Our course manual, after briefly discussing William Eggleston’s interpretations of his surroundings, his way of making photos of found objects over and above those containing people, emphasizes that these types of photographs ‘become fictionalised and transformed, telling a story that somehow stems from a ‘real place’ yet becomes other’ (OCA Identity and Place Course Manual p 94). ‘The real location, found objects and characters, combined with technology and the photographer’s eye, come together to create a new world, one balanced loosely between recognition and art’ (OCA Identity and Place Course Manual p 95).
We are asked to reflect on the following points:
- 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?
Eggleston was inspired by Cartier-Bresson, but after frustratingly spending time in Paris trying to emulate Cartier-Bresson, he realised that he had to try something new. For him new meant photographing shopping centres – no one was photographing malls at that time. So Eggleston started photographing the banal and ordinary things that get overlooked and taken for granted. He never took more than one photograph of a particular subject and very often shot from the hip, which “resulted in images that were “rebellious, unwieldy, uncomfortable, and thus not easy to decipher” (ArtsyNet).
Coming back to the first point above, I think that by nature a story teller is a history writer (and vice versa). Making photographs of found objects is, in a way, making a historical record at that particular moment in time, a building up of an archive. The objects in the photograph create their own story, whether it be fact or fiction is really up to the viewer to decide.
I would probably have to say that I tend more towards fact than fiction. For me fiction would be a completely staged, scenario with subjects in costume, in a made setting or set in a specific location as I did in C&N’s assignment 5. Of course, I’m also aware that most photography is staged, even if the subjects are not being directed, they might be fully aware of the camera and so there are behaviour changes. I think this would be the ideal way of blending the approach – having a scenario where the subject is aware of the camera but is going about his/her day as it it wasn’t there.
“The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion ….” – Richard Avedon
Avedon’s quote above really sums up my departure point for wanting/needing to depict reality. I am not overly concerned whether my images are depicted as fact or fiction. Prior to my studies at OCA I probably would have been deeply concerned if my images were not interpreted the same way that I saw them. I’d like to think that I’ve moved on from there after three years of study. All photos have an element of reality in them, after all the subject matter stands in representation of the actual thing/person that was positioned in front of the lens. But is that the actual narrative? After all the photographer instills his voice or imparts a piece of himself when making the photograph and how that adds to the ‘reality’ viewed by the viewer can only be left to the viewer’s authorship.
Cain, Abigail (2016). A Road Less Traveled: How William Eggleston Transformed Photography in America [online] ArtsyNet. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-what-you-need-to-know-about-william-eggleston [Accessed 24 May, 2017]
John Paul Caponigro (2013) 22 Quotes By Photographer Richard Avedon [online] John Paul Caponigro.com. Available at: http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/blog/12605/22-quotes-by-photographer-richard-avedon/ [Accessed 24 May, 2017]