The strength of New Ways of Seeing is in the discussion of where we are today. The discourse and investigation of photography and learning the craft of fluently speaking a visual language is at the forefront. The book feels perfectly positioned to appeal to both students and educators of visual arts, or anyone wanting to better understand the importance of applying practiced skills and knowledge to the visual language of photography.
The ‘democratic language of photography’ couldn’t be more appropriate as a guide or theme throughout Grant Scott’s new book New Ways of Seeing. In a very agreeable tone set in the text, Scott presents his opinion about how we got to the current position of the billions of people worldwide who carry a camera each day. However, he makes the point that this fact does not necessarily make us all well versed in a photographic, or visual language.
I’d like to make a short comment at the start of this review. Aside from the single image chosen from the book and the cover image, this review largely focuses on subject matter and not images. It’s a significant departure from my normal reviews, but one that I’ve tried to make in an effort to highlight the significance of how we all can write and talk about photography without the narrative crutch of photos to illustrate the ideas.
In the book, Scott easily recognizes the importance of pre-smartphone photography and visual storytelling, while also giving credit to the importance of the ease and ability of photographers to create without the burden of expense, or perhaps ironically, without the burden of a traditional photography education. Thus giving rise to photographers being able to proliferate personal projects and elevate the democratization of photography.
The book is laid out in chapters, but as Scott mentions in his introduction, it is not necessary to read them in order. His chapters cover a broad spectrum of topics and they are presented with the sentiment of embracing change. Scott liberally references photographers of prominence and notes the significance of their work – historically and contextually. He gives them ample credit for the influence they have made for contemporary photographers, even if it is without their awareness. The importance of internet sites like Instagram are given credit, due to the role they have played in the process of forming and informing the lives of people studying photography. Scott says in the chapter Speaking in a Digital Environment:
“For a photographer to ignore the impact of Instagram on lens-based image creation could be an act of informed decision making. For a teacher involved in photographic education to ignore Instagram’s impact on the next generation of photographers would be an act of denial and negligence”.
I enjoyed reading through the range of topics, and embraced Scott’s attitude toward a general inclusion of all the advances in smartphone, digital, and computational photography, rather than adopting a stance of being firmly grounded in traditional analog photography and scoffing the present state. The role of narrative and telling a meaningful story through the visual language of images is a primary theme throughout. Scott mentions that many people currently studying photography more readily identify themselves as visual storytellers, rather than as photographers. Very little attention is paid to gear or kit as it applies to how to make meaningful work, but the technological advances of photographic equipment are chronicled for the purpose of better understanding how we’ve gotten to this point. This is one of the most meaningful books about photography that I’ve read. It is highly informed, but not over my head, and ultimately invites the reader to thoughtfully inspect and challenge their own practices of being an image creator.
New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography by Grant Scott 240 pages, 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches, 60 color photos Published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019 ISBN-10: 135004931X ISBN-13: 978-1350049314
Grant Scott is the founder of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Oxford Brookes University, UK, a working photographer, and the author of several previously published books.
His documentary film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay has been screened across the UK, Canada, and the United States, and was ultimately posted for free via YouTube in the spirit of sharing knowledge.
Grant Scott is the founder of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Oxford Brookes University, UK, a working photographer, and the author of several previously published books. He can be found on Twitter at @UNofPhoto
His documentary film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay has been screened across the UK, Canada, and the United States, and was ultimately posted for free via YouTube in the spirit of sharing knowledge.
Parker James Reinecker is a Street / Documentary Photographer, Writer and Educator based in North Carolina. He is currently working in Northern Georgia, Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the American Southwest. Growing up in coal country, Scranton Pennsylvania, with a bar and a church on every corner, his work touches on the experience and struggle of growing up in the blue-collar United States. Drawing inspiration from his own struggles with personal identity, crime and homelessness which can be conceptually suggested within the compositions of heavy highlight and deep shadows. Parker’s images and series develop symbolic narratives while immersed in his relationship to the broken landscape of “Small Town America” and the conflict of poverty and beliefs, values and traditions, hope within the broken dreams and some touches of humor within it all.
