Community is a social group with common interests and characteristics. Various photographers have explored this idea within their photography, exploiting various communities.
Chris Kilip documented North England for 20 years. His images were produced throughout the 70s and 80s, which, looking at the images now, explores the disappearing ways of life compared to modern time. It also shows the history of Northern England, exploiting this to the modern community that lives there now.
Ciara Leeming photographed disappearing communities in 2006 which consisted of showing the disappearing house within an estate. This also communicated a break down within the community. The series consists of moving image and audio to add a more emotional impact to the work. In 2009, she photographed a gypsy community, which also combined audio with photographs to study the community and their way of life, destroying any speculation within the public. 2013 introduced her series Roma Britain which showed the Romanian families living in Britain showing a changing community.
Other photographers who studied community are Anita Benjamin who photographed a community in Somerset who lived a sustainable lifestyle, Niall McDiarmid travelled Britain taking 800 portraits to show a portrait of Britain, and martin Parr photographed a diverse community in Birmingham on St George’s day, something very gentle compared to his other work. Photovoice is an online group who give the community a camera to express themselves and speak out, allowing us to see deeper into their community as if we were living in it ourselves.
Photography is a tool which connects the world and educates us about other communities. Technology has played a vast part in the decline of analogue photography, with people using their phones more than their eyes. Social media has taken over people’s eye – people are more interested in taking photos to post online than living the experience.
Antoine Geiger suggested that the impact of devices on our lives has pulled us in and made us self-obsessed. The introduction of the selfie has raised this concern also, suggesting we have become self narcissists. People are only bothered by what people online think of them, desperate to get “likes”.
The anti-social camera phone has been accused of killing photography as it gives everyone the opportunity to do it themselves, especially with apps such as Instagram. Nick Knight was the first photographer to actually shoot a Diesel advert on an iPhone because he “doesn’t care how technology works” and is only interested in the visual outcome.
Is this actually the beginning? New forms of image making are being introduced consistently such as the phantom camera which can shoot 720 frames per second, creating 30 seconds worth of slow motion footage. It would seem that digital was just the beginning of the change.
Is it important to “embed” in order to portray a true representation of a community
Stacey Kranitz made the series “Skatopia”, based on the lives of the people living within this community. She wanted to create images that give people dignity and not make fun of them, allowing the public a new view. She enjoyed the rituals and characteristics of Skatopia, saying they were “beautiful”. She enjoyed the project so much because of the similarities to her own life, which enabled her to heal her broken childhood. Skatopia’s own value systems were of interest to Kranitz because of her middle class upbringing which was very strict. Kranitz has been shooting this project for 5 years and is still developing it showing how time consuming it can be, but when in need of the right vision to portray the community it all becomes worth it. Kranitz was able to connect with the people as the showed a strong similarity to her and the project allowed her to live life the way she didn’t when she was younger. Even when not shooting, Kranitz visits the people she meets in Skatopia to broaden her project. This enable the project a stronger narrative and helps the viewer to feel more involved with the characters, understanding them on a deeper level.
A collaboration project in Falmouth allowed the new community to connect and build relationships with the existing community through photographic exhibitions. It gave them the chance to share experiences of that community and educate others on the history of the community of Falmouth and surrounding areas. Without the relationships between the people the representations wouldn’t be honest. It adds more narrative to the visual book and builds more depth to the story.
Even though in my opinion I feel embedding is more beneficial for a true representation, it does have some negative and ethical impacts. When working with people you don’t know you can’t always gain trust easily enough to get the right representation. As the photographer you have a duty to respect and represent the community you are following in a way that they deem suitable. Building a relationship with a model can be time consuming so requires a lot of dedication. There is also a question of being too involved which some people feel is unethical and can make it too emotionally difficult for the model and photographer.
In my opinion I think embedding yourself can actually be really beneficial to the way the work is viewed and on a personal level. Yes it may have its negatives, but it allows people to reflect, compare and heal themselves, as well as highlighting these communities to the public to engage new opinions.
Listening through images – what does this mean?
Audible Imagery: Sound and Photography presents artists that juxtapose imagery and sound by overlapping them with new imagery and sounds presenting a literal way of listening to an image and engagement with imagery.
I have my own opinion on the term, thinking of it in a more metaphoric way – I feel that it means communicating ideas through an image, trying to engage thoughts and opinions about controversial subjects. It is a way of enforcing change, making people face a truth which may not be seen but not by physically telling them. Listening to a photograph is seeing what’s behind the photograph, the bigger contextual picture that requires thought about the image and challenges the audience to understand.
- Pantall, Colin and Gemma Padley. “Kicking Against the Pricks”. British Journal of Photography Nov 2013. (2013): 34-39. Print.
- Blyth, Jon and Matt Pontin. Audience In The Community 2008. 1st ed. Falmouth: Fotonow, 2008. Print.