I have not previously thought much about the theory that influences my work, or made work with any particular theory in mind. My initial reaction to this, when thinking about my work to date, is it is because I don’t know anything about photographic theory, or at least I didn’t before starting my MA course. However thinking deeper about the concept of theory in practice, I am not entirely sure that is strictly true. Even if not consciously thinking about photographic theory in my practice, I have undoubtedly been influenced by others’ work and the theory of their work.
My long held love of travel imagery and wanting to create my own images whilst travelling, have been influenced by the photographs I’d seen in magazines and travel books whilst I was growing up. I now see those images as trying to convey an ideal of a place, to make people want to visit them – an understandable aim for a commercial piece of work; the theory of advertising in the context of selling. However, in later visiting those places and seeing a different reality to that which was portrayed, I wanted to make images to show a more truthful representation of that place and the people in it. I now recognise that “want” as a theory of my work, and being able to contextualise that desire and relate it or compare it to the work of others has allowed me to think about my work in more depth. As well as to consider the impacts my images may have on the subject and the viewer, and how they could be interpreted by viewers outside of the context in which they were taken or intended.
It is impossible to control the interpretations of our work by every individual viewer. But being able to offer context to the subject or intention behind the meaning of a photograph, may go some way towards communicating the desired reception of the photo.
Contextualising or explaining the theory behind a photography could be through print, in the introduction to a photobook, or in the labels on an gallery wall, for example. Or through spoken word, an interview with the photographer perhaps. I think whatever method is used, if it is important to communicate the theory behind a photograph or body of work, it needs to be understandable and accessible to the viewer(s). Anything too full of specialist language will disengage the viewer, and anything too difficult to obtain will not be seen by the viewer. Different forms of communication and different contexts will require and allow for differences in language, style of communication, length etc. So it is important to be cognisant of what you are trying to communicate, how you are communicating it, and who you are communicating it to.
I want to bear these points in mind as I move forwards with my project and project proposal. I feel that by considering the theory and context in which I am making work, I will be able to develop more of an idea of why I want to make the work and who I will be making it for, which will in turn lead to more focus in the work I make and direction for the project.