Monique Stauder

Latitude Zero

Mentioned by Miranda Gavin in interview what is documentary studied as part of exercise 1-1

‘Latitude Zero’ is a photographic project, culminating in a book, in which Monique Stauder travelled around the equator documenting the people and places she encountered. The project is described on Stauder’s website as “[chronicling] the interconnectivity of humanity and nature around the earth’s edge while hallmarking [Stauder’s] raw and poetic style, fusing photojournalism with fine art.”  For Miranda Gavin, the projects crossover between documentary and fine art make it difficult to classify. Aesthetic considerations are key with the black and white photographs being described as “beautiful.”

Looking at the excerpt of ‘Latitude Zero’ featured on Stauder’s website there is a poetic nature to the images, something which seems a deliberate with Walt Whitman being quoted early on. There is a recurring visual strategy used of photographs being framed by other elements (such as windows) that I find unifies the work along with the strong black and white aesthetic. The design of the book employs variously sized images and occasional text which seems interesting – it is difficult to make any further judgement however looking at the work on screen – I imagine the effect of having the physical object would be quite different and my instinct is to say that the form would support appreciation of the work. I admire the strategy of travelling around the equator as a basis for a photographic project.

In a short TED talk linked to from her website I was struck by how Stauder focussed on the way the project came about from her particular circumstances at the time she undertook it and subsequently affected her. The people and circumstances she encountered are barely mentioned, yet, she goes into great detail about her own feelings frequently referring to her sense of ‘self.’ This makes me uneasy – while on one hand it could be argued the purpose of this short talk is precisely about her own motivations there is a self absorption that I find off putting and made me revaluate the images as consciously striving to be poetic (with all of the attached connotations of gravitas that this entails) rather than naturally reaching this. If the series is read as being more about the photographer behind the camera rather than the subjects and locations in front then these become little more than props. Given the difference of class and race between the two this also troubles me in terms of representations of the ‘other’.

Links:

Website

Biography

Latitude Zero excerpt

TED Talk (2011)

Bibliography:

What is documentary photography? Interview with Miranda Gavin of Hotshoe magazine. (2011) Available at: https://vimeo.com/29752787 [accessed January 2017]

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