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DOCUMENT MAKING IN METROPOLIS

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Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

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Vicky and I were in Sydney last week. It is a Big city, lots of things to see and do, festivals; Vivid, Headon and Reportage, people everywhere with phones, iPads and DSLRs shooting. We joined in the photo foray that is Sydney and found in ourselves – and in our subjects, a connection with Australian documentary photography that threaded from Parke’s glowing ghost-light, to Dupain and Moore’s modernist clean lines and then all the way back to Cazneaux’s warm pictorialist pictures. These connections with the history of photography were warm and fuzzy for me and gave a feeling of confidence, comfort and purpose for my engagement with image making.

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I began to think about photography and photographers today, particularly the often cited us and them divide between those who have a significant history, both professional and academic in photography, and those who pick up a camera, or use their smart imaging device and just take pictures.

Questions arose – I’ll use the terms vernacular and serious to distinguish my discussion of these two groups:

  • Does a sense of history and experience in photography really make a difference to the ‘quality’ of the resulting image?
  • There is a lot of hype and acceptance of the snapshot ethic within photography circles – so what is the difference when between a serious and a vernacular snapshot photo?
  • Is the general public today more astute about image design, content, moment of capture than serious photographers choose to give them credit for?
  • Is there any difference in the workflow between serious photographers and those ubiquitous vernacular snappers? Isn’t photography still about; having access to imaging technology>looking/seeing/experiencing the world>responding to visual triggers>readying the imaging device>considering it in the viewscreen>take the picture at a selected time/timing> and then doing something with it?
  • Does it make a difference if the vernacular photographer engages in a spontaneous act of self-documentation and the serious photographer engages in the process with a methodology that which is informed by a past lived in photography and the appreciation of the underpinning awareness of the photoimaging process, technology, visual literacy and human sociology?
  • Are both the vernacular and the serious photographer’s images ultimately the result of the assimilation of every studied or subliminal idea and visual influence that they have encountered?

On these days in Sydney I made my photographs, as did thousands of other photographers who shared my interest in using the photograph, or the very act of photography, to ‘still’ a moment in time. But are there other synergies at play? The philosopher Wilém Flusser might an alternate view on what photographer, vernacular and serious alike. In his book, Towards a Philosophy of Photography (2000) Flusser proposes that everyone using photography is essentially being seduced by the camera and its ‘program’. He states:

Both those taking snaps and documentary photographers, however, have not understood ‘information.’ What they produce are camera memories, not information, and the better they do it, the more they prove the victory of the camera over the human being. (Flusser 2000:59)

Perhaps then, if Flusser is right, we have no say in the process at all and that we are merely slaves to the technology. With that in mind, I guess I’ll just continue to make ‘camera memories’ so that the camera and I can connect with the times, and the places, that we shared together …

Doug Spowart       8 June 2013

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SOME CAMERA MEMORIES OF THE METROPOLIS

My Olympus Pen & me: May 27-30, 2013

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Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

Citizens of Sydney by Doug Spowart ©2013

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All  photographs by my Olympus Pen whose ‘program’ made me take the photos….

© Doug Spowart 2013.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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