Urban Imagination

May 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Listed among my interests for the Crossing Lines group was ‘Visual noise and how to deal with it’.  While the urban environment presents a vast amount of subject matter for the photographer, that same level of detail can often obscure subjects, making it difficult to pick them out or present them in a satisfactory manner.  I’ve often refused a shot of something that interested me because I just couldn’t find a way to separate it from other elements in view.  Other times I wasn’t sure how to photograph something in a manner that properly conveyed what I saw in the subject.

One method I’ve considered for dealing with this issue is to draw directly onto the photograph, either masking unwanted material or adding elements in order to emphasise important elements and bring the image closer to my vision of the scene.  I chose oil pastel as it is a very flexible medium; it is good for colouring in or drawing, and applies well to photographic paper.  It also worked more fluidly and organically for me than some attempts I made with digital means.

My initial goal was to highlight subjects that I find interesting but may be lost amidst surrounding detail.  I have realised an equally important aspect of this approach is the application of my imagination to the scene.  I propose that the city is not just a place for historical mapping and memory – it is also a place for invention and imagination.  What is a city without imagination?  Photographing these subjects, I am asking myself:

–          what it makes me think of

–          why am I photographing it

–          what I think it could be

–          what I can contribute to it, how can I transform it, or celebrate it

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Another thought: People edit/augment their urban environment every day.  Consider iPods, clothing, graffiti, advertising, architecture (specific example: the Goldsmiths Ben Pimlott Building and its ‘Scribble’).

— Michael

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