Reinecker’s work has been exhibited in various galleries and museums in the United States including the Colorado Photographic Art Center, the Academy Art Museum and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. His work has also been featured in various national and international publications/platforms including C41 and Eyeshot Magazines, Dodho Magazine and The Photo Review. Parker is an MFA recipient from Savannah College of Art and Design and is a full-time Visual Arts Professor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Chicago-based photographer Jeffery C. Johnson’s photography has been prominently featured on the WGN-TV News, ABC-TV’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, BBC Travel.com, CNN Travel.com, Chicago Reader, Chicagoist, Gapers Block, and at ChicagoPublicRadio.com.
Johnson has worked as a dedicated photographer for the Scottish pop band Aberfeldy, captured the scene at the capitol building in Springfield, Illinois in 2007 when then Senator Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He also exclusively followed the Four Star Anarchist Organization during the Anti-NATO protests in Chicago in 2012.
Johnson has primarily photographed across the United States, but says his favorite subject has always been Chicago. Johnson grew up there and both his grandfather & father were photojournalists in Chicago. “And, of course”, he says on his website, “because the city is amazingly energetic, beautiful and bewitching, rough and raw, full of history, mystery, and punch. While I would have loved to photograph Churchill, I was given Blagojevich; but a photographer can only capture those within their time. I enjoy taking pieces and putting them together to represent a whole – whether it’s a city, a specific place, an event, or a person. I feel I am making portraits of whatever I photograph”.
We Shared this Time is a self-published collection of photos from Johnson’s work that spans different themes across his broader collection of reportage style photography. Whether it is a street image of a particular location, specific event being covered, or lucky happenstance – the direct style of Johnson’s work makes you feel like you were there. The unpretentious nature of some of his portraits transcend straight reportage, and speak to larger issues like gun violence, celebrity, and poverty. We see a teenager standing up in a crowd of people, pantomiming holding a rifle and taking aim. We see street musicians playing for tips in downtown Chicago, contrasted against professional actor and musician Steve Martin candidly playing his banjo in front of a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Naperville, IL. Johnson’s image of a Cubs fan hoping to catch a stray home-run ball, dressed in full catcher’s gear behind Wrigley Field, is in stark contrast to his candid portrait of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich – sporting a Cubs baseball cap while dressed in a business suit and tie.
Much like fellow Chicagoan Studs Terkel, Jeffery Johnson shared a moment or two with folks from all walks of life, and shared them with us. Rather, Johnson’s subjects are all of us. We Shared this Time shows different aspects of the larger picture and reveals that these disparate actors in the play of life are not so different in the end. We are all part of the play.
Dreams features a selection of works from the Easton Nights series. Peter Ydeen has been photographing the Easton, Pennsylvania area at night since 2015. He takes inspiration from the work of noted American photographer George Tice, who captured images of American life and landscape.
Ydeen explores the Easton area at night, discovering the ethereal presence of contrasts and colors. As if lighting a classical still life or stage set, Ydeen takes advantage of the lights in the city which highlight his subjects. Coupled with the pink light emitted by the sodium vapor streetlights, Easton at night becomes a silent city of lit stages bathed in unreal color and shadows.
These scenes share a familiarity with countless American cities during the quiet of night. The temporarily abandoned spaces reflect the citizens who built and occupy them during daylight. The remnants of decades of development offers a portrait of a community in absentia. For Ydeen, creating the series was both addictive and cathartic. What started as a photographic exercise became an intimate interaction with the quiet shapes and exotic lights of a sometimes-forgotten American city.
Greg Kahn says he wants Havana Youth to break the stereotype of what it means to be Cuban. The country’s current identity by and large was formed on a sense of collectivism: the idea of the benefit of a large group of people versus the individual. The youth of Cuba today are striving to break that stereotype and form new ideas based on how their counterculture reflects their own identity. This is somewhat challenging due to the lack of pop culture influences they allowed in Cuba for most of their lives. They’ve not been inundated with tons of commercials, tons of magazine advertisements, etc. due to the lack of these sources in Cuba. Their fashion sense and the zeitgeist of the youth Kahn photographed in Cuba are born from their own unbound expression of how they wish to be seen as a generation, and a culture.
