Assignment 5 – Presentation

My tutor suggested to me after receiving the book format for Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, and Me that perhaps this assignment didn’t work in a book format after all. Instead he encouraged me to think of a better way to display the photographs; particularly the ‘standalone’ photographs, which in the book comprised the first half of each diptych. At first I wasn’t that convinced that the book format didn’t work as I had become somewhat attached to the diptych idea to best contrast myself with the tourists in this assignment. However, by listening my tutor and experimenting, I came up with a different way to present the photographs. In retrospect I do like this method better as it alters the meaning of the work so that my relationship with the tourists is not the defining characteristic of the work but actually the photographs themselves stand out more.

1. Original Book Format Displaying a Diptych in a Relatively Small Format Despite a Quite Cramped Layout
1. Original Book Format Displaying a Diptych in a Relatively Small Format Despite a Quite Cramped Layout

The method I chose to present the work differed significantly from the book form. Unlike the book where the diptych placed equal weight on both parts of the diptych photographs, I replaced the diptych idea. I agreed with my tutor’s comments that the first half of each diptych’s photographs form the book deserved to be displayed as a singular centrepiece. This was because I felt they worked as a single-image narrative for each of the hotspots and their inevitable tourist visitors. They were the stronger images in my opinion. They were more effective being directly compared and contrasted against each other than against their diptych counterparts in the original book I’d produced.

2. Original Book Format Displaying a Diptych in a Relatively Small Format Despite a Quite Cramped Layout
2. Original Book Format Displaying a Diptych in a Relatively Small Format Despite a Quite Cramped Layout

I didn’t stop using the other side of the diptychs however. My tutor and I felt both they and the selfies I’d taken at each location in mimicry of the tourists were still effective images. They delved deeper into my relationship with the tourists as well as the whole ritual of selfie taking as souvenirs of an experience although this wasn’t fully explored in these pictures. Therefore I decided to include these images as ‘supporting documents’ to the standalone photographs.

3. Revised, Larger (A3) Format with Centrepiece (Top Left) and Supporting Documents (Bottom Right)
3. Revised, Larger (A3) Format with Centrepiece (Top Left) and Supporting Documents (Bottom Right)

To incorporate the single-image narrative standalone photographs and the supporting documents together in one form I decided to move away from the book format. This was to better show off the standalone photographs by printing them large – A3 sized. If I was going to exhibit the photographs I would probably print even larger. The supporting documents were printed much smaller in comparison to the standalone photographs in order to convey to the viewer they were intended to support the centrepieces. For assessment I printed the supporting documents on a A3-sized piece of photographic paper for each tourist hotspot location. Each location’s A3 standalone photograph was therefore supported by another A3 piece of photographic paper but on these there was the mimicry by myself of the tourists’ selfie-taking and the selfies I’d taken at each of these positions in the respective locations. In this way, the standalone photographs were given much more prominence on the A3 paper than the supporting documents.

4. Revised, Larger (A3) Format with Centrepiece (Top Left) and Supporting Documents (Bottom Right)
4. Revised, Larger (A3) Format with Centrepiece (Top Left) and Supporting Documents (Bottom Right)
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Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me – Revised

After correspondence with my tutor in the pre-assessment review (Assignment 6) and some thinking on my part, I have essentially rearranged the presentation of Assignment 5. This is so it is possible to read the project in a different way than had it been left as it was presented in the original book format. Instead I’ve presented each main piece as a separate standalone photograph. Beside each standalone photograph is a supporting document. The original introduction for the project remains largely accurate:

