Surfaces and Strategies, Contextual Research - Recent Influences

With the announcement that we will be required to undertake a number of larger projects in the upcoming weeks - create a publication, host an exhibition, and facilitate a workshop, I wanted to share the work of practitioners that I am currently interested in, and may influence my own practice moving forward. 

Tobias Zielony - ‘BMX’ from the series ‘Trona’. 2008

For the series Trona, Tobias Zielony photographed the small, isolated town of Trona in San Bernardino County, California. Once a settlement for employees working in the chemical industry, today the area is known for it’s crystal meth labs. As with many of his other series, Zielony focuses on the youth who live in this desolate area, painting a seemingly bleak future for them and the town as a whole. Looking at this work further encourages me to engage more with young people in my areas of interest, and attempt to better understand their experience of living in isolated, rural locations.

Tobias Zielony - Trona: Armpit of America’. Published by Spector Books. 2008

 In the publication of the series, Trona: Armpit of America, Zielony includes text quoted in it’s entirety from a damning blog about Trona. When exhibiting the work it is also included, with pages of text pinned to the gallery wall. Presenting his work with words which are not his own could be considered a ‘hands off’ approach, like those discussed in last week’s lectures. This text could also be seen as a more authentic representation of the town, as it is not one not simply penned by the photographer. As I meet and photograph people in rural areas, I am often invited to connect with them on social media - I am interested in the manner that they represent themselves and express their opinions on these platforms, and wonder if I could, with their permission, incorporate this into my project somehow. 

Jim Goldberg - ‘Julian Silva, a 17-year-old West Haven, Conn., Boy Scout.’ 2014

In the hope that I might offer more opportunities for my subjects to contribute to the creative process, I have also been looking at the work of Jim Goldberg, in which he invites his subjects to write their thoughts over his photographs. Speaking about his early use of this approach, Goldberg notes. ‘At the time, a lot of documentary and photojournalism was from the outside looking in. And I was interested in something else – letting people describe experiences in their own words, from the inside, with pictures that sometimes supported, and sometimes perhaps undercut, what they were saying’. (Goldberg in Jones, 2016). Having concerns about myself as ‘an outsider looking in’, I am interested in experimenting with Goldberg’s approach, and will invite my subjects to add writing to their images on my next shoot. 

Jim Goldberg - ‘Echo’s Map’ from the series ‘Raised by Wolves’ 1989 - 1993.

Goldberg’s Raised by Wolves is also providing me with ideas for the publication that I will make. Although his subject matter differs greatly from my own, I am interested in his method of compiling photographs, video stills, found documents, and handwritten texts to create a narrative and document the lives of his subjects.

Jones, S. 2016. In my own words: Jim Goldberg, photo storyteller. [Online]. [Accessed 05 July 2018].
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