An interesting cultural evolution is taking place in Cuba, especially with the millennial generation. Technologically they skipped straight past pagers and cell phones and went from landlines to iPhones. They are now soaking up popular culture via the internet, mimicking what they see, and re-inventing themselves – and Cuban culture – in the process. Kahn says he fell into the trap of photographing stereotypical architecture and old Cuba versus new Cuba images at first. After two initial trips to Cuba, he realized he was making the wrong type of work for what he wanted to capture. A lucky encounter with discovering an outdoor rave concert thriving with thousands of young Cubans, helped him realize that this is the driving force behind the change in Cuba’s economy and its future. Their energy, their drive and their sense of music and fashion were a key part of their identity.
Young Cubans’ sense of fashion is a conscious decision be a counterculture – their clothing is a middle finger to authority. This attitude is similar to one in another photo book I’ve seen about gang youth in 1980s New York City who were wearing designer clothing as an expression of the ultimate luxury living experience. Their desire to achieve their own version of the American Dream was presented to the world through apparel designed to declare: I have made it. For Cuban youth, their newly acquired iPhones, international magazines, smuggled underground movies and internet hotspots have become a way to raise their status. It is also the way for them to resist the government. A fashion blogger Kahn met in Cuban said clothes are communication. Every day there is a really conscious choice about what he is going to wear. Clothes have a strong connotation; they can be like a journalist writing against the government. It’s what it means to be free.
This culture is not only evolution, it is revolution. It is revolution without the need to fire single shot; it is revolution with a capital R, through the guise of fashion, communication, and expression via counterculture. The Cuban government will not allow for protests out in the public eye. The youth of Cuba are protesting through this subversive process of accessing the internet, and accessing a way to make money and gain upward mobility in an oppressive environment. Kahn’s images show us an avant-garde way of life within the world of youth and fashion in Cuba, and also how a new socio-political way of life is forming as well.
Havana Youth Photographs by Greg Kahn Introduction by Ariana Hernandez-Reguant Hardcover, 11.25 x 8.5 inches 144 pages + additional softcover zine Edition of 500 ISBN: 978-1-943948-12-3
With so many resources at our disposal, it’s easy to get lost in all the noise and chatter on the internet. You know where to go for your favorite news, music, or entertainment app. Wobneb Magazine wishes to be a place for specific types of photographic information. We don’t focus on gear or kit. We don’t strive to post every gallery opening or call for entries that is known and available, and we will not list the top 10 ways to become a better photographer.
Wobneb Magazine stands by our original mission to highlight the work of contemporary photographers through periodic interviews, book reviews, and features. It is our mission to provide a space for exposure, learning, promotion and visual exploration of photographers’ work.
If you are a photographer who has a long-term project worth mentioning – we want to hear from you. If you are a publisher of photo books or zines – drop us a line. Whether you recently finished a photo program at college or university and want to present your portfolio to a wider audience, or have been making meaningful work for decades – You found the right place.
I will continue to seek the input of other photographers, writers, and educators to meet the goals of our mission. It is my hope that this effort will create a place for people to view and interact with strong photographic work that has something meaningful to add to the larger discussion.
There’s something about a chronicle that can make it extremely personal. Don’t get me wrong, it can also be something that is a record of an event or thing that is widely shared among many people. But in particular, I’m speaking about a photo project or publication that is a chronicle of not just a slice of one second, but the slice of someone’s life.
Allen Lewis sent me his zine No Idea a couple months ago. No Idea reflects upon the road trips he took in his twenties. One could interpret this zine as a visual journey, or a travelogue of scenes witnessed along the way (current day) to points unknown. His color images were shot in a contemporary documentary style with a variety of analogue and digital cameras. He has captured landscapes, scenes both inside and outside buildings and homes, and a person or two – one of which might be a self-portrait.
