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Thursday, 1 October 2009

Where Photography Dares Not Tread

There is a lot of commentary, from myself and others, on the self-replicating nature of photography, how all pictures look alike, how themes are jigged and rejigged again and again.

At the same time, it is astounding how shallow most photographic examinations of various themes can be - how the most photographed and cliched subject matter remains to be pursued in any kind of detail.

My favourite unphotographed theme is mother and child. It has been been romanticised, glorified and idealised since photography began, but there is nothing that I can think of that captures the emotional and physical depth of motherhood. I think there is a reason for this - motherhood is messy, both emotionally and physically, it involves tears, trauma and leakage from all parties, and sticking your camera into the mess doesn't make the tantrum, the mess or the smell go away. Motherhood doesn't always look nice, childhood doesn't look nice - the two together can be horrendous. The last thing you want is some useless other half with a camera making you look and the offspring look bad.

That's my great unexplored area in photography. But perhaps I've got it hopelessly wrong - if I have, do let me know.

And any other suggestions for unexplored areas would be welcome - and that includes areas that have been explored in an unsatisfactory manner.


S. Cousin said...

You are right that there are few, if any, unexplored areas to which photography has not turned its lens. It is only the approach that can differ, the idea that something new can be found (or should that be shown) in what is aready there.

As to my personal thoughts on the unexplored or unsatisfactory, I am at a loss to think of any specific area - especially in regards to subject matter akin to what you have mentioned: mother and daughter.

What seems an implicit question within your post is: can this type of photography only be produced by the mother, or mother and daughter as a joint venture? And if not, how does the father position himself within this relationship (as an outsider...)?

Of course, I don't have any answers to these questions! Your post is stimulating in that is made me ask them in the first place.

I am still getting my head round the images from the TV screen: what is photographed, how it is photographed, and why?

Best, Sean.

colin pantall said...

Thanks Sean - glad you are intrigued by the TV Personalities.

What: The television screen is photographed, especially people on the news and documentaries with a bit of drama thrown in - most of the time I'm trying to take good portraits from the TV.

How: Handheld 35mm film camera, full screen more or less.

Why: I don't get out much - this was how I, and other people experience the world. I was/am interested in how these pictures we see (pictures which are far more influential than still images) settle in our minds as still images, how they form our history, how they connect and disconnect with each other and the words that accompanied them, how they obtain a patina of nostalgia about them as time passes.

That's not clear, but then the way we experience them is unclear. I'm trying to recreate that in some way - but trying to put a coherent framework around it.