I have been documenting the picture-taking, particularly selfie-happy tourists who frequent London. The way I have decided to do this isn’t an accurate rendition of the scene as the photographs are no longer indexical to what was in front of the camera. Instead, I have utilised digital technologies to merge parts of multiple images into single composites. One of the conditions of optical perception inherent in photography (Eco, n.d.) is reduced (that of juxtapositions within the frame derived from the indexical relationship of the scene and the photograph in traditional photography). However, another is given for these particular scenes. Here at these tourist hotspots I’ve created a more accurate sense of what it is like to be in these magnets for tourists with selfies being taken left, right and centre. The clutter has been removed allowing the viewer to be more immersed in what has to me become more of a spectacle than the landmarks themselves. That is the spectacle of the spectacle – the unconscious performance by tourists of mass picture-taking from similar viewpoints with myself recording this spectacle in a cohesive manner. ‘The spectacle that falsifies reality is nevertheless a real product of that reality’ – (Debord, 1967). I would argue this quote could be applied to the composites I’ve created which have been drawn from reality.

I’ve taken the images from the perspective of an outsider looking in, even though I would call myself more of an insider as this is my home city. To support the single image composites I have repeated the images produced for each hotspot with myself imitating the tourists’ poses in front of the landmarks. ‘real life is materially invaded by the contemplation of the spectacle, and ends up absorbing it and aligning itself with it.’ – (Debord, 1967). I wanted to establish my own relationship to the tourists. This was that materially there was no relationship but within the pseudo-world of images I could assert my presence. This represents myself interacting with the tourists retrospectively. I have previously noted that tourists tend to reassure themselves when in unfamiliar places by simply taking pictures. Susan Sontag writes on tourism: ‘As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of a space in which they are insecure.’ – (Sontag, 1977). Using this line of thinking, just like the tourists picture-taking at the hotspots were doing as a kind of souvenir of their experience as outsiders looking in, I also used picture-taking as an outsider looking in, except the subject of my pictures were the tourists and their performance in front of the landmarks. My picture-taking too was a kind of reaction towards something I felt slightly unsure about.

Finally for this project, I took selfies and photos similar to what the tourists would have taken from the same position they (and I, retrospectively) had assumed in the composites I’d put together. For me this reaffirmed my experience in relation to the tourists; producing something tangible from a relationship I’d never been able to put my fingers on up until now.

Photograph 1 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 1 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 1 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 1 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 2 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 2 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 2 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 2 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 3 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 3 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 3 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 3 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 4 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 4 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 4 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 4 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 5 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 5 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 5 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 5 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 6 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 6 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 6 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 6 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 7 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Photograph 7 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 7 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me
Supporting Document for Photograph 7 – Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me

References:

Debord, G. (1967). Society of the Spectacle. 3rd ed. London: Rebel Press, pp. 7-8.

Eco, U. (n.d.) In. Burgin, V. (1982) Thinking About Photography. London: MacMillan.

Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pp. 12.

Tutor Report for Assignment 5 – Documentary

Here I have attached my tutor report for Assignment 5 – Documentary. This is so the viewers of the journey I’ve taken through my course are able to see how I improved on the comments I received for Assignment 5 (and coursework) from my tutor in terms of presentation and content.

Tutor Report for Assignment 5 – Documentary

Changes I’ve since made to Assignment 5 include:

Assignment 5 – Tourism in London, And Me – Revised

Assignment 5 – Presentation

Self-reflection for Assignment 5 – Documentary

I felt I showed good technical skill in producing the diptychs because it required patience and practise to get enough tourists taking pictures/selfies in front of the camera at the hotspots. Likewise I felt I showed more patience and paid attention to detail in order to get the framing and poses right for the self-portrait part of each diptych. Lastly making the composites in Photoshop required further patience.

The quality of outcome was good in my opinion. At first the project started out with me just trying out the composite technique as can be seen in the post: Photographs Inspired by Chris Dorley-Brown and Peter Funch but with tourists taking pictures as integral parts to the composites. Then after some correspondence with my fellow student Bryn, it developed into the idea of myself interacting with the tourists retrospectively through pictures. This was then embellished when I realised that I could take similar photographs to that which they had taken from those same spots, further affirming my relationship through pictures. I put this last part together in a scrapbook style which for me resembled the of the kind of scrapbook a typical tourist coming home from holiday would make.