I am firmly middle-aged, and the idea of a road trip lasting more than a couple days is only something I’d do tons of advance notice. Allan includes text at the back of this zine with comments much along the same lines. When I look at his project with this in mind, a different frame of reference is applied to the images within. It’s like wanderlust with the promise of a comfortable bed you know is waiting at the end of the journey. Some crazed experience like going to summer camp with Hunter S. Thompson is not in the cards. Let’s leave it to someone else to create work based on that premise. No Idea is poignant for me – and that’s perfect. It’s a personal project that has found form in print, and in some sense, this is a great entry for me writing about a photo zine. I made little books on Xerox machines in the ‘90s and they had all the wistful reflection of a dumpster fire. Lewis takes careful consideration of what is going on right here, right now – and contrasts it with his younger self. The work is well crafted and presented.
This zine is far more than a snapshot or quick vignette of a singular theme. Ultimately Lewis takes the opportunity to chronicle and explore concepts and ideas reflecting on what one might not understand in the reckless abandon of youth. As he says in the zine, “I wish I’d had a camera back then. When you were younger you have no idea what you’re witnessing. But does that change as you get older?”
Photos and text by Allan Lewis
Copyright 2018, Allan Lewis
Sarah Belclaire is a photographer and writer based in Boston, Massachusetts, Her writing is mainly focused on women artists, and she recently launched a social media campaign called #1woman1review to encourage more women writers to review the work of women artists.
Belclaire’s photographic work also focuses on women’s issues, both personally and broadly. Her current/ongoing series “Unmending” is an attempt to relate her own story about disability and chronic illness to healing as a universal and varied experience. She uses large pieces of fabric to create in-studio scenes and costumes embodying the dichotomy of covering up or hiding one’s self, as compared to emerging from trauma.
This featured photographer comes from a blind submission to Wobneb Magazine. Like many things in life, a blind leap of faith is called for. In this particular case, it means the curtain is pulled aside and Sarah Belclaire’s work comes to the front of the stage. Her work is presented with a dignified grace rather than a clanging gong. Her cathartic work in ‘Unmending’ uses her own body, and her own life experience to explore meaning of her own recovery from illness; and in the larger sense, what it truly means to heal.
Artist Statement for ‘Unmending’
“These self-portraits began with one year of photographing myself as I experienced chronic illness and, primarily, recovered from surgery. I photographed my healing scars and my life with those scars and presented these images to friends through Instagram and Facebook. As my healing progressed, the reactions of those who took my scars at face value drove me towards a different narrative: one of healing as a lifelong and universally relatable process, less tied to scars than to identity.
I began to explore the body language and inadvertent messages that remain when I photograph my healing body without explicitly including the physical wounds. In covering my scars I uncovered themes of affectation, evasion, and discomfort as well as self-awareness, poise, and resilience. Recognizing that I am neither sickly nor immune to damage, I experiment with draped cloth costumes, which when molded, re-folded, and altered, can transform me into any state of mind: exposed, invincible, or somewhere in between. I see myself as a soul-searching woman, hiding, concealing, revealing and adorning herself with fabric: first a curtain drawn, then a twisted rope; a hospital gown or a ballgown; sheath or shaper. This work is intended to address recovery as a self-aware and sometimes painful process through which we mend, unmend, hide, emerge, lean upon others, evolve, and reinvent ourselves in search of a narrative for our healing experience.”
“At the age of twenty-six I opted for surgery to potentially, one day, save my heart. All at once it was comforting, terrifying, scarring, and curative. I addressed the complexity of this journey by photographing myself every day, starting the day after my surgery. Even when I could barely walk I was taking photos, not because it was a challenge but because it was a relief.”
“My wardrobe and backdrops made from draped fabric are inspired by traditions of European painting from the Baroque era to early Impressionism. Fabric backdrops allow me to create a diorama of sorts in which to install my human still-lifes. Inspired by the elaborate use of costume and gesture in an exhibit of the Pre-Raphaelites at the National Gallery of Art in London, I have transformed myself into the heroine of my own anti-tragedy: an Ophelia risen from the lake.”
