Informing Contexts, Coursework - Photography, The Shape Shifter

Where are you now?

My current work is an in-depth photographic exploration of rural communities in Central and Eastern Oregon. The main focus of this project was initially the remote town of Antelope, a tiny community of less than 50 residents. Despite it’s ‘living ghost town’ status today, Antelope became the center of national attention in the 1980’s, as it was overrun with a huge influx of members from a local cult commune. As this project has progressed, I have also begun investigating other communities in this part of Oregon. My aim is to retrace and retell the history and stories behind these places, but also to learn more about the lives of those who currently reside there. With the vast majority of Americans now living in urban areas, I aim to discover what motivates people to stay in these rural, secluded towns.

 A selection of my work to date on this project, can be seen here.

In which contexts could your work be consumed?

I am interested in the area that fine art photography and documentary photography overlap, and I aim for my work to sit in this realm. I currently see the ‘point of reception’ for this work as the traditional locations of display for art photography, such as a gallery space, or in art publications (online or print). However, I also wish for this work to have the potential to be viewed as documentary photography. For my work to be seen in both contexts, I believe that I need to obtain much more information about my subject matter and present it with my images. One way I aim to do this, is though recording personal narratives from residents in my areas of interest, and presenting this alongside the photographs.  

Stephen Shore - ‘The Frame’ & ‘The Mental Level’

As a photographer, I have always found the idea of ‘the frame’ to be a stimulating concept, with the analogy of a photograph as ‘quoting out of context’ resounding with my own practice. With my work, I enjoy having the ability to pick and choose fragments from reality, reorder and edit them, and present them as a constructed story of my own design.

Shore’s concept of the ‘the mental level’ is now also at the forefront of my mind, as I move forward with my project. Whilst wanting to present more information with my images, perhaps with written text, I still want to retain an air of mystery and intrigue. Shore describes the way in which we read a photograph as akin to a feedback loop - ‘A complex, ongoing, spontaneous interaction of observation, understanding, imagination and intention’ (Shore 1998, p.76). I aim for my work to operate on this mental level, inspiring curiosity and leaving the viewer with as many questions as answers. I look to the work of practitioners such as Christian Patterson and Alec Soth as models for this type of work. 

Image: Christian Patterson Redheaded Peckerwood 2011

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