I deliberately avoided doing anything other than a quick first select of images directly after downloading each time I went out to shoot for the assignment – somehow it seemed important that I edit the images together when I knew I had finished shooting. For the project, I had deliberately tried to encourage randomness and prevent myself from influencing the outcome of the images, however, it was immediately clear that any form of conscious selection or post production would go against this ethos. I considered the following ideas to attempt to negate this:
Present the images in a grid:
A kind of anti-Becher approach, the lack of considered composition could potentially be an interesting counter to formal presentation and a standard approach to image capture.
The next question would be how to thematically link the images in each grid and whether this was even desirable. Possible groupings could be: people, shops, shop fronts, walls, windows, abstract, surreal, vehicles/cars, blurred, retail, trees, reflections, self-portrait.
Another approach could be to embrace the notion of randomness further and make selections based in a numerical way from the total. This could either be structured by dividing the total number of images to achieve the desired number for submission or perhaps by using a strategy such as throwing the dice to arrive at a corresponding number.
A thought I kept returning to was separating my shooting and selection strategies – it seemed to me quite legitimate to recognise that the way the images were shot could simply be a formula for arriving at the raw product. The real work of any photography project, in my experience, begins when you try to form the images taken into a coherent body of work and sequence.
A question of whether my pictures could really fulfil the brief without featuring people and also whether they could be described as documentary images was a real consideration for me.
As soon as I altered any image, even just by adjusting exposure levels, I would be altering the random intent of the project. And yet I began this exercise with a strong sense that I wanted the pictures to be black and white, mainly based on initial thoughts of exploring a theme of surveillance (the black and white treatment would fit this) but also because of work such as Moriyama’s that had inspired me.
I was clearly faced with a choice to either experiment extensively with different approaches or to bring together a draft presentation and judge reaction with my peers. I took the date of my next scheduled hangout with fellow documentary students as an unofficial deadline to spur me into action – this would be the fourth hangout I had attended and I had yet to share any work. It seemed appropriate to go with the instinct selection approach, however, I did not limit myself to the 10 images I would need to submit. I had already made a rough first selection after downloading the pictures so used this as a starting point revisiting the selection and taking out pictures that immediately appeared not to make the cut. I then converted to black and white, this also quickly put some images into the deselection category. If appropriate I experimented with different crops. I arrived at a long list of 83 images from which I selected a shortlist of 22.
In order to allow my fellow students the chance to look at the pictures ahead of the hangout I uploaded both the short and long list to Flickr
I was interested to understand if I had made the correct selections and wondered if anybody would pick images from the long list selection, also, experience has taught me that time is often needed to really think and consider how pictures can work together – I have often not included pictures that have been early favourites or that have appeared to be the strongest in a sequence because eventually they do not fit into the set as a whole.
My notes from the hangout are here.
I was both relieved and encouraged by following the hangout to have firstly pushed myself to share some work and also the positive way my approach was received. There was lots of discussion between us all and many questions about the choices I had made and other possible approaches. I was definitely starting to feel like I was on the right track and decided the next step was to branch out my feedback request further before settling on the final shape of the assignment.