Sarah Belclaire is a photographer, writer, and researcher from Boston, Massachusetts. She has been writing about the arts and music and shooting portraits for 10 years. Her writing has been featured on BobDylan.com, Folk Radio UK, and No Depression. Her photos have appeared in international print and online publications such as Vogue Italia, PH Magazine, F-Stop Magazine, Photographer’s Forum, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. To see more of her work from ‘Unmending’ and other photography projects, please visit her website at https://www.sarahbelclaire.com/ — to read Belclaire’s interviews, features and editorials, visit https://www.sarahbelclaire.com/redshoes
Rachael Banks is a photographer from Louisville, Kentucky, and is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Northern Kentucky University. In a recent issue of F-Stop Magazine, I was fortunate to interview her and feature her work in the thematic context of animals – while acknowledging her work focuses primarily on family dynamics, relationships, and nostalgia. She is also especially interested in social subcultures and identity informed by place. Banks’ creates work about her family and the uneasiness of those relationships that are strained but also incredibly involved. The inclusion of numerous pets or animals in her family’s life conveys the importance animals play in our lives as she explores feelings of loss, identity, and meaning in the context of family, love and acceptance. It is immediately apparent that she cares deeply for her family – a tough subject to be subjective with, and also intimately close to.
I am the oldest of three, but more like a mother than a sister.
I constructed a family of siblings, both real and assumed.
‘Between Home and Here’ addresses deeply internalized
guilt and the essence of loved ones.
There is a history of pain and an apparent inwardness in my family.
My brother has a rage inside of him that I know others can see.
But, I can’t help noticing the way he delicately handles a small rabbit in his arms, gently stroking its ears and shielding its eyes from the fear of the unfamiliar.
I am a witness to their sensitivity and empathy in how they revere animal life, despite human failure.
This is a story about hating and loving where you are from.
It comes from doing anything to go back to a place that you left.
I left my heart in Kentucky and came back to find it.
The photographs are artifacts from my search.
Rachael Banks – ‘Between Home and Here’
Cary Benbow (CB):Your projectBetween Home and Here explores very powerful tropes of Family and inclusion. Let’s talk about the level of trust and intimacy in your work, and I’d like to ask about the project in terms of portraiture versus straight documentary style photography.
Rachael Banks (RB): While I am extroverted at work (I have to be), I am actually pretty shy and slow in how I go about making work, so it isn’t always as viable for me to photograph strangers. There is definitely a level of intimacy I have to achieve with a person to make work about them extensively. I really like to invest in whoever I am making work about. I go back and forth about my work being more portraiture based vs. documentary. In the beginning, I was interested in the concept of aesthetic beauty and portraiture allowed me to explore that. However, as the work has continued, I’ve thought more about my relationships with people and the place I feel I have in the world. I never considered myself a documentary photographer because I wasn’t sure if photographing my family fit within the scope but as the work expands, I definitely feel like the work is more heavily influenced by documentary photography. Portraiture is something I naturally gravitate towards in respect to my working methodology but my intent goes beyond the mode in which I present my images.
CB: Let’s discuss the role animals play in your work; how much of a role do they play in the lives of your subjects, or in your own life?
RB:I’m not sure if this is a regional or family influence (maybe a little bit of both) but I grew up surrounded by animals. My family members have always had a wide array of pets and my dad lives on a farm. I was definitely raised in an environment that placed a heavy emphasis on respect for animals and to treat pets as family. Because my work is so centrally focused on my relationships with immediate family, it is inevitable that animals become a part of that. Additionally, I see that animals often serve as an extension of the subject I am photographing and that they can help inform the viewer with more insight into the personality traits of the individual. On a personal note, I spend a lot of time driving to make work and I bring my dog Ghost with me as much as possible. If there isn’t an animal in the photograph I’m making, there is most likely one sitting next to me while I’m shooting.
