An initial brain storm formed the following subject ideas for the brief ‘Two sides of the same story’:-
- Me vs alter-ego: Selfies of myself as myself for social media site profile pictures vs selfies of an alter-ego (ideas for alter ego include – chavvy, diva, super-organised, health obsessed, criminal mugshot)
- Kia: Cute half Perisan cat, she is all or nothing so I could expect to get some pictures of her being incredibly affectionate or her being sulky and indifferent.
- Dorchester: There are definitely two sides to this town, as with most towns. Some areas are very run down and lower class and other areas are quaint and frequented or inhabited by a higher class of citizen (ideas include homeless vs Waitrose shopper).
- River Isle: One week it was flooded, banks burst, raging grey torrent. The next week it was a tame blue sliver, slow and winding.
- Candid documentary style pictures of Fynn as two conflicting roles, one of ‘good boy’ and picture of health and one as ‘bad boy’ and self abuser.
I decided to photograph the river Isle firstly as it was in full flood and was therefore quite interesting, vs the same landscape but with considerably less water in the following weeks. I really liked my first set which was beautiful and featured much interest (the reflections of the water and the blue sky and reflections etc) however the second set was much less interesting. I had decided to try to get the same angles in the contrasting shots but without the water I found the frame flat and vastly uninteresting. I decided to change to a different subject as the river was unlikely to flood so dramatically again within my time frame for assignment.
I then decided to take a series of photographs of my brother Fynn as he went about his daily life. As I don’t live in the same house as my brother I had one day to complete the shoot and so it was impossible to simply follow him around in his daily life until I had enough shots so I asked him to wear certain clothes and to act a different role in each scenario. I tried to keep the situations as true to life as possible (each scenario is something that has been taken from his life, he practices these activities from day to day) however, the images and outfits are decidedly exaggerated.
Every documentary image is directly influenced and shaped by the photographer who took it. Even if a photographer tries implicitly to capture the scene in a non-biased and wholly objective manner he may miss some of the aspects of the scene before him. A photograph is an interpretation of an event from a singular viewpoint and the photographer can only take a photograph from their own perspective. Having said that, some images are obviously less biased and less subjective than others. I wanted to find examples within the media of topics which have been covered from different angles and how their images contradict, compliment or overlap one another. Sometimes photojournalists from different organisations will photograph the same scene, their viewpoint and ideas differing. Here is an example of two different photographs, by two different photojournalists from different organisations, of an identical subject and scene. Although the images in this example are very similar the differences can’t be mistaken – the right hand image by Guy Martin for Panos shows the dead man in an intimate way, closer up, his upper body lying stiffly across most of the frame, some of the background showing only for context. The left hand image by Tim Hetherington for Magnum shows the full body of the dead man and a large section of background to set the scene. They show that even if two photojournalists are in the same room or place and happen to share the same interest in subject matter their images will always be unique.
Documentary Photography Research and Inspiration-
I did a google search for ‘top documentary photographers’ to get some names for further research in to documentary photography. One of the photographers I found that I particularly liked was Brooklyn based Bryan Derballa. One of his images really stood out to me (view here). There was no caption by which to contextualise the image but this only makes the image more intriguing. I love the feel of the scene, the dirty turbulent water beneath the boat, the woman (perhaps a mother to the little boy) is on her phone which instantly places the image in the ‘late 90s to now’ category, the little boy staring up at the camera with huge white eyes with what could be fear or curiosity or a mixture of both. The attention of the boy is piercing and makes the central point of the image of which the viewer’s eyes travel ultimately back to. I really enjoy Derballa’s style and would definitely use his techniques in my own future work. I feel that his imagery is very honest and moving and I like the way he uses a deep depth of field with optimum sharpness so that no details are emitted from any given frame. I found also when browsing his website that most of him images do not appear to have been cropped, if there is an arch from a building or the length of a pier or height of a tall tree we, as the viewer, are given it in its entirety. I feel that this is important for an image that wants to remain as objective as possible. How can the viewer expect to feel the atmosphere that the image is trying to portray when some of the details have been omitted or cut out.
Another google search for ‘Two sides of a story’ came up with a project by Canon Australia whereby 6 photographers (who thought they were on a photography workshop) were each separately asked to photograph the same man. The photographers were all told that the man was defined by a differing identity – a fisherman, a millionaire, a life-saver, a former alcoholic a criminal and a psychic. The images were all very different and the way that the photographers portrayed the man were determined by the idea they’d been given of him. Canon Australia said ‘A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than by whats in front of it’ meaning that what the photographer interprets to be true will be what they try to portray in the viewfinder. But who’s version of the truth is the real truth?