Recently, I have been considering ways that I could collaborate more with the communities that I am photographing, so I greatly welcomed this week’s presentations, which explored ideas relating to collaboration and participation. I understand that my practice is inherently collaborative - I rely on the participation of my subjects to create my work. However, for some time, I have felt uncomfortable attempting to represent communities which are not my own, and the lack of opportunities I provide for my subjects to contribute to the work. These thoughts have led me to contemplate ways in which I could facilitate greater participation from my subjects, and involve them more in the image making process.
With the work of Wendy Ewald in mind, I had thought of providing young residents within the towns with cameras so that they can record their own daily experiences. On this method, Ewald notes - “It came to me that the kids were taking more powerful and more intimate pictures than I could. They knew their surroundings and had uninhibited access to private family situations” (Allen, 2016). The towns that I photograph usually have aging populations, as younger generations now choose to relocate to urban areas. I believe that young people are likely to have interesting perspectives on living in these isolated, rural areas, and I would be curious to hear their views.
I have also considered interviewing residents, and presenting this as either text, or audio, with my images. In the series King School Portrait Project, Gemma-Rose Turnbull and her collaborators combine handwritten text with images in an seemingly organic, freeform manner that appears to accurately portray the personalities and views of those depicted. I believe that the success of this project was reliant on the collaborative manner in which it was created, and If I wish to work with young people in a similar way, I too will need to allow my subjects to have creative control. Allowing others to dictate which images can or cannot be used, and how the are presented, is likely to be a challenge for me, but I understand that it would be beneficial for me to attempt a different approach to creating work.
I have also been considering the audience for my work, and believe that there are ethical implications of displaying this series in an environment that my subjects are unlikely to be patrons. Wendy Ewald’s collaborative projects often culminate with the resulting images being displayed on large banners and installed in public places. I am interested in such methods of display, which appear to be more democratic, and plan to explore the possibility of showing my work on abandoned properties in the towns that I am photographing.
I believe that there is potential in these ideas, but now I must take practical steps to decipher weather they are feasible. As a teacher, I am comfortable working with children and teenagers, and my status as both a educator, and an MA photography student may help me to form relationships with schools or youth groups in Central Oregon. My first steps will be discussing these ideas with a faculty member, and deciding if I should take my work in this direction.
Allen, E. 2016. Wendy Ewald with Esther Allen. [Online]. [Accessed 26 April 2018]. Available From: https://bombmagazine.org/articles/wendy-ewald/