I find the work of Simon Terrill – Crowd Theory a very interesting project and the pictorial nature of some of his work is in no doubt impressive, and the achievement is something to be admired.
Terrill states on his website ‘The works are carefully stage-managed public operations that involve many collaborators and are a collective effort in coordinating lighting, soundtracks, camera, catering, marshalling and sometimes a smoke machine or closing off a street.’
When considering this approach I am led to consider the event itself as a staged production and to question whether the people in the photograph are participants or performers.
What power do they have to represent themselves?
Does the extent of these stage managed productions influence the actions of the people in the photograph?
Is their position managed and manipulated?
Terrill further states that once on site, people are left undirectd and uncontrolled however. The issue I take with the stage managing of the location and management of participants with the intention ‘representing themselves in the spaces the inhibit. Is that in some cases the places that participants inhibit have been changed in line with the intentions of the author/photographer. I feel this makes the photograph less about the real, rather the creation of a piece of art where the paticipants are asked to perform in a place that they recognise as familiar.
The participants may be compelled to act as if they think they should act, they may be hearded by officials, drawn to lights. Manouvered in some way. Without criticising his type of work, because I do find it appealing and think what Terrill has achieved is hugely impressive. However I consider the work to have more in common with that of a stage production where the participants all play a small roll. Its relationship with authenticity and the people who inhabit these spaces is regarded with suspicion as a social document. Although an interesting piece of work.
Simon Terrill (2008) Crowd Theory 1-5 [online] Available at: http://www.simonterrill.com/Crowd-Theory-1-5 (Accessed 18th June 2020)