I started this module of my OCA Photography course on the day David Bowie died. What struck me on that day was the excerpts from the video of Lazarus (his last) shown on the BBC news. Bowie in bed with his head bandaged, reaching up in distress and ultimately disappearing into the wardrobe for the last time.
That album and those images to me are already iconic. I can’t get them out of my head. If I could make work as emotive and as accomplished as that I would move into the realm of greatness. This module “Digital Image and Culture” is my opportunity to work towards that goal.
After opening the package, ordering books and organising my system, the next step was to get on with it.
The first exercise is a pre course warm up:
“To re photograph every photographic image seen on one single day, to arrange them in a grid and write a short reflective account about this exercise”
I was going to Liverpool on Saturday 16th January to attend a study group meeting with Keith Roberts to look at his exhibition of the portraiture of Edward Chambré Hardman (1898 – 1988). On the same day I also visited the exhibition in the Liverpool Museum of Stephen King “Dry Your Eyes Sweetheart” and spent some time in the library studying the Stephen King book “Lewis’s Fifth Floor” which shows some excellent portraits of past Lewis’s employees in the context of the fifth floor.
I decided to complete the re-photographing exercise within the journey to and from Liverpool and during my time in the city. In all, I took 128 pictures and could probably have taken more. These pictures were randomly selected to try to present a balanced approach to the exercise. They have been reduced to 90 and printed out as contact sheets as follows:
Now comes the interesting part, the analysis.
I presumed that most photographs would fall into the category of advertising and that the majority of these would be fashion.
I divided the photographs into categories and counted how many pictures fell into each category:
- Advertising 65
- Exhibition 20
- Beautiful Picture 1
- Book 2
- Newspaper 1
- Map 1
- Pub Sign 1
So my theory that the majority of the pictures would be related to advertising was unanimously confirmed.
I then split advertising into 5 main categories as follows and gave a score to each category:
- Fashion 16
- Food and Drink 12
- Events / Film / Theatre / Museum 16
- Travel 9
- Miscellaneous 12
The interesting conclusion is that fashion did not dominate as I had predicted. Food and drink were very high up the list, higher than expected but so was travel. Museum etc. was unnaturally high because of the district I was working in and the fact that I visited two major exhibitions.
Making up the miscellaneous items were such subjects as healthcare, shops, gym membership and items of social interest.
When viewing the photographs (more closely than usual) I was brought closer to each individual subject for not much more than a split second. This was enough to bring the subject into my conscious mind from the sub conscious. I am trying to evaluate whether that means that the subject becomes more engrained when it enters the conscious or whether the sub conscious is enough to have an influence. For example when I look at a facebook account on the web, I ignore all advertising and until recently I believed I came through unscathed. Now I am starting to form the opinion that I am being influenced by every image whether treated consciously or not.
There are a lot of un answered questions:
- Does the size and clarity of the photograph matter? (some adverts for example are purposely blurred).
- Does the location matter?
- Is colour more influential than monochrome?
- Does a beautiful woman attract?
I realise that many organisations carry out research in these areas but I can’t help thinking that there are many conclusions which result in bad results.
- A high percentage of the images viewed last Saturday were powerful enough to substantially influence my being.
- Still photography remains an extremely powerful medium. Moving images are gradually taking over but there is a time and a place for both.
- Consistent themes were difficult to find. Bright colours, good lighting, appropriate picture size, clarity and position were all important.
- The blurred image did not work.
The most powerful images for me were shown on a huge illuminated screen, in view from Lime Street Station, where the pictures changed approximately every minute. So every traveller could not fail to miss the display and saw several images while passing by.