CB: With regard to your earlier statement about your portraits documenting your family, what do you feel are the “obligations” of a photographer, or what obligation do you have to the people, your family, in your photos?
RB: I think it is important to have the ability to stand behind every image that you make. I understand that anything I put out into the world for others to see is coming from my own specific gaze and that I am actively selecting how the subject is framed and presented. I feel that I have a responsibility to myself and others to be able to understand that not everyone will see my images the same way that I do and that I have the ability to contribute (both negatively and positively) to how an individual/region/situation is represented. There is always the possibility that something I make can be misunderstood or that I can even cause harm, so with that in mind, I try to make sure that I don’t share anything that I can’t live with later on in life.
CB: What compels you to make the images you create? Why do you photograph?
RB:My mom photographed my entire childhood – and I mean she photographed everything constantly. While she has never identified as being creative/artistic, I feel that her compulsions have influenced me greatly and my need to document as much of my life/surroundings as possible. I have a lot of anxiety about forgetting defining moments or losing sight of what informs my identity. Photography has always provided a way for me to stay connected to who I am and what matters to me.
CB: Who are your photography inspirations or how to they influence your work?
RB:This is a question where I can go overboard so I will attempt to be as concise as possible. I really love Doug Dubois and the way he documents youth in addition to integrating a graphic novel in his series My Last Day at Seventeen. When I think about the muse in the photograph, I always look at Emmet Gowin; because who wouldn’t want to be loved the way that Edith is? I’m really inspired by Nathan Pearce and the way he photographs his life in the Midwest – he also has an incredible work ethic that always pushes me to be better. Jake Reinhart is another big inspiration for me because of his extensive approach to research and his ability to articulate his work in such a thoughtful way. I am also currently excited about Amy Powell, Caiti Borruso, Susan Worsham, and Dylan Hausthor.
CB: Do you feel there is a significant difference between “documentary” style photography versus “portrait” photography as a label? Or are those labels significant as a category to your work?
RB:I think that there is crossover between portraiture and documentary in my work. In terms of there being a difference, I believe the intent of the photographer is significant in making distinctions between the two. I’ve seen documentary work that is mainly consistent of portraiture so there isn’t much a difference between the two in that situation but I have also seen a lot of portraiture work that is more about visual aesthetics than it is about being documentary. I feel that my work falls in both categories in that I work primarily in portraiture but I am approaching my subject matter as a documentarian. Portraiture is a natural habit for me but I am more interested in the research and document component of making work. I don’t want to be the person that says I don’t fall into a category because I definitely fall into a few! If I had to describe my work in one sentence to a stranger I would summarize it as a documentary approach to family (assumed and biological) portraiture.
CB: Please talk about the role of a photographer as “publisher” and what you think about the recent increased push for photographers to publish photo books and/or zines. I know you are a strong advocate for publishing work.
RB: I am 100% supportive of photographers working in self-publishing and its one of my favorite components of photography. I think there is a lot that self-publishing/zines allow for a photographer in regard to the opportunity for exposure that it provides. While I feel it is still important to show work in galleries, a zine allows a photographer to share work without being weighed down by so many financial burdens. Accessible art is really important to me and I feel that self-publishing allows for photography to be more readily distributed and shared which fosters such a dynamic community that I value being a part of. On another note, I think that there is an over saturation of photobooks in the world right now, but I’m not terribly upset about having more books to collect. If there is a project that isn’t ready to be presented to the work as a traveling solo exhibition or a monograph, it can still be shared/distributed as a zine. Publishing also allows for photographers/viewers to see work as a physical object as opposed to looking at everything through a screen. I definitely appreciate the photograph more as a physical object and publishing encourages this.
Rachael Banks (b. Louisville, KY) is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Northern Kentucky University and is based in Covington, KY. She received an MFA in photography from Texas Woman’s University (Denton, TX). Banks is an avid supporter of self-publishing, accessible art, zines, and collecting. Her work has been shown at The Center for Fine Art Photography, The Kinsey Institute, Black Box Gallery, Darkroom Gallery, and several other institutions. She has also been featured in a number of online photography publications and frequently participates in panel discussions and invited speaker presentations.
