Over the holidays I thought about new project ideas and reflected upon the one’s I already had (and didn’t do).
The only one that seemed still worth pursuing and interested me was the last idea I had.
Here is a copy of the post I made:
Field of enquiry: Tourism / Travel photography / Cultural capital of landmarks / Transformation
Media: Photography / Photoshop / Web or Print
I’d like to manipulate images of famous tourist attractions and remove the actual landmark so that there is only the landscape left.
These will then be collected as a travel guide.
I thought about travelling and how in some cases tourists don’t actually connect with the place they travel to, the culture, language or history. They go to these famous tourist attractions, take a photo and that’s it – been there, done that sort of thing. It is not only that though, I’m also interested in what the actual site teaches us today or has it transformed merely into a tourist attraction? If it doesn’t serve as anything anymore, what has it become now? How important is it and why? What is its cultural identity?
With all the people pilgering to it and with all the images that have been taken of it, the place almost get’s a second identity not for what it is but for what it is seen.
With many places, the actual attraction is not in function anymore, some of the “functions” it once had might not even been yet discovered. There is though, a whole sector of tourism, profit and economy linked to it. If you think about airlines, hotels, restaurants, tour guides etc. the list is never-ending. Surely, it is not only a bad thing, people live from it especially in poorer countries.
I have travelled a lot and the amount of people I met who don’t know anything about the places they go to or just follow the Lonely Planet, staying in hostels with other Westerners mainly speaking English is astonishing. I’m not saying all are like that, I am talking about mainstream travelling to popular places.
I think it is good to question WHY people are going to these places and why these few famous ones gain such popularity when there is often others very similar or even more astonishing ones around. Is it only because of the amount of advertising? Maybe..
I can see the project bot as a website but also as a little travel book even postcards.
I would take various images of the same site from the web and then remove the landmark from its surrounding with Photoshop, creating a neat looking image. I then would advertise/describe it with information taken from travel websites.
I see it as a critical / satirical reflection of mass tourism.
This is only the beginning of the idea, I haven’t done any academic research on it but I am sure I can find quite a lot about travel photography, identity of spaces, re-production of images, transformation of cultural capital into possibly capitalist capital?
Another thought that also came to my mind, is that sometimes places actually look very different in real life.. It might even be a disappointing experience to see the site when thinking or comparing it with all these images that float in your head and how it has been advertised to you.
For example Stonehenge, just comparing these images already gives you a different impression of the place:
I’m interested in places that are not so much (modern) architectural sites like the Eiffel tower, but rather ancient/sacred.. some that came to my mind were Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, Acropolis, Pyramids in Egypt..
I realised that this idea is partly based on aspects of a project I did in second year for Media Culture, which had to do with the transient characters of spaces and places
(you can check it out here: https://unwrittenspaces.wordpress.com).
The idea of the “identity” of a place is an interesting one, especially when combined with human behaviour and in the case of the idea for my second project, culture and history.
The incident with Greenpeace and the Nazca lines that made headlines just recently was especially interesting and made me think about this idea even more:
I also thought about different approaches on how to convey my idea:
– Instead of removing the landmark I could also put things in it that aren’t there, overload it with signs, restaurants, hotels etc. so to commercialise it completely.
– Or I could use images of people who took selfies in front of these landmarks and make them appear very big and the landmark very small, as to suggest that we put ourselves in the centre and not the culture we are visiting (maybe also slightly related to my last project)
– I could also play around with the text from certain travel guides and maybe replace the name of the landmark with a common commodity we all know and use. Maybe somehow the text would still make sense even if replaced by another object, which then could be juxtaposed with the “empty” landscape (or I could even photoshop the object into the landscape?)
There is still a lot of thinking to do with this idea and the best way on how to create an interesting piece of work that undermines the ideas behind it.
Another idea I had has to do with something I looked at in Photomedia in second year –
STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
Field of enquiry: Still Life / Vanitas / Impermanence / Objects / Plastic / Environment / Human Impact
Media: Photography / Photoshop
Being quite conscious about our modern life style and the amount of rubbish we accumulate, especially the impact plastic has on the environment I thought about doing a project that draws on this topic.
In first year we went to the CREATE center and they had a plastic exhibition and we listened to a talk which really stuck with me and made me even more aware of this issue.
Now what does that have to do with still life painting?
Within still life painting there is the theme of “vanitas” (from wikipedia):
In the arts, vanitas is a type of symbolic work of art especially associated with still life painting in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, though also common in other places and periods. The Latin word means “vanity” and loosely translated corresponds to the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.
Paintings executed in the vanitas style were meant to remind viewers of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death. They also provided a moral justification for many paintings of attractive objects.
Willem Kalf (1619–1693), oil on canvas, The J. Paul Getty Museum
Pieter Claesz (1597–1660), Still life with Musical Instruments (1623)
This impermanence or “transient nature of all earthly goods” does not apply to plastic, which really is an issue. In the still life they would often paint food such as fruit, bread, fish or even game and also objects such as drinking glasses, books etc. Now of course food still decays nowadays but there are so many ways plastic is used to slow down this process (and of course there are certain ingredients that also slow down the decaying especially in bread they use flour treatment) and protect the food from decaying. Also many objects now have a plastic version like the drinking glasses for example or even books are being replaced by Kindles.
I was thinking of creating a photographed still life with all these plastic objects carefully arranged showing a “modern” version and a reflection upon our life style.
Unlike the things shown in the still life painting none of the modern objects has an “expiry date”, all the components they’re made of will actually never really decay because they are made of unnatural materials.
In terms of style I think it would be interesting to actually edit the photo into a painted version though and make it look just like one of the Dutch still life paintings. Because we are so used to see the quality of digital images to merely photograph the still life would not give it the contrast it needs. Hence why a “painted” version would draw more attention and contrast.
The third idea that came to my mind is sort of a “cultural study” which I’d call:
BRISTOL 6.33pm (or something along those lines)
Field of enquiry: Habits / Media use / Private spaces
When I’m walking through town at night, especially through neighbourhoods where people live in houses with front rooms, I can’t help but have a peak inside to see what they’re doing. I mean I’m not standing right at the window staring at them (that would be creepy) but I just have a quick glance while I walk past to see what’s happening inside. I’m curious like that, also because back home in Hamburg people mainly live in flats and not houses so you can’t actually look into their living space. And if they live in houses it is usually families, as having a house means to settle down, whereas here all sort of people can afford to live in a house, even students.
It would be interesting to pass different neighbourhoods always at the same time and see what people do, do they sit in their front room watching TV or do they have dinner, maybe some play board games or have a party?
I have seen all of these things happening but mostly it is people watching television or play video games. And this is an aspect I’d like to investigate more, the use of media in people’s homes, how present it is and in which ways people indulge in it whilst being at home.
Also it would be interesting to see if there are differences between the neighbourhoods.
These are two examples of “window peeking” projects I found, one in Paris and one in New York.
Gail Albert Halaban “Paris Views”
From what I understand some of these images are actually staged and the photographer had consent to take them.
Arne Svenson “Neighbours”
With this one, the photographer took photos of people in the apartment block opposite from where he lived with a tele-lens and the people didn’t know that they were photographed.