Sunday, 22 April 2012

Then and now

This morning I took my two albums of prints from my old negatives out to try and find the locations and rephotograph them. An early start meant that there weren't many people about, just like in the old photographs. As luck would have it the sky was overcast too. But that soon turned to rain, which cleared to bright sun.

Some places were easy to find, despite changes, others weren't. What was difficult was getting in just the right place. Something I wasn't too fussed about doing as I have no intention of being able to merge the old and new pictures, but I wanted to get close.

Life would have been a lot easier with an assistant to hold the album I was working from. I just about coped though.

I've now managed to make some composites. It's a tedious process. Tedious processes are not up my street. There's every chance I'll get bored pretty soon and give up...

Needless to say I got sidetracked while hunting out the places to rephotograph. As an exercise the recreation 'project' is interesting, although more interesting to other people I think. It's not much about making pictures, although it is about the nature of photography as documentary and historical record.

This is what I have been thinking about quite a bit of late. Partly from scanning the old negatives, partly from reading. It's made me question whether it's enough to make pictures that exist as individual images, or whether one ought to be making images that stand as a collection. I suppose the ideal is for photographs to be both - images in their autonomous right, and part of a larger body that tells a larger story. Assuming that photographs can tell a story whichever way they are presented.

I read recently that there are three subjects for photographs: people, places and things. It seems to me that this is largely correct. It also makes sense to me that the better, more engaging, photographs combine at least two of these elements. I find portraits more compelling when they place the person in some sort of context. A head-shot relies on the viewer's prejudices too much to provide interpretation. 'Environmental' portraits at least provide clues to a person's identity or character.

Places photographed without people can infer mood, but figures give it scale and some sort of context. Things can exist alone, but they rarely do. Then again abstracting a thing from it's place makes for a new way of looking at it. The whole thing is a tangle of interconnected possibilities!

Probably best to follow your instincts and hope for the best...

The place is a beach, the thing is a pier, there are people - and dogs. It almost works, except the people are an amorphous blob rather than individuals. The picture is about space and balance and colour,  and  dogs. Is that enough? It certainly doesn't quite work for me. Why, I'm not too sure.

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