Wow, what a week. At last, I feel as though I’m using my brain again in relation to my photography. It’s been 25+ years since I was near a formal education (retraining as a journalist in my 30s aside) and working in photographic roles that required a more pragmatic approach, the topic of critical theory and perspective has certainly required more than superficial consideration.
In a nutshell, the critical theory of photography, for me, revolves around conversation, discussion and ideas relating to photography’s evolution. One fellow student described it as “how a photograph is interpreted and understood” while another added it was in a way a “grammar” or system that could help people critically interpret an image. Thank you to both as these comments helped simplify what can be explained in a convoluted manner.
Following on from this is critical perspective. What is my critical perspective(s) on my own practice? How can various attitudes to photography as a whole, and for my own work, be compared and discussed? What are the backgrounds to those attitudes; and the attitude behind them etc.?
Considering my own work, I would like to use the perspective of environmental impact. My MA work will relate to how I can create compelling work that intrigue and allure but underneath its aesthetic sits a deeper story using simple processes that have little or no impact on the environment.
Since digital photography grew in popularity to become the mass market it is today, including the development of smartphone cameras, many people believe it has been a good thing for the environment. Stepping away from noxious photographic chemicals and high levels of printing paper (consider how many paper prints were needed to reproduce the amount of images uploaded to Flickr in Eric Kessels installation 24 Hrs in Photos shown earlier this week) has been viewed as a good thing.
But is digital as environmentally friendly as we think? I would argue that there are pros and cons on both sides but there are a few hands-on processes that reduce the impact of traditional photo chemistry techniques and the manufacturing of digital products; one is the anthotype process.
Now, it may take a change in your perspective on what you feel creates a “photograph”. This process, using photosynthesis and the juice of plants, flowers, fruit or berries, on the whole creates work that is of one colour and has no means of being fixed. If you print on handmade, recycled papers you are lessening your impact again, and with a very small amount of water needed it truly is a gentle means to create images.
But some may argue that it is not a real photographic process, that it limitations of tone and colour regulate it to the role of fun photography for children. Even Christopher James describes it as “intellectually painless, charming and eccentric” in The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes. I would say don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Put down the pixels for a moment and take some time to contemplate a slower pace of photography.
As with fashion, it seems that interest in analogue and alternative photography is growing and what goes around comes around as people look for more tactile photography. In a BBC article last year, it highlights some of those people for whom film never died. But as this resurgence grows so must our commitment to disposing of chemicals properly, perhaps working out ways to lessen the need for plastic and paper in the manufacturing of more traditional goods.
In light of trying to keep this a brief blog entry, I acknowledge that so much more research and discussion could be had around photography’s negative and positive impact on the environment. I hope to look into this further as part of my ongoing project work.
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2006/aug/01/news.environment – accessed Nov 19, 2016.
http://www.geraldbivens.com/rd/james-anthotype-process.pdf – accessed Nov 19, 2016.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32337778 – accessed Nov 19, 2016.