Week 4 - Strategies of Freedom

Surfboards packed, ready to go.....again

Surfboards packed, ready to go.....again

Like many photographers I use a normal (in today’s context) DSLR, lenses, and laptop for post processing/reviewing/editing. I have always wanted to make images that focused primarily on the subject rather than the practice of photography.  Whilst the two are intertwined, when contemporary photographers create photographs in a non-digital, non-DSLR, way I feel this puts the emphasis and the commentary on the production of the photograph and not what the photograph is of. Of course this is not a problem if that is the aim of the photographer, but if it isn’t then it seems perhaps less of a statement to make work using a more currant socially normal method. For example Joni Sternbach’s work “Surf Site Tin Type”[i] is a series of tin type photographers of surfers. The photographs were made between 2006-2014 but due to the production method look as though they could have been taken decades ago. It is only when you look more closely at the fashion/surf-wear and surfboard design that you see the clues of a more modern era. There are various things to be said about this effect and production method in relation to the subject; the old fashioned effect combined with the subject matter lend a very romantic feel to the images, and therefore romanticize the sport. However, it also connects the past to the present, a link between the origins of surfing and current times.

I feel like the technology is the focal point of my work at the moment but not because I am trying to make a statement by my choice of technology. When I started photography there was no active choice in the technology I chose – it was very much an acceptance of the norm at the time. In some ways I feel constrained by the camera as I feel pressured to make work in a certain way due to the camera and technology I use. However, in other ways I feel free to focus on the subject of my work and choices of subject and composure without needing to worry about the technology or choice thereof.

I did always want my work to be about the subject, not the photo as an object, and I feel a responsibility to the subjects of my photographs as a result. Using a modern method I feel they expect to see modern, “instragrammable”, photos – and perhaps as a result of this my work has become, for me at least, more about the photo as object and not the subject.

Perhaps because of this acceptance of technology I often feel that anyone can do what I do. I don’t see my work as fundamentally unique or different from many other photographers taking photos of surfers. Unlike Sternbach’s tin type work which sets her apart from the masses by electing to use an uncommon technology, my (lack of?) choice regarding camera equipment automatically places me in the same cohort of most contemporary photographers.

I am hoping that by focussing my project on to inland-based surfers this may set it apart from the usual ‘surf’ photography genre. It isn’t common to see “surf photography” as anything other than amazing surfers on beautiful waves. So looking at this sub-group in surf culture may show something different to the norm and even though I will be using “standard” technology, the choice of subject will be non-standard. This will hopefully make me re-focus on the subject of the photographs, and not put the emphasis on the technology used to make them.

[i] STERNBACH, Joni. 2015. Surf Site Tin Type. Bologna: Damiani