In my opinion the creative aspect of the project was good and I learnt how valuable conceptualisation through shooting photographs and experimenting can be. However, certain aspects of the creativity in terms of creating the composites did initially bother me. I did at times question the ethics of my project in terms of depicting a true-to-life rendition of reality. This was especially true while ‘cutting out’ the tourists from one image and layering them into the composites using layer masks. I used a tablet with virtual pen to make more precise selections while painting in the layer masks. On occasions I had to look closely at the computer screen during this process which made me aware just how much I was making the camera lie and deceiving what was once an indexical relationship. However, I kept coming back to Umberto Eco’s assertion that: ‘the photograph reproduces the conditions of optical perception, but only some of them.’ – (Eco In. Burgin, 1982). Here I was just reducing another of those conditions of optical perception; that of juxtapositions within the frame and it could be argued I was doing so to highlight the perceived uncertainty over the nature of photographic realism nowadays. As Peter Funch (whose technique is very similar, and was a big influence for Assignment 5) puts it in an interview with Gregory Jones while talking about Babel Tales (2006): ‘Everything depicted in Babel Tales is true to life, however, the elements that construct the photographs were taken at different times.’ – (Jones and Funch, 2013). He previously says in the interview: ‘I present them [the pictures in Babel Tales] as documents that aren’t necessarily true. It is for the viewer to decide was is real and what is unreal – it’s not my prerogative.’ – (Jones and Funch, 2013). These comments by Eco and Funch alleviated my preexisting notions that a photograph ‘has’ to appear real. I began to think instead the viewer’s gaze was not predetermined by the nature of the photograph and they could make up their own mind.

I thought it was a documentary project in the sense that it documented parts of life – even though the composites were not indexical to the life the photographs had been made up from. In this manner it was more a topical commentary on tourism and consumer culture where pictures are a commodity which are more and more disconnected from reality. It was less a traditional documentary project where the photographs are an authentic document but it could be argued it still conveyed a message as clearly as traditional photojournalism.

References:

Eco, U. In. Burgin, V. (1982) Thinking About Photography. London: MacMillan.

Jones, G. and Funch, P. (2013). Peter Funch and the Constructed Moment ⋆ In the In-Between. [online] In the In-Between. Available at: https://www.inthein-between.com/peter-funch-and-the-constructed-moment/ [Accessed 10 May 2018].

Book Format – My (Original) Preferred Format for Assignment 5 – Documentary – Tourism in London, And Me

Here I have attached the PDF for my preferred format for Tourism in London, And Me, that of a book. Although this would be my preferred format, I wouldn’t say it translates well in PDF format onto my blog as it isn’t possible to look at the diptychs side by side as you would in a material book as you turn from double-page spread to double-page spread. The diptychs I would suggest are a big part of my projects efficacy which the PDF loses. However, I have attached the PDF anyway so it is possible to get a better idea of the general look of the book including the front and back covers.

I would say before the book is actually printed and material where the diptychs can really be appreciated, the format of Assignment 5 appearing on my blog at: is more appropriate as it is a place where the project can show off the diptychs side by side.

Assignment 5 – Documentary – Tourism in London, And Me – Book Cover

Assignment 5 – Documentary – Tourism in London, And Me – Book

Assignment 5 – Documentary – Tourism in London, And Me – Original

I have been documenting the picture-taking, particularly selfie-happy tourists who frequent London. The way I have decided to do this isn’t an accurate rendition of the scene as the photographs are no longer indexical to what was in front of the camera. Instead, I have utilised digital technologies to merge parts of multiple images into single composites. One of the conditions of optical perception inherent in photography (Eco In. Burgin, 1982) is reduced (that of juxtapositions within the frame derived from the indexical relationship of the scene and the photograph in traditional photography). However, another is given for these particular scenes. Here at these tourist hotspots I’ve created a more accurate sense of what it is like to be in these magnets for tourists with selfies being taken left, right and centre. The clutter has been removed allowing the viewer to be more immersed in what has to me become more of a spectacle than the landmarks themselves. That is the spectacle of the spectacle – the unconscious performance by tourists of mass picture-taking from similar viewpoints with myself recording this spectacle in a cohesive manner. ‘The spectacle that falsifies reality is nevertheless a real product of that reality’ – (Debord, 1967). I would argue this quote could be applied to the composites I’ve created which have been drawn from reality.

