Discussions related mainly to the assignment, which was done under lockdown or near-so conditions. In sleepy West Dorset the most calamitous event for hundreds of years produced few visual consequences. There was little traffic to begin with but that increased quite quickly as restrictions eased and people took a mile, an inch being just the encouragement they needed. Shop closures resulted in deserted streets; like many small market towns, the victualling trade here has migrated to edge-of-town superstores leaving the high street without core retail activity. Some people could be seen wearing masks, but not many.
The ‘other’ manifested itself in the form of visitors from ‘outside’; anybody from out of county was suspicious but the inhabitants of London were of most concern. I use some Facebook groups to locate subjects for photographs and many posters in these groups quickly became fearful, anxious and outright vitriolic. The main thrust of the comments was that these are our beaches and our pubs and our car parks and our toilets. Any visitors would be sure to bring the virus with them and infect our vulnerable residents.*
The reaction of the Facebook denizens was particularly relevant, given the central theme of this module. The ‘others’ were quickly identified; they were characterised by their place of origin; they were referred to as ‘hoardes’, ‘droves’ and their supposed or potential movements were ‘flocking’ and ‘swarming’. Nobody could be sure what they looked like as individuals – they were immediately depersonalised – but many were convinced that they could be spotted because they weren’t like us.
The photographs in the series are of text slides (verbatim from Facebook comments), people who embraced the situation and those who didn’t along with inanimate references. The texts were changed following tutor discussion to anonymise them and to maintain an ethical stance. The sequence was changed and the series added to – this in order to improve the flow. Originally I had set the series out as a grid, where every photograph was visible from the start, but later changed this following tutor discussion to a slideshow format.
The method of presentation on screen is going to be important for the rest of the course I think. I don’t know whether we’ll go back to physical submissions but it doesn’t seem likely once online presentation becomes the norm. I am not really happy with the simple WordPress plugins – they seem too clunky and slideshow-ish. So I will actively look for another option by checking out different photographer sites. I favour a short fade in/out via black; with my current “Foogallery” plugin this would require black slides between each photo. Reminds me of the old Kodak Carousel S-AV 2000 and associated ‘tape/slide’ controllers.
It was suggested that I could make a small live-action piece with voiceover and I am keeping this under active consideration. I was amused to note that although my occupation of old involved use of many different microphones I no longer have a single one to my name! I am short of time on this module; if there is any spare at the end I’ll have a go at this, but for the time being this is the submission.
*Such fears turned out to be well-founded and inevitable. The rates of infection in Dorset remained very low throughout the peak period, leaving a wholly naive population as easy targets for carriers when they did finally arrive.