The ‘ordinary image’, broadly defined as those we take with say a mobile phone, to record an event (a commemoration) and then share instantly with others has contributed hugely to the number of images we are exposed to on a daily basis. As Manovitch (2016) explains:
“The ‘ordinary’ moments being captured by Instagram users may be important for people to share with their friends (interesting trips, meetings with friends, family events) or they can be only of interest to the author, and therefore look ‘ordinary’ to us because we are not involved in her/his life.” (Manovitch 2016:11).
We also view reproductions of artwork that we might never make the effort to see in their original form – indeed we may only know the work through reproductions. The meaning of works of art also change in their reproduced form, for example Andy Warhol’s (1963) Thirty are Better than One:
The value of works of art ceases to be in their uniqueness today – they are scanned, produced in digital form and are appropriated by many – such as the Lego reproductions of the Mona Lisa by Italian artist Marco Pece:
We live in a world of recycled images, hyper-representation and photographs that present an idealistic view of life and the world. As Mitchell explains:
“Postmodern culture is often characterised as an era of ‘hyper-representation’ in which reality itself begins to be experienced as an endless network of representation.” (Mitchell 1995:16).
And Sontag observes:
“Reality has come to seem more and more like what we are shown by cameras. It is common now for people to insist about their experience of a violent event in which they were caught up – a plane crash, a shoot out, a terrorist bombing – that ‘it seemed like a movie.’ This is said, other descriptions seeming insufficient, in order to explain how real it was.” (Sontag 1977:161).
And much later Baudrillard:
“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.”
“No longer are photographic images regarded as ‘mirrors with a memory’ merely reflecting the world back at us in a simple one-to-one translation. Rather they construct the world for us, helping to create the comfortable illusions by which we live.” (Grundberg 1999:216).
Relevance to my Photographic Practice
So, how do these observations and ideas relate to my practice? I have to admit to not taking many ordinary images. I do not use Instagram and I rarely share images. However, on my visits to Skye I do take a photograph everyday of the view from our window. I am documenting the changes in light, weather and seasons as we spend our first year living on the Island. I take these images with my phone, as a distinction from my more serious work, and share them with a few friends when I have a particular story to tell – such as particularly beautiful views or turbulent weather. I also take a few pictures of our old dog Henry to document the latter years of his life:
In my work for the MA on the Road to Elgol I have resisted taking images of the landscape in the postcard vernacular. That is not my intention. I use the landscape, and particular aspects of it, as metaphors for my feelings and emotions and I use these signs to convey my experience of the natural world to the viewer. Until now, I have presented my images in monochrome that tends to make it less representational than it otherwise might be. Again, this is an aesthetic choice and consistent with my photographic intent.
Is it possible to be original? At one level yes. The world is in continuous flux and the lights and seasons in their specificity will never be caught again. At another level, arguably they are not. They are part of my experience of life and in many respects I do not differ from others. However, although my images may not be highly original in what they represent, my intent, approach and the experience I convey provide a different context and background to my images.
BAUDRILLARD, J. 1994. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
GRUNDBERG, A. 1999. Crisis of the Real. New York: Aperture.
MANOVITCH, L. 2016. Instagram and the Contemporary Image.
MITCHELL, W T. 1995. ‘Representation’ in Lentricia, F and McLAUGHLIN T. (eds) 1995. Critical Terms for Literary History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Smile On: How the Ultimate Pop icon conquered the US. Christies Auction Preview, 24 April 2015
SONTAG, S. 1977. On Photography. London: Penguin Books.