Found Imagery?

08Jan10

My initial thoughts were to use the imagery that I’d found on the broken laptops that my partner repairs but having gone through these they don’t really communicate anything relevant for the piece as I imagine it. My thoughts have been to keep continuity with the past piece in which I’d actually purchased discarded slides specifically of couples. I don’t know why I looked for couples, I suppose they just resonated with me as almost all my work seems to focus on relationships. The slides were sitting around for a few months in the same brown paper bag in which the teller had wrapped them, basically doing nothing. I had no intention for them when I bought them I just sort of knew I’d want to use them at some point and they seemed the perfect choice when I considered the minor project and the cyclothymia issue both in terms of depiction of the relationship between husband and wife, and in relation to what I’m discussing in the dissertation themselves being found images, and also showing some very definative snapshot aesthetics as I have come to understand them.

My struggle with the imagery to use for Will’s story comes down to a dilemma. I have been going through the facebook pages of random people. These people are not known to me or connected to me in any way. I started out with a friend and clicked on a friend of her’s and then a friend of his and so on and so on and have been saving images of interest to my hard drive. Karen’s story is primarily focused around her leaving the marital home so therefore couples seemed the obvious choice. Will’s story is slightly more diverse in that it mentions his family but primarily speaks about the effect of the disorder on his career and we see his shame of being discovered by his university friends. So therefore groups of friends seemed the parallel route to take if i was going to mirror what I had attempted in the first film. 

This may be unrelated but I feel it’s worth mentioning. Some common scenarios have emerged repeatedly when looking at random photograph’s of groups of friends in this way such as – the ski resort, football team, Mediterranean holiday and the trip to Thailand or a trekking equivalent. It’s sort of as though there is a list of things to do before you’re 30 and these photographs are there to act as proof that you’re having the life you should be having at a young age. 

As I’ve been selecting which images to save I’ve been conscious of wanting them to convey something of the changed conventions of the snapshot photograph as it is today from what it was back in the past when equipment was more limited and we shot on film which cost money per frame. This would talk about things like the ad-hoc approach, the instantaneous nature of taking the image with not much foresight and the resulting sometimes happy accident. I also thought it appropriate to aim to use more imags than we see in the first piece because of the way we keep and upload more of our photographs than ever before being that they don’t cost us per frame and that cameras are smaller, therefore we are able to have them with us on occasions we formally mght not have done.

As well as the studio borrowed portrait conventions which we still expect  i.e we are all looking and smiling (but not blinking). I wanted to include notions of the carelessness, i.e. The stray arm or leg or the head cut off etc. photographer errors that would once have been considered incorrect mistakes or bad photography, these days included and given a value that is not entirely negative, I suppose reinforcing the throw away perception we have and have probably always had of this kind of photography.

But can I say that these photographs are found objects?

They are not objects as such but they are out there online and in the public domain for all to see and use. They are not marked as private in any way so are therefore free to view. Although they are authored they are not copyright stamped like a professional studio portrait would be so in a way I do consider these found. It begs questions of what happens to our images when we put them online. Do we lose control or power over what happens to them? And where will they end up?  Perhaps on broken hard drives at the tip instead of in boxes being sold to strangers for 20p each. Do we place too much reliance on the idea that these social networking sites will always be up and running?  Do we take this for granted as a way to store our images and therefore our history?

This afternoon I created a facebook account for the fictional Will and uploaded my found images to “his” album and had a weird moment which reaffirmed what I have been saying in my dissertation about the interchangablity of family imagery. The photograph page, in reality a composite of different and totally unrealted people’s photographs looked exceptionally convincing and plausible as belonging to one person. It seems the interchangability photographic theorists have spoken about, is still very much with us if not moreso than ever and I think this will definately be worth taking a screenshot of and mentioning in the final chapter of my dissertation.

As a further experiment in our need to assert our popularity through our photographs and these social networking sites I added a few people I didn’t know at all, in order to gain access to their photographs. Surprisingly all have added me as a friend, no questions asked. I find this really telling about modern life!

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