Sometimes I notice that I take photographs in a certain way. Straight lines, centered, the view or the object point blankly in front of the lens. They are like street surveyor’s photographs or reportage. Objective, although nothing ever really is. ‘Objective’ is just another word for blank or mute. For a space for someone else to define the outlines and the details. I am not so taken by this school of photography although I understand its merit. It is non-emotional in its language.
I have been troubled by my tendency to photograph in this way that I don’t consider mine. It is then when I look through the viewfinder again and think if I should press the shutter or not. I don’t photograph to document or to tell stories. It cuts deeper than that. There is however no space for that kind of motivation or a drive in the Art World unless I would allow it to be conceptualized. Long sentences with words that are difficult to pronounce. Lofty, abstract language that doesn’t weigh much.
Not that I would think that I should even try to be unique. Art School made sure that we understood that this we were not. However it also pressed us to break away from the old forms. And this they did without teaching us what those old forms were. Or perhaps I was the only one who wasn’t educated in these matters but I doubt it. My British peers didn’t seem any more enlightened than I was.
So I am in an odd limbo with my photography. (I almost wrote ‘my style’ but corrected it. ‘Style’ implies to an aesthetic without substance and as the fine art photographer I take great pains to pose as I can’t talk of having one.) I feel the pressure to be different, to do my own thing whilst knowing very well that it is impossible. And I do my own thing, so to speak, without trying to establish myself in the Art World and therefore, on my own terms. I hear criticism from years ago in my head and I wonder how much it effects my decision to take the photograph and how much of the sum of what makes my photograph what it is, is that I subconsciously try to evade from possibility of being mocked.
I don’t believe photographs as evidence, as tellers of truth although within ‘my practice, as they say, I preserve these values in the way I work. I photograph on film and edit my photographs, to correct colour overcasts and other minor defects, only if I have to. (And I often do simply because my scanner has some presets that are challenging to work with.) In other words I don’t tamper with the information value of my photographs. However this is for other reasons than for their genuineness. I simply and uncritically love analogue photography. I like to forget what I have photographed, even momentarily. I like negatives and the grain the images are composed of. I like working with something tangible and finite.
There are some rules of composition which ensure that the image is pleasing to the eye. Why they are pleasing to eye I don’t know but I follow those rules without thinking. That doesn’t trouble me. What troubles me is that something might get in the way of discovery. That when I look through the viewfinder and ask myself (if I have to for sometimes there is no question of it) whether I should take the photograph or not, my vision is disrupted by fear, ambition or a peculiar kind of vanity which would guide me more than the secret quest that led me to photography in the first place.
My friend and I went around some Brutalist architectural gems in London in the beginning of the week. It is only just that some of them would be included in the London Archive.
© Carita Silander
Preamble to the London Archive Essays
I asked a few friends and members of family to choose a photograph from the London Archive they would like to know more about. As this premise is my own devising, I have taken the artistic liberties necessary in answering this question. Bar a few exceptions, the result is a series of short essays combining a brief outline of historical information, consideration of photography as a medium as well as an account on how I ended up taking each particular photograph.