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Thursday, 26 May 2011

random conversations #5: keeping it local

O: Why do you think I should keep it local?

Me: Because then you are photographing what you really know and care about. You understand the people around you and the places they live in. You know where they're coming from, you can position the complexities of life and see where everything fits in. You can tell a story and the story will have some basis in the social, environmental and cultural worlds that surround you.

O: But what if you don't know anything about the place around you?

Me: Well you should. You have to know where you come from before you can start talking about where other people come from. I just read a book about Saudi Arabia and I discovered that the guys who wear cords around their headdress is a sign of camel herding and being a Bedouin, and if you don't have a cord that's a sign of being a crazy Salafist. Every Saudi is going to know a million things like that but I don't have a clue. Think of somewhere like Egypt or Libya. You had all these photographers going over there and they didn't know the first thing about the place. They didn't speak the language, they didn't know the politics or what clothes people wear, they might have a superficial understanding of the country but that's about it. Did they know what businesses the Mubarak family owned or the commercial interests of different intelligence services, who the main opposition was last year, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, who was in jail and who wasn't, who owned the taxis who had been co-opted and who hadn't. If you don't know all this stuff, the kind of stuff the average Egyptian would know without even thinking, then how can you understand what is happening in front of you. That's why you need to know what is happening in front of you first, so you can go somewhere else.

O: But what about if where you live is really boring and you're not interested in it?

Me: Nowhere is boring and  you should be interested in it. And if you're not interested, you need to cultivate an interest. Everything is as interesting as you make it.

O: Is it?  What if you just can't be bothered?

Me: You have to be bothered. You can't go round in life just not being bothered?

O: Are you interested in where you live?

Me: Er...

O: There you go. You're not interested are you. Same as me. I bet you think all the people are the same, that the middle-class conformity annoys you, that you can't stand all the selfish-what-school-will-I-send-them to conversations. You know the kind of thing. I can see from your face that I'm right. I am right, aren't I.

Me: Yes, but that's different.

O: No, it's not. You should take more of an interest. Get involved, join the community, form a group, be part of the Big Society. If you can't be arsed to do that, why should I be arsed to do it. Why should I care about where I live? I don't want to photograph my house and my neighbours and my family. I want to get as far away as possible from England and go somewhere hot, where they have palm trees and the sea's hot. That's why I want to do photography, not to stay in some drab English town and photograph the tedium and undramatic squalor. If I'm going to photograph squalor, I want full-on really squalid squalor - squalor that smells. I want to photograph the exciting and the exotic, to go somewhere where the women are gorgeous and sexy and dance in the streets, where people scream and shout and celebrate, where they live their lives with love and passion and drama and emotion. I want to go somewhere with great weather and great food, where the beer is cheap and everybody is uninhibited and free and they have cool festivals where there are animals running in the streets and horses and everyone  wears crazy clothes. And loads of fish. To eat and in the sea.

Me: No such place exists.

O: Maybe, but it exists less in England than it does almost anywhere else. Now where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world to photograph? Weston-Super-Mare?


SA said...

Cromer, go there, it's got the lot, I promise. Well, the fish at least.



mark page said...

I'm looking for the 'LIKE' tab to 'LIKE this I'm all facebooky these days. LIKE (and a little thumbs up sign)

colin pantall said...

Cromer - it's got crabs, SA. Doesn't it.

And a little smiley face as well, Mark - :)

Deborah Parkin Photography said...

I have been photographing in my back yard today, I suppose it doesn't get much more local than that, does it? :)