I’ve taken the images from the perspective of an outsider looking in, even though I would call myself more of an insider as this is my home city. As such I have repeated the images produced for each hotspot with myself imitating the tourists’ poses in front of the landmarks. ‘real life is materially invaded by the contemplation of the spectacle, and ends up absorbing it and aligning itself with it.’ – (Debord, 1967). I wanted to establish my own relationship to the tourists. This was that materially there was no relationship but within the pseudo-world of images I could assert my presence. This represents myself interacting with the tourists retrospectively. I have previously noted that tourists tend to reassure themselves when in unfamiliar places by simply taking pictures. Susan Sontag writes on tourism: ‘As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of a space in which they are insecure.’ – (Sontag, 1977). Using this line of thinking, just like the tourists picture-taking at the hotspots were doing as a kind of souvenir of their experience as outsiders looking in, I also used picture-taking as an outsider looking in, except the subject of my pictures were the tourists and their performance in front of the landmarks. My picture-taking too was a kind of reaction towards something I felt slightly unsure about.

Finally for this project, I took selfies and photos similar to what the tourists would have taken from the same position they (and I, retrospectively) had assumed in the composites I’d put together. For me this reaffirmed my experience in relation to the tourists; producing something tangible from a relationship I’d never been able to put my fingers on up until now.

Photograph 1 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 2 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 3 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 4 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 5 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 6 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 7 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 8 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 9 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 10 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 11 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 12 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 13 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

Photograph 14 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And MePhotograph 15 - Assignment 5 - Tourism in London, And Me

References:

Debord, G. (1967). Society of the Spectacle. 3rd ed. London: Rebel Press, pp. 7-8.

Eco, U. In. Burgin, V. (1982) Thinking About Photography. London: MacMillan.

Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pp. 12.

Research Into the Practice of Selfie-Taking in Preparation for Assignment 5 – Documentary

Since a large part of my work for Assignment 5 – Documentary revolves around myself documenting people in the act of taking photos but more specifically selfies, I have decided to conduct some research into the ultra-popular phenomenon of selfie-taking. Obviously there are a lot of selfies taken each day, although it was hard to find information quantifying just how many selfies are taken each day, perhaps because of the multitude that are taken. One source claimed 1 million selfies are taken each day: ‘the 1 million odd selfies taken every day across the world (the average millennial is expected to take 25,700 selfies in his or her lifetime)’ – (Walden, 2016). However, this was back in 2016 and is a rough estimate so numbers may have risen since then. In fact in 2014 another article came to the figure ‘Android users send … 93 million “selfies” every day.’ – (Brandt, 2014). These numbers vary wildly but I came to the conclusion that there are a lot of selfies being taken each day. I have also come to realise, while walking around my home city of London that there are a lot of selfies being taken, as well as the fact that London seemed to be a particularly popular place for selfies.

Upon closer inspection, I was able to find statistics that backed this up, showing that London is indeed the the selfie capital of the world. As of 2014, 14.05% of selfies were taken in London. ‘According to an analysis of millions of social media posts by personalized map maker Suggestme, London is the world’s selfie capital.’ – (Richter, 2014). I feel I have been very privileged to live in London and it has come in handy to take advantage of the city’s selfie capital status for the project I have been commencing for Assignment 5 – Documentary. Because so many people visit and take selfies in London it has allowed me to conceptualise through shooting photographs the project described in Final Development for Assignment 5 – Documentary. It will also have allowed me (with the help of some patience) to get shots of many tourists taking selfies in each hotspot, something that wouldn’t have been as possible in other cities.

