In response to the debate surrounding his Hipstamatic photographs of soldiers during the Afghan war, Photojournalist Damon Winter stated that it was “never my intention for these photos to be seen only in the context of the tool by which they were made’; and that there are two valid fundamentals involved in the making of the image – aesthetics and content. However, I consider there to be a third, equal component – that of the photographer’s intention.
We may draw parallels to the aesthetics of Art , for example “Equivalent VIII” (commonly known as Bricks) by Carl Andre in the 1970s. His installation was a minimalist oblong arrangement of bricks. In this case, the piece was considered to be a work of art because the artist intended it so, and was further validated by being exhibited by Tate Gallery. Critics claimed that the Tate had been duped, others defended its decision as a major player in the international world of contemporary art.
I would argue that by applying smartphone filters to his work, Winter deliberately intended to create an aesthetic piece of work, and in this case the original publisher of his photographs in 2010 (New York Times) was in fact the exhibitor, just as was the Tate when it exhibited Winter’s Bricks.
If his intention was to create an intimate narrative of the soldier’s lives, Winter succeeded. In his creative use of the tools he had to hand, he was able to produce a set of controversial photographs which had their validity questioned and discussed.
Nowadays of course, the Hipstamatic filter can be applied after the picture has been taken. If an individual wishes to, they may take a photo on a DSLR, upload it to their smartphone and then apply Hipstamatic (or other) filters.
With photography being so immediately accessible these days to anyone with a smartphone, the meaning of the word ‘photographer’ has had to adapt to change, although the general public, in my experience, still view photography as a profession that requires lots of expensive equipment, technical expertise and a repertoire of carefully staged shots (whether it be events or landscape etc). However, images made on the smartphone by ‘citizen witnessing’ – a phrase coined by Stuart Alan in his ‘blurring boundaries: professional and citizen photojournalism in a digital age’ (2013), can be sent anywhere around the world in seconds – therefore allowing the casual bystander to become an ‘accidental’ photojournalist. Newspaper and online publishers typically pay less for these images than those from a professional photographer.
It’s too late now to turn back the clock for the place of citizen photojournalism, with or without filters. We’ve opted for retro style images in certain situations because they sell – the iPhone stock app Stockimo (a sister company of Alamy) actively encourages its contributors to apply filters.
Work in progress
As per my previous post, this week I’ve been experimenting with prisms as well as different printing techniques.
I also created a montage, based on a photo I took in Bournemouth earlier this year (original below).
Here is the same picture with the left half photoshopped to include fragmented photos from the same town. I paid attention to shape, contour and colour.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work as I intended, it needs more light and smaller pieces in it.
Once I had printed this out, I laid it on my desk with the image from the bottom left corner displayed on my computer screen. It’s a photo c.1903 of people on the beach at Bournemouth. I reflected some of this image downwards using the prism. It’s a clumsy attempt but it’s given me a lot to consider. I’d previously seen some of Sam Hurd’s prism photography online.
So much to think about that I’m going to have to leave the practical element alone and do a lot more reading and reflection this week, to hopefully give me inspiration to find a direction to take my photography in.
My tutor has suggested I look at the work of Fred Ritchin, Emily Allchurch, Erik Kessels, Tom Butler, Joachim Schmid and others. And I need to read more articles on the reading list.