For this assignment we’re supposed to make a portfolio of photographic work. The main question is:
“ Are you in harmony or in conflict within the social structure that you are a part of?”
As I am really interested with what happens with our society and what actually our society is I decided to do my project about this subject. And as for the first thing I did as research I just wrote ‘society’ on google just to see what images will appear. Ironically, the first one that I saw was a picture of some people holding their hand together.
I am perfectly aware of the fact that the society isn’t actually like that. People are different, they have different personalities, different ways of thinking, seeing and understanding the world, different homes and finally, they have different jobs. But then again, this is something that everyone is aware of. The thing that not everybody is aware of is that there are those people that don’t have a job, a home or a family and there is a huge ‘hole’ between those who have a happy life and those who don’t. So this is what I wanted to do, a comparison between the higher class of society and the lower class.
- High society is a category of people deemed to have greater social status or prestige
- Working class, those employed in lower tier, subordinate jobs
- Underclass, the segment of the population that occupies the lowest possible position in a class hierarchy, below the working class
Again, I searched for the definition of three labels that are probably the first thing one consideres before thinking of ‘holding’ hands with another.
So I started developing my ideas for this project and thinking about making a photo story that would show not only the fact that, yes one is rich and one is poor, but the ugly truth – while others are enjoying their shopping spree, there are some that are enjoying the leftovers from somebody else.
I took a look at Steve Huff project, “My Homeless Project” for further research and it really helped me and changed the way I was going to approach this subject of taking photos of homeless. For this project he decided to document his walks over a two year period. He took photos of homeless people, but not before he got to know them and know what happened to them that made them end up homeless and he stood with each and one of them, listening to their stories.
Steve Huff – Rodney
“I met Rodney on November 19th 2006. I saw him walking out of Walgreens, limping. He soon roamed in to an alleyway and sat down. I noticed a hospital band around his arm and approached him to make sure he was OK. He had a pretty nasty cut on his head and he looked very dirty. As I approached he smiled and he said he was fine…”
I didn’t spent as much time with the men I photographed, as Steve Huff spent, but I did had a short conversation with each one of them and also helped them with what I could. It was really helpful the fact that I saw his project and read about how he approached it, because it made me think more about my own project and get more into it and also helped me with the further development of my ideas. I can’t say that there was a particularly photo that inspired me to make an image, but it was the whole project somehow “gave birth” to my idea ; as I saw and read about all those homeless men who once had a beautiful and with no worries, life.
I saw Gary on the street holding his sign looking for help. I pulled over and approached him. He 1st asked if I was a cop and said the cops always chase him away. I told him I was just a photo student working on a project and soon he was at ease and I asked if he was doing ok. He said he was hungry and a bit cold at night as the day before someone stole his blanket. This was Phoenix AZ but winter time which means it gets pretty chilly at night.
At 43 years old he seems to have more lines and wrinkles than he should. I soon found out he has been on the street for 23 years and in prison for 13 of those years. He deeply regretted his past and told me he has no friends on the street. I helped him out with some money and he said it was his lucky day. He talked more about his past and how he used to work for a newspaper many years ago as a photojournalist. Not sure if he was telling the truth but he seemed to be. He admired my camera.
Before leaving, he called me back to show me his teeth which were severly rotted. He joked and said he wanted a print of this image. I left with the impression that Gary is a very smart man who has many regrets in life. Makes me want to think about my life even harder than I do.
At the lecture of “What is a portrait?” we’ve been told, when taking a photo of a person that we don’t know , not to ask “Can I take a photo of you?”, because it will make that person feel like we’re taking something from them and the answer will probably be “No”. So, every time I wanted to take a photo of someone I asked “Can I take a photo with you in?”, making them believe that they are not the main subject of my image.
And I can surely say that this is a thing I wasn’t aware of before and sometimes when some people refused me when I asked if I could take a photo of them, I was asking myself “Why?”. And so I found the answer and got to try to approach people differently when taking photos of them and this time, neither one of them refused me.
This is one of the images that I took, of a homeless with an advertise behind him saying “Unbeatable mortgages rates across the High Street?”. Ironic, isn’t it?
The image about it is actually the negative scanned, but in the darkroom I’ve chosen an exposure time of 11 seconds in order to get a darker image, so the only strong light in the photo will be on the advert behind him – which mades my point about society not being a society.
I also took a look at Lee Jeffries project “Beauty in Ugliness” which is about him photographing homeless people in black and white in order to get more dramatic portraits, which also help with the further development of my ideas, by increasing the amount of black light in some images in order to get more dramatic prints.
Lee Jeffries – Beauty in Ugliness
Social documentary photography is the recording of humans in their natural condition with a camera. Often it also refers to a socially critical genre of photography dedicated to showing the life of underprivileged or disadvantaged people.
So I did some research regarding social documentary photography which is almost what I’m doing for this project – this comparison between the higher class of society and the lower class, and how the higher class puts in disadvantage the ‘working class’ and the ‘underclass’ – and found out about Jacob Riis who had a project about documenting the miserable living conditions in a neighbourhood in New York, called How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York – “It served as a basis for future ‘muckraking’ journalism by exposing the slums to New York City’s upper and middle classes.”
One of his photos inspired me in a strange way and I’m saying this because my photo is extremely different from his photo.
Mulberry Street looking north to Bayard Street with Mulberry Bend on left – Jacob Riis
Mulberry Bend is an area in the Lower Manhattan and one of the most dangerous and worst parts there.
So when I first saw this photo I didn’t knew this and the first thing I noticed where all the stalls there and then came up with the idea of making a photo of some workers doing their job in front of a mall or a bank in order to show the difference between ‘classes’ and how for others it is really hard to earn money for everyday living while others are just spending them with no second thoughts.
Also, while working for this project I took a look at the notes from the lectures and mainly for this photo I looked at the notes from “What is a landscape?”. It really helped me due to the fact that I’m using quotes in order to describe my images and remembered about one quote in particularly – “Photographs of an atrocity may give rise to opposing responses. A call for peace. A cry for revenge. Or simply the bemused awareness, continually restocked by photographic information, that terrible things happen. – Susan Sontag ” which helped me with the further development of this image.
Another thing that I picked up from the lectures it is the fact that this image, along with the other images, it is a truth, a truth of what is actually happening there and so now it is about denotation – the literal meaning of this image – a group of workers doing their job, but in the same time it is about connotation – the emotion that this image is sending to us.
With a photograph we don’t always understand what is it about until we see its title, a quote or something to describe it, but it is often left to the viewers own interpretation – it is about the reaction that the photograph causes – it may be an image that will make viewer more dramatic about it or it may be an image that it will make him create a ‘world’ through his interpretation.
Can a single portrait stand for something much larger?
“A smiling face has more mystery than a dull face.”
– Odd Nerdrum, Kitsch: More than Art, 2011
For the presentation I’m thinking about presenting my project in a photo book and as I have both landscape and portrait photos and the photo book is an A4 one, I have two options: the first one would be to present it like a portrait, so the landscape images will be smaller and somehow it will make the viewer to concentrate more on those photos, but in the same time it is not pleasant to the eye. The second option would be to put them in the photo book as they are, portrait, landscape – so this way the viewer will have to keep moving the photo book, which it can be unpleasant, but it will make the viewer more curious about what is coming next, a portrait or a landscape. So I think the second option is better, because the images will have the original size – not too big, but not too small – and it will keep the viewer interested.
I’m also using quotes for each one of the photos, which put together with the photos in the proper order will actually make a story and so again it will make the viewer to want to know what is going to happen on the next page or how is it ending.