Late photography and my own practice

In his feedback for my A4 essay Andy, my tutor, commented that he found it hard to see how my arguments around conflict and late photography translated to my own practice. Although I am still in the process of revising my essay on the light of his feedback, I have had some trouble on this point. While writing my first attempt I didn’t really have any thoughts on how this related to my own photography, so in an attempt to work this through I am writing this post largely as a rough list of thoughts on this subject.

In my essay I did try to differentiate between photography that acts as a simple memorial or reminder of an event, and works that is more self-consciously ‘art’. I tried to remain neutral on whether either approach is preferable; both have their strengths and anyway the relative success or failure will depend on the photographer and the subject. I do think that my own photography – almost by default – tends towards the less obviously ‘art’. I’m more naturally inclined towards an understated approach to photographing a subject.

During my time with OCA it has been mentioned to me a few times that it is not always useful to go out with a camera with the intention of taking photographs to make a point. More often than not it is more useful to use an idea as a start point and then see how this idea develops in the light of the resultant photographs. I have found this to be a very handy stratagem, but the nature of this approach will act against the idea of setting out to create an image for an explicit purpose. I have gone out in the past with the idea of how an image will turn out and had to retreat when it does not turn out as I imagined it to be. This approach obviously works for many photographers – Jeff Wall for instance – but at this point in my photographic practice it is not something I am particularly comfortable with.

Most of my photography (for OCA at least) is taken locally, and almost all in this country. Conflict as a subject itself doesn’t feature at all; there is none here and hopefully won’t be in future either. In that sense it is true that there is nothing to link the essay subject and my own practice. However it does seem to me that ‘Late photography’ as a category is wider than just conflict. Accepting that it was in this context that David Campany developed the term in the first place, but the nature of photography itself means it will act as a memorial to something or other. If the subject is something that is known to a wide audience then photographing the aftermath fits into the idea of late photography whether it is as the result of conflict or something much more peaceful. As an example there are many photographs of debris left behind after the Glastonbury festival each year, and many act in the same way as a reminder of the environmental cost of such an event.
These are not my photographs though, just examples of how i think late photography can cover a wider area. I might consider visiting the aftermath of a big event but not the event itself. I’m not always comfortable at big events; not necessarily because I don’t like crowds, but more because I get uncomfortable with the idea that I am just the same as everyone else. Big concerts don’t always appeal to me as I much prefer to connect on a personal level; it is not the same thing to find out that I several thousand other people are just the same.

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