• Where does that leave the photographer? As storyteller or history writer?
• Do you tend towards fact or fiction?
• How could you blend your approach?
• Where is your departure from wanting/needing to depict reality?
Make some notes on these questions in your learning log.
Here we are invited to consider the work of William Eggleston, particularly his photographs of Memphis in the late sixties and early seventies. He has concentrated on the evidence of existence rather than the individuals themselves. Without the overbearing presence of a person, whom we are by nature compelled to study, the artifact is allowed its own life. The viewer is invited to study the thing itself without the requirement to consider the relationship between thing and owner.
Sometimes this exposes certain absurdities, odd characteristics, which are simply not see when paired with a person. The photograph of the child’s tricycle, for example, is given an oddly majestic feel by the use of low viewpoint. All kinds of meanings and ‘narratives’ may be inferred by the imaginative beholder, none of which need have any basis in fact. The options are open.
It’s not too fanciful to wonder whether the objects have a life of their own – a frequent theme of the Disney animation. There’s certainly an object voice, one which speaks of its interactions and experiences in the human world. Is this the storytelling capacity of the object-image? It could equally be an example of historical record. Perhaps it depends, as it so often seems to, on the disposition of the viewer.
One possibility of ‘blending the approach’ might be to adopt the very means Eggleston employs – to extract the object from its usual context and to ‘oddify’ it, show an uncommon aspect or detail which gives a sense of unfamiliarity.
I’ve thought about the ‘departure point’ question before; I often try to introduce some intrigue to my work, obviously with varying degrees of success. In looking at other people’s work I am sometimes struck by the way they have revealed an aspect of something, a person or perhaps a place, which I would not have seen myself if I had been looking over their shoulder. They have shown me something new in the familiar.