What is ‘Real’- Initial thoughts

This module will challenge my own sense of what is real.

A final photo camouflages the fact that every photograph is in fact a fiction; when you frame something from the real world you take it out of context to construct your own context- you create it’s narrative. The word “documentary” was coined by Scottish documentarian John Grierson in his review of Robert Flaherty’s film Moana (1926)  (link to reference on google books).

His 1932 essay “First Principles of Documentary” argued that cinema’s capacity for observing life could be a new art form, wherein the materials “taken from the raw” can be more real than acted fiction and the “original” actor and “original” scene are better lens for interpreting the modern world than their fiction counterparts.

John Grierson

Blais, R. (2011). A Documentary About The Filmmaker Who Coined “Documentary”. Available: http://www.brainpickings.org/2011/12/28/grierson-documetary-roger-blais/. Last accessed 26th Sept 2014.

You need to really reconsider ‘what is real in photography’ what’s authentic, what’s ambiguous? Do we produce ambiguous purposefully? Do we as documentary photographers displace peoples comfort? Seriality of pictures (repetition) and narrative photography try to investigate how to make work that isn’t simply about a beginning, middle or end- it challenges the viewer to think deeper and beyond the obvious. What is the truth? Just because the images have been taken from the real world, is it necessarily truthful? A pictures meaning changes depending where you place it or what you as the publisher decide to include or not include in the frame: context! Construction leads to deconstructing the images meanings- you as a photographer can show a reading of the world that manipulates the viewers opinion of the very world they live in and know.

When you document something it instantly becomes a thing of the past- so is it ever current? It is in the present but showing the past.

The word “documentary”has a historical construct, it is a word full of preconceived ideals; it cannot achieve neutrality, it is very objective. There is a visual language already there, an expectation- documentary is an unstable medium. There only needs to be a change of title to change a photographs meaning- documentary value is given by a passing of time. Documents of history and of history of photograohy- documentary is talking to itself.

First thoughts for project:

– A book of double photos, same picture back to back with a different title used to completely change its meaning

– Facebook army picture (photo of soldier with a meme written then it says “This is not real” someone made the text up to give the photo more power/make people connect more)

– Can get people to act out scenes to look as though they are being natural (example the laughing pic of Jes and I- fake laughing) A project on “My sister is hilarious” ??

This is set up- not a "real moment" captured.

This is set up- not a “real moment” captured.

– Disposable cameras? Fake family photo album ending with “this is not a real family”. My family- photoshop in fake people to be friends (self portrait against google images) scan in my handwrititng to make it seem even “more real”.

–  Photoshop open’s up possibilities (hyperreal) but loosens foot-holes on reality- use digital manipulation.

– Final piece book- think about the construction- can I show the pictures in a different way- disruption? Place text at start that leads into work? Or put all text at end? Make people think about the work more once they’ve read the text.

  • Bring more layering to my pictures- not just what we see- what is really happening in it? I need to be critical about the way I take photographs, to reconsider my approach. New ways to represent the real for me.

Its all about the meaning of the work!!! – Who, what, when, where, why?

Subject > content > approach


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