Arthur Fields is a photographer from Texas, currently living in Vincennes, Indiana where he is an Assistant Professor of Art at Vincennes University.He currently teaches courses in traditional analog photography as well as digital imaging. He also serves as the director of VU’s Shircliff Gallery of Art.
Fields’ latest artistic research is based on his love of landscape and self-representation. By compiling imagery from online web searches and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, both virtual and tangible, his work consists of imagery collected through the process of data compiling using hashtags (identity markers). Acting as both curator as well as image-maker he is concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes.
Much of Fields’ recent work involving images and hashtags used on social media platforms (especially Instagram) explore themes of place, sense of self, and inclusion/exclusion; especially in the context of class, race, and culture. His exhibition From Academic to Instagram complied collections of images based around a core group of hashtags. The resulting grid of multiple images from his collection is a manner of both curation and image-making. In his statement for the exhibition, Fields says, “I am concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes. By considering the photograph as data to be sorted, I engage in systems for which modern culture stores and presents images that reflect the pictorial and social relationships connecting the camera, the photographer, and the spectator.”Fields includes more context for the work by addressing the collective social experience people have by being both producers and consumers of visual media. Fields continues in his statement, “As John Berger writes in his seminal book, Ways of Seeing, ‘Oil painting, before it was anything else, was a celebration of private property. As an art-form it derived from the principle that you are what you have.’ These sets of images, placed in the IG grid format, represent my view of the genre or a hashtag as it relates to my personal online experience. The amount of feedback or likes I get from IG followers. Why are these images created? Are they actually memories of daily life or is this just the modern way of displaying wealth, class or culture?”
In a collection of related images and posts on Fields’ Instagram feed (@artfields), he uses the hashtag ‘overheard’ to explore themes of inclusion and exclusion, as well as identity and a sense of place and self. The images are part of a larger project, Seen and Heard. When I asked Fields about these images and the themes within, he said the feeling of being an outsider was especially noticeable soon after relocating from his home in Texas. That feeling has subsided with time, but the series of ‘overheard’ tagged images definitely builds off the feeling of being ‘on the outside’ of a conversation, culture or class.
In his project statement for Seen and Heard, Fields states that the project is ultimately “an exploration of a way that memory is influenced in the digital age. Using the senses of sight and sound, I share my daily walk through the world. These routine and sometimes mundane activities such as driving to work, celebrating birthdays and watching nature are activities that represent my life. Through the use of the social network Instagram, these mundane scenes are revisited and carefully edited to portray my public-self. Upon seeing an image, the brain informs us that we have seen or had that experience. By choosing to print specific imagery, I transform it from experience to object which in turn enhances the ability to recall the experience. This work promotes the intuitive recognition of shared experiences. Like the careful construction of the vanishing ‘scrapbook’, I am selecting and constructing the memories for myself and the viewer. Created to trigger both visual and auditory memories, this selection of images and text are randomly chosen to represent my life.”
“Each image is labeled with its associated information, such as location and hashtag,” Fields explains. “The images are also given the bonus of a quote. The added quote represents an overheard comment or audio blurb, heard by the artist within 48 hours of taking the image. By choosing a particular quote with an unrelated image, a connection between the two leads to the generation of a personal narrative. While this work does mirror that deluge of images and audio prevalent in a digital society, it is curated; filtered to make a particular story that serves as evidence of a unique personal experience.” Fields’ work explores his own personal interactions; yet there is a strong supporting level of universal experience through social contexts, identity and memory.
The collection of images from the Seen and Heard project can be views at Fields’ Instagram feed: @artfields. In connection with this published feature, beginning April 23rd, Fields will be posting work from his project on the Instagram feed for Wobneb Magazine. To see images from this project, please click on the link, and follow @WobnebMag on Instagram to view his work.