I do understand that collaboration and participation are where many forms of art are now located, particularly new and cutting edge ideas. In some ways perhaps much of this derives from the artists’ manifestos of the last century whether Dada, Futurist or Situationist.
In the words of the Situationist Manifesto of 1960; ‘Against the spectacle, the realized situationist culture introduces total participation. … Against preserved art, it is the organization of the directly lived moment. … Against particularized art, it will be a global practice with a bearing, each moment, on all the usable elements. … Against unilateral art, situationist culture will be an art of dialogue, an art of interaction’ (Debord 1960).
This is heady stuff. However, I don’t think that what I am doing is particularly suited to it, so for now I will probably have to confine myself to what Ansel Adams reputedly observed: ‘There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.’
My project Hometown Nights involves photography after dark. Currently, I am intentionally making photographs of spaces without people. The reason is that when someone is in the photograph, its whole meaning changes and stories kick off. That is fine, of course, but it is not what I am trying to do at the moment which among other things is to suggest presence by absence (in respect of other people).
I have no plans to change my approach for the time being. I enjoy the evening solitude and would find other people a distraction. I do not think that urban night photography (in the way I am currently approaching it) is a good project for a collaborative, participatory or collectivist approach. Plenty of other subjects would work really well for this but in my case I think it would be a mistake.
What this week’s activities have caused me to reconsider most is the forms the output of my work might take. Here, more collaboration would be of benefit.
As I said in a previous post, the output of my work could change from a conventional fine arts photography book into a number of other things in addition to or instead of that. All of them would involve a greater degree of collaboration. These might include an exhibition (though cost might be an impediment where I live), zines, online collaborations on photography sites like Flickr and Instagram, photography walks, tutorials online and no doubt much besides.
I could also look at using for inspiration some classic night-time photographs, or paintings, much in the manner of Tom Hunter or from a more conceptual approach Jeff Wall. Some of Chris Ofili’s ‘blue period’ works come to mind too (Tate 2014, for example). Remixing is a form of collaboration. This would be very interesting and likely great fun as well as challenging. There are some pitfalls to be careful of when talking of sources of inspiration, however, such as clumsy appropriation or simply just channelling (in effect, copying) someone’s else’s work without being fully aware of it, so I am sure this is not as easy as it sounds.
DEBORD, Guy. 1960. Situationist Manifesto. In Alex DANCHEV (ed.). 2011. 100 Artists’ Manifestos. London: Penguin, 357-60.
OFILI, Chris. 2014. ‘Blue Devils’. TATE [online]. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/ofili-blue-devils-t14031 [accessed 20 Jun 2020].