One thing that did intrigue me about this data which somewhat quantified the popularity of selfie-taking was what drove people to take them so frequently and with so much enthusiasm. Fellow student Bryn had referenced Grand Turismo to me as a suggestion for reading as he knew I was interested in documenting tourism and selfie-taking for Assignment 5. Photographer Stefano Galli was interested in documenting the same phenomenon but in a different style and in the American West instead of London. Galli used certain similar techniques: ‘To best capture the phenomenon of massive tourism, I chose popular destinations, the ones that would allow me to find the big crowds.’ – (Galli, 2018), however his style was more natural and uncontrived than mine. He documented the tourists using the selfie as a commodity rather than experiencing the spaces they visited. One quote I could really relate to since commencing Assignment 5 was: ‘Where the travel photograph was once a memento of a personal experience it has now become a commodity, replacing the experience itself.’ – (The Leica Camera Blog, 2018). This quote in turn made me think back to a remark by Susan Sontag in On Photography (1977) where she states: ‘by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.’ It would seem that the photographs are now more important than the actual visit to the place. The visit to the place takes more of a peripheral backseat to the tourists.

The act of selfie-taking isn’t without controversy. According to Christoforakos and Diefenbach (2017), they state: ‘The Selfie Paradox: Nobody Seems to Like Them Yet Everyone Has Reasons to Take Them’ as the title of their exploration into the psychological implications of selfie-taking. I already agreed with this statement but reading through the abstract of the article there were some interesting comments to back this statement up. ‘Taking, posting, and viewing selfies has become a daily habit for many. At the same time, research revealed that selfies often evoke criticism and disrespect, and are associated with non-authenticity and narcissism.’ – (Christoforakos and Diefenbach, 2017). This directly backs up the title of their article. The two parts to this statement were in turn backed up by ‘self-promotion (promoting one’s strength and abilities) and self-disclosure (revealing one’s feelings for earning sympathy) felt especially positive while takings selfies’ – (Christoforakos and Diefenbach, 2017) for the positive side of selfie-taking. Then for the negative side to taking/viewing selfies they found: ‘participants expressed a distanced attitude toward selfies, with stronger agreement for potential negative consequences (threats to self-esteem, illusionary world) than for positive consequences … and a clear preference (82%) for viewing more usual pictures instead of selfies in social media’ – (Christoforakos and Diefenbach, 2017). I thought this was very insightful research as most people would agree there are positive and negative sides to selfie-culture but probably wouldn’t be able to elucidate as clearly as this to why.

References:

Brandt, R. (2014). Google divulges numbers at I/O: 20 billion texts, 93 million selfies and more. [online] Bizjournals.com. Available at: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2014/06/25/google-divulges-numbers-at-i-o-20-billion-texts-93.html [Accessed 13 May 2018].

Christoforakos, L. and Diefenbach, S. (2017). The Selfie Paradox: Nobody Seems to Like Them Yet Everyone Has Reasons to Take Them. [online] Frontiers in Psychology. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00007/full#B8 [Accessed 13 May 2018].

Galli, S. (2018). Grand Turismo. [online] Stefanogalli.com. Available at: http://stefanogalli.com/albums/grand-turismo/ [Accessed 13 May 2018].

Richter, F. (2014). Infographic: London Is the World’s Selfie Capital. [online] Statista Infographics. Available at: https://www.statista.com/chart/2268/most-popular-cities-for-selfies/ [Accessed 13 May 2018].

Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pp. 13.

The Leica Camera Blog. (2018). Grand Turismo – The Leica Camera Blog. [online] Available at: http://blog.leica-camera.com/2018/05/04/grand-turismo/?utm_source=instagram&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=Leica_MD [Accessed 13 May 2018].

Walden, C. (2016). We take 1 million selfies every day – but what are they doing to our brains?. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/we-take-1-million-selfies-every-day—but-what-are-they-doing-to/ [Accessed 13 May 2018].