as a result.

 

Constant Dullaart is another artist from the Carroll Fletcher gallery who works with highly digital concepts, the website of Dullaart is an artefact in itself with a self-scrolling device and a digitally  creative site heading and subject bar. Dullaart’s project’s work both in an online space and a gallery environment, similar to Thomson and Craighead’s Beacon, however there isn’t such a big alteration in the aesthetic and appearance. The piece of work ‘Jessica.ps’ was shown first as a gif which explored the transformation a photograph can make when it is highly edited; this is relevant because the original image was one of the first cases of Photoshopping to an extreme standard before. This is a reconstruction of the original however as there was an attempt to delete and destroy the image for good after the discovery.

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The piece was also adapted to also exist effectively in a gallery space, taking different stages of the editing process and displaying them as still images. Although the form of the project has changed, the original aesethetic is still very similar, allowing the viewer to relate to the project in pretty much the same way as they did before. The only difference is that they don’t see the project as a moving image feature, they view the stages in a slower time scale. I hadn’t previously considered trying to make my images into some other format to follow the exhibition however this is an aspect of my project I really need to make a decision about. whether my images only exist as images after the degree show and free range, or whether to change the nature of it to suit a different space. I probably won’t be able to exhibit again for a while and there is no great need to exhibit the project again following two major shows however I do want my project to exist online after the two different shows end. Therefore I need to think about how my project will currently operate in an online space and/or how to change it to make it more effective in a digital space. I could consider changing it into a gif, this would mean that all of my work is seen at once and none of the image are seen out of the context of the series. It also means that the viewer can make comparisons between the images throughout the course of the moving image piece, the fact that a gif is on loop will enable this comparison process to continue. However I wouldn’t be able to include the captions beside the actual images unless I used a different image file; one with the caption embedded or placed on a border around the content. Although gifs can be highly effective, this is clear from Dullaart’s work, I need to be able to justify that this option is appropriate for my project.

 

Reflection:

Overall the research I have done into presentation methods has been really useful, I have opened my mind up to new methods of presentation as well as ruling some of them out. I can appreciate how the different approaches are effective for each project however as the concepts are different to mine, I shouldn’t necessarily utilise them for my own work. I can however, keep them in mind when I next produce a body of work, as it may be that one of these methods I have researched would be perfect. The black frames from Emma Critchley’s work could be appropriate for my work however I am concerned about the glass and whether the glare would be too much. The fly poster approach is so effective for the concept Thomson and Craighead were investigating, but it isn’t effective for mine, I need to reflect that this project is a study of a moment in time, therefore it needs a sense of durability. One aspect both Thomson and Craighead and Dullaart brought my attention to, was the form my project should and would take after the exhibition time was over. I knew I wanted it to exist after the exhibition was over and that would most likely be in an online space, but I hadn’t put any thought into whether I should adapt the project and change it to suit a digital environment. However I now have some ideas to experiment with in relation to my exhibition and the life of my project afterwards which I will go on to pursue.