This post is the result of a conversation and subsequent experiment in collaborative reflection initiated by fellow documentary student Bryn Davies. Both Bryn and I cited the influence of Daido Moryiama in our assignments but with different results. (Me: Assignment 1 , Bryn: Assignment 2)
Bryn began the ‘conversation’ with this post which, amongst other things, touched on the convergence and divergence of our approaches. In comparing the approach of Bryn and I, the first thing that springs to my mind is the depth of knowledge that each of us has in the work of Moriyama and the provoke photographers. At the point I completed the assignment, my awareness of Moriyama et al was limited to a broad appreciation of the aesthetic rather than the method – I was attracted to the way the work goes against our understanding of conventional composition and processing that in turn gives an immediacy and strength that is refreshing. I deliberately did not pursue my research further than my limited knowledge for a number of reasons, and on reflection, I should have commented and made this clearer on my blog. I knew that the work features later in the course and I did not want to spend time pre-empting this, also, I was instinctively aware that further study would influence the work I was trying to produce and I did not want this to be the case. For me, the important outcome from assignment 1 was to experiment and get back into the swing of taking photographs for a specific brief after my previous, predominately academic course ‘Understanding Visual Culture.’ My reference to Moriyama was driven by my need to justify images which I knew would push against convention. Bryn, on the other hand, took a more studied approach to his referencing which I think results in a tighter conceptual approach. Particularly, the application of the provoke philosophy of the anti-photography and Situationist notion psychogeography comes across strongly in his work.
Bryn discusses concerns about being derivative in an eloquent fashion:
“The rough seas one navigates in referencing a signature style is that it is so deeply connected to its author. The Jackson Pollock drip is a clear case of individual creativity that it is impossible to follow on, and even for Pollock himself became a restriction to his own ability to experiment.” (Davies, 2017b)
There is much to consider in this paragraph. First – the reference to Jackson Pollock, an artist whose action paintings could be said to have been done by anyone, yet, any attempt to paint in this style by another artist can be nothing other than pastiche. The myth of the artist as tortured genius is also strongly tied to Pollock and the paintings can be read as the direct translation of his difficult personality and fractured mental state. A signature style, or individual voice, is something that is often cited as something desirable to attain, as Bryn notes, however, this can become a prison that stunts creativity rather than allowing it to flourish.
Perhaps a particular artistic style can be typified by a way of working, this will never be the same for any particular practitioner. Sometimes work will furrow the same approach building to a body that becomes significant because of the volume of work. Other times work will be an evolution over time, subtly becoming something else in increments. Other artists reinvent themselves all the time…I wonder which of these broad categories I inhabit – is it possible to vary approach and style for different projects? Not worrying about originality and seeing influences as ripe for the taking is a liberating sensation, but it takes much confidence to accept that the search for the original idea is unobtainable and ultimately futile.
Bryn signs off with two thoughts which resonate – the pressure to find something ‘new’ and the modern hipster culture of self-referencing that borders on naval gazing. I wonder how Bryn and my own philosophy of work differs, and am left pondering some questions of my own…
- Is having a particular way of working something that is possible? (Is it even desirable?)
- Does study affect practice in a positive or negative way?
- Where is the line between theory, contextualisation and producing work?
- Who is the work for and by what criteria will it be evaluated? Who are the gatekeepers?
- Where are the lines drawn between influence, appreciation, pastiche, plagiarism and derivation?
Davies, B (2017a) Exercise: A Japanese connection – Moriyama, Petersen and Sobol (page 57) https://bryn515919.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/exercise-a-japanese-connection-moriyama-petersen-and-sobol-page-57/ [accessed 15th August 2017]
Davies, B (2017b) Case study: Peer sharing and crediting. Available at: https://bryn515919.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/case-study-peer-sharing-and-crediting/ [accessed 14th August 2017]