Assignment 2 – Photographing the unseen: introduction

For assignment 2, I have decided to develop a project around the idea of the passage of time and how this affects the way we do things through our lifetime. I have been thinking about several aspects of time (original reflections can be found here), including nostalgia, the lack of free time, wasted time and how that is related to our changing relationship with technology. I was thinking about all of this while, on a personal level, I was trying to swap my smart phone for an old-fashioned mobile phone without apps or Internet, for a few days a week. My experience with this was fraught with difficulty at first, and I had for some time a feeling of withdrawal, but in the end I got used to the old phone and was able to operate more or less normally without missing.  having to constantly check the Internet.

This experience let me to try and develop a series of images where old and new tech are interchanged for doing routine activities of our daily lives, to try to explore the struggle that older generations have in adapting to the new times. The initial idea was to develop a typological series, a catalogue of different activities like chatting, writing longhand, reading, taking notes, listening to music, stopping a door open, noting somebody’s Twitter handle or email address, storing or displaying photographs, etc, and how these things could be done using old and new technology in a way that was entirely plausible yet unlikely or impractical. The idea was to create images that on the surface were perfectly normal but on closer inspection show something which is slightly off, unusual or not right. In this, I drew some lose conceptual inspiration from the work of Gregory Crewdson (see my comments here) and in some of the series developed by Duane Michals (see my comments here), as well as his comments on photographing the unseen (1).  Some of the initial ideas I came up with are listed below:

  • Having a chat with a typewriter
  • Putting our smartphones in a photo album OR framing a smart phone
  • Hang a tablet for drying like if it was a photographic print
  • Write a cheque to a Social media company
  • Enter somebody’s email address in a phonebook
  • Make a mixed cassette tape from digital music or record podcasts in a cassette tape
  • Use a smart phone to keep a door open
  • Putting a post it note on an e-book reader
  • Marking the alternative GPS routes in a physical map
  • Sending a longhand written letter via email
  • Play cards using mobile phones as the actual cards

As I began to come up with sketches for these photographs and develop the props I needed to use, it started to become apparent that some of the images were related to each other: the same fictional names were used for the props, the activities depicted, like chatting and writing a letter longhand, were sequentially connected. The series then quickly shifted from a loose inventory to a sequence, and I ended up wrapping these photographs, which individually were still faithful to the idea of a technological mash-up, into a story about lost relationships and how these could be rekindled if we took the time to do so.

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(1) See various quotes on this subject here: Art Blart. 2017. Duane Michals This Photograph Is My Proof | Art Blart. [ONLINE] Available at: https://artblart.com/tag/duane-michals-this-photograph-is-my-proof/. [Accessed 19 November 2017].

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