At present, my work has shifted significantly since the initial idea of a project that encompasses the people involved in amateur and non league football. This project was very different to my initial practice as a wedding photographer where there wasn’t much conscious philosophical consideration of my work. Find the shot, wait for the shot, get the shot and check quickly, in the hope the photograph is in focus.
The initial stages of my non commercialised football project were quite novel and I would base human choices primarily with a documentary approach in mind, similar to wedding photography when looking for candid opportunities. The intention was never to take photographs of football being played. The football would be a supporting act at best, by sometimes being encompassed within part of the work that I create. The game itself being part of a broader story which is about people and their motivations for consuming the echelons of the game which are not actively sold and glamorised (Berger 1972). Enviable lifestyles, big stadiums and every angle shown again and again on TV. A sport that most have participated at some stage of their lives whether good or bad, at school, in the park, jumpers for goal posts and a plastic bottle to kick when a ball wasn’t available. Commodified in a way that we are encouraged to buy the shirt of a team, follow their progress on TV, argue with others on twitter, telephone radio stations to complain about their teams performance. All without having been there. A season ticket to a global brand such as Manchester United or Arsenal becoming an illustration of status in addition to a Sky Sports subscription.
This issues highlighted within this reflection serve to contextualise my practice and lead to the understanding that my practice sits within the real of activism. The consumer may see may see unkept spaces that are unenviable. However the stories behind the photographs may change the meaning as (Barthez 1972 p20) suggests “the imposition of second meaning on the photographic message proper, is realised at the different levels of of the production of the photograph”. As suggested by Barthez, I hope to realise the romance of these spaces and ultimately produce a collection of statements as a response to mass consumerism and commodification of British football. My photographs, it has emerged, are positive statements about participation, emotional investment, being cold and finding a place to be apart of a community. Being able to tell stories that haven’t been told by thousands others from different angles, perspectives and ideologies.
Evaluate the success / weakness of this work.
In terms of the evaluation of progress to date. I feel that much learning and development has taken place. In the early states I attended some football matches with only a general understanding of why I was there and with the mindset of a documentary wedding photographer waiting for jovial moments of interest to occur as (Sontag 1977. p9) highlights “the trip was made, the programme was carried out, that fun was had”. In engaging with the project at this level I was confident that I was able to reflect the subject matter in this way. However it quickly became apparent that this approach had its limitations and wasn’t really sustainable beyond the creation of work that encompasses a one dimensional perspective of the various locations I visited.
In order to open up the project I needed to deepen the philosophical approach to the justification of places to attend. As a result of this a range of major questions occurred such as:
Why am I taking these photographs?
What further techniques do I engage with to further my work?
The emergence of these questions are the major success of my project to date and have re-energised the project with an alternative perspective. Throughout the early stages I have produced some documentary work that I am proud of but these feel like small victories at this stage. I have collaborated and met some interesting participants and created links that I will exploit further in the future.
At present, I have engaged with the philosophical question of the purpose of my project and considered the amount of photographs that I consume online and in publications for journalistic reasons of football matches taking place in addition to citizen journalism which document peoples attendance, events taking place, beer being consumed and fun being had as (Sontag 1977) purports.
Therefore, in consideration to my project I am faced with the challenge of how do I make my work different? I understand that my work won’t be original however the furthering of my work to go beyond documentation is most relevant as (Ritchin 2013. p49) emphasises “the photographer must increasingly emphasise the role of interpretation rather than that of transcription”. The relevance of Ritchin’s ideas are relevant in addressing the first question established for the motivation of the work I create.
The photographs often consumed may be of a journalistic nature or a document of attendance. The work I create therefore may sit within similar points of exhibition in the first instance however I understand that I will be required to endeavour to produce photographs which may be encoded with activist messages whilst celebrating non commercialised football as so many others do through journalistic work.
A major breakthrough in terms of critical and philosophical approaches is a developed understanding of the portrait. In my role as a wedding photographer I am used to producing portraits of couples with the objective of creating photographic souvenirs (Sontag 1977). In order to do this I look for picturesque locations which every decent wedding venue has. Encompas techniques such as off camera flash and an appropriate image will be produced. However this led to a major lack of understanding of work which belongs to other genres of photography.
Developing in this way through research of the work of photographers such as Margret Mitchell and Laura Pannack represent a major success of widening my personal development. Although finding the work of Mitchell and Pannok interesting I initially found it difficult to contextualise and understand my interest.
This problem may be contextualised by (Bate 2009. 70) “the problem of ‘appearance’ and ‘reality’ or surface and depth is not entirely the right question or issue, since it leave the the intentionality of the spectator out of the equation,” The ideas of Bate represent a breakthrough within my approach in both confirming my problem in addition to offering some insight into the solution by drawing attention to the process of identification, recognition and the blank expression. Serving as an opportunity for the consumer of an image to do more to appropriate meaning to a portrait. This approach is where I am currently at and with my work and looking forward to developing further.
Bate, D (2009) Photography, The Key Concepts. Oxford, Berg.
Barthes, R (1977). Image Music Text. Croydon: Fontana Press.
Berger, J (1972) Ways of Seeing. Harmondsworth, Penguin.
Ritchin, F (2013) Bending the Frame, Photojournalism, Documentary and the Citizen. New York, Aperture.
Sontag, S. (2008) On Photography. Penguin Modern Classics. London