This week we were asked to engage with the idea of the constructed photograph.
During the webinar this week I shared a few images from the social media series, some ideas about maps for moving forward and some of the rejects from my daily shots.
What stuck with me most from the talk was Michelle’s question, “who is my public”? Who are these images for? Are they for an outside public? Possible visitors? The local population? Are they more attuned to Spanish sensibilities?
In the same way that my images seek to capture the banal, but also the punctum that makes city life liveable, for me, maybe there is no specific public. As the images themselves are unimportant, perhaps so is the viewer base. Once I’ve made more progress with the reshoots that I have been attempting I think I will have a clearer idea of who these might be directed at.
My classmates suggested researching a few different artists including Joel Sternfeld and his work Campagna Romana, Lev Manovich and his work on IG and Stephen Shore’s Moma exhibit.
Moving forward, my intention this week is to begin building some maps with the 30-some GPS coordinates I have to date, and overlaying them on google maps to see what narratives can be constructed from them. Of interest in the webinar was a type of map known as the medieval pilgrimage route maps, or itinerary maps, that I have been thinking about making (fig 1).
The question is how they might be used with the plot points I have been collecting over the past month, and possibly to obfuscate routes.
Another possible idea is to seek out specific coordinates and then go to those sites as opposed to photographing and recording the coordinates. Creating maps in a sense, of points of little interest.
“Points of little or no interest” is an appropriate working title for now.
The image I am most happy with from this week’s hunts has to be this one, the reflection of a window on side of a neighbouring building:
I also showed a series of reshoots of the same scene, first taken on the 11th. Here is the original:
And here are some rejects. In the webinar Michelle commented that she even found some of them to be intriguing, as do I, but as a result of the constraints of the project (one shot, daily), they can’t all be included. The presentations this week made mention of this problem / dynamic when it referenced Szarkowski’s intro to William Eggleston’s Guide where he mentions that, photography is a system of visual editing. It is a matter of choosing from among given possibilities.
Untitled works, Instagram series (@onlyensevilla). 2020
In the first forum we were asked to engage with the idea of fiction and construction in our images.
Reflecting on some of the practitioners included in this weeks, the ones I feel the most affinity with are still Eggleston in the sense of editing, construction, framing, and Stephen Shore. Dr. Cosgrove mentioned in this weeks first presentation that Shore says the act of photographing something naturally transforms it so I went back to the his book, On the Nature of Photographs, and re-read some sections of it. What stuck with me most was what we were talking about in the first week, the different levels of an image and how the transformation is related to them. And then again how this transformation really makes it all a bit of a farce in the sense that how, if every image is transformed by nature of being a photograph, then, much as we don’t necessarily believe everything we read, we shouldn’t believe everything we see.
Returning to Shore, he says that on the depictive level we use flatness, frame, time and focus as the grammar or structure for our images. (Shore, 2007). In my own practice I am limiting my use of frame and focus to that provided by the world’s most popular camera, the smartphone. The frame is wide, wider than I shoot with the work camera, and the shutter is whatever my phone decides is best. Focus is generally very deep, as is flatness due to the wide nature of the phone camera lens.
In any case, my contribution to the first forum was as follows:
After last weeks section on Authenticity, and my generalized feeling of taking ‘authentic’ or ‘actual’ photos, I must admit that I also feel that I craft the visual among the daily social media posts. As can be seen here in figure 1, the images are not necessarily representative of what an individual visiting the city I live in might experience though the images are indeed from there and can be sought out and verified using independent methods.
Fig.1 Instagram screenshot of @onlyensevilla account accessed 10 Feb 2020.
There’s something I feel I want to express, on the tip of my tongue, and I’m still looking for the grounding to do so, but the idea I hope to build is of a sort of urban anytown, with elements that may be specific to this location, but ultimately will have some parallels to other urban jungles around the globe. Shoot local, think global.
One of the comments that most resonated with me and that I think works within this weeks topic was the question about Robert Frank and Alec Soth’s views from the hotel window in Butte, Montana. (Figures 2 + 3), asking us to consider what the real life experience would be like. This question is one I have been asking myself recently in regards to the reshoots of the images I’ve been making and how they will work together in the end.
Fig.2 Frank, R. View from Hotel Window, Butte, Montana. 1956.
Fig. 3 Soth, A. Frank’s view, 2008
In the second forum we were tasked with thinking about objectivity and subjectivity in our practice. My ideas around them in my images I think in a way have begun to evolve such that subjectivity is almost all I can see in the images. As the photographer I choose to position certain elements in frame or not. Containing the world in 36x24mm with a 50 mm lens implies leaving out elements and specifically including others, to create a faithful, or not, image of what stands before me. The same is true with the social media reference series.
Photography isn’t only about choosing what goes in the frame, but also about what gets left out, making objectivity a difficult task, and in my case, not a particularly important one as I encourage my viewers to access the sites on their own if they wish to verify the authenticity of a scene.
My contribution to the forum was the following:
So I’ve been loving the way these three weeks are coming together theory-wise. I hope I’m beginning to understand a bit more what I’m seeing and photographing, and what I am attracted to.
Last week I felt that my work was indexing and authenticating as the viewer is provided with the tools necessary to verify the scene through street view. In the context of this weeks presentation, my images are of the Hunter variety in that I go on walkabout and make the images as they call to me, but my intention is to return to the more scenes that are more ‘llamativo’ and re-photograph them, to recreate the punctum, or allow others to recreate it.
For an example of my own work, and how it might contrast with the image or idea of the city I live in, below are three recent stock images I’ve photographed and two other examples from the social media series, both of which speak, in a way, of two very different cities, a duality in the nature of travel and tourism that travellers rarely acknowledge, even when they themselves are from areas impacted by the phenomenon.
Figures 1-3 resemble scenes which might be readily found on any stock website or experienced by any day traveller or individual who stays within the confines of the touristic space. The inhabited city, as seen in figures 4-5, tells a different story of orange trees that are less well maintained and graffiti laden walls, one of which happens to be behind a homeless shelter which has been problematic for the neighbourhood surrounding it, in part because of a lack of political will to address the situation, but moreso as a direct result of the almost decade of budget cuts and reduction in social services for the more disadvantaged denizens of the city, accompanied by a surge to never before seen numbers of tourists, the construction of over 5 new 4-star hotels, the emptying of the historic neighbourhoods in favor of tourist apartments and short-stay rentals.
There are many stories to be told and realities that we construct for ourselves.
Fig.1 Stock image, Seville, 2020.
Fig.2+3 Stock images, Seville, 2020
Fig.4 Naranjo behind the Hogar San Fernando, c/ Perafán de Rivera s/n. Reference image. (37.4050415, -5.9918746), 2020
Fig.5 Se ahoga. c/ Manzana 26. Reference image. (37.4052636, -5.9833954), 2020
Fig. 1-3. images from stock work by Michael Padilla, Seville, Spain. 2020
Fig 4-5. images from the Instagram social media account @onlyensevilla by Michael Padilla, Seville, Spain. 2020
Bertin, Jacques; Berg, Williams. 1983. Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps. California: Esri Press
Cairo, Alberto. 2016. The Truthful Art: Data, Charts and Maps for Communication. Berkely, California. New Riders Press.
Shore, Stephen. 2007. The Nature of Photographs. New York, NY. Phaidon Press.
EGGLESTON, W., & SZARKOWSKI, J. (1976). William Eggleston’s Guide. New York, Museum of Modern Art.