Week 1 - Rephotography and Repeat Photography

Repeat photography and rephotography is such an exciting area of work and not something I’ve really known much about or explored before. I’ve really enjoyed looking at the different ways practitioners have used the techniques to show areas in different ways (e.g. Klett & Wolfe’s Grand Canyon work[i]), and to provide commentary on different views/aspects of a subject (e.g. Martin Hughes’ “Souvenirs” work[ii]). By re-placing and re-contextualising work one can create something quite thought provoking and something that could, perhaps, really ‘speak’ about a message.

As an exercise in different strategies in making work and to explore rephotography this week, I printed out a photo I took in Devon of two surfers walking into the sea – a picture that shows so much nature, and placed it into the urban built up town I live in, in Berkshire, because I wanted to show a contrast between the natural environment versus man made - resulting image is below. I wanted to have my hand in the picture; physically in one place and holding a photo of another – because both are very different places but both are quite personal to me and I wanted a physical literal representation of my connection to the two.

Sophie Bradley - May 2017

Sophie Bradley - May 2017

I wanted to provide a distinction and a comparison between nature and man-made, to perhaps give a feel on what once was in the urban environment by showing what still exists in the beach photo.

I unexpectedly love this resulting image; the contrast of the almost monotone beach photo against the many colours of the urban area, and the contrast between the calm beach scene against the vibrant town (also I don’t often print my photos and I really enjoyed physically holding a piece of work for a change!).

When I posted this to the topic forum and discussed it in a webinar this week, some people read the image in ways I hadn’t even thought of yet; the way the breaking waves line up with the change in paving stones, (a happy accident), the differences in what the people in the two photos are wearing and doing, and the types of surfaces/materials in each photo (water, sand, stone, brick, wood), the difference in weather in the images and how that subverts what would normally be associated with each location – a sunny day at the beach vs. a grey day inland. As well as the connections between the two images and the commentary that provides on people who live in towns and cities but journey to the coast to surf. Interestingly the two surfers are both non-coast based surfers, who both live in Reading but were in Devon to surf – so the fact that I had taken that photo of them and then re-photographed it in Reading gives another layer to the image.

These discussions around city based surfers has made me wonder about incorporating this into my project – looking at the surfers who live inland but travel to the coast to surf, as this is another example of the passion for surfing that UK surfers have. As this is something I currently do myself I am in a position to document this.

I am also interested in the ways rephotography could be used to assist in documenting this – using other images of the beach/surfers taken in Devon and re-photographing them in Reading, and also vice versa – images in/of Reading re-photographed in Devon.  

I am going to do a mini-project / mini-experiment with some more rephotography this week and see where that takes me.

Something I haven’t tried out yet but might also consider looking into for my project is repeat photography.

Repeating a photo of a surf scene/beach scene from say, 50 years ago, may give some insight into the changes that have occurred in surf culture and in surfers/who surfers are, from then to now. There have been many obvious changes over the last several decades, from board design and the manufacturing process, to clothing fashions and hairstyles. I believe there has also been a marked change in who surfers are, more women now surf than in the past, for example. Something else that would be interesting to see is the ages of surfers. The 1950’s – 1960’s, post-war era saw a take-off in all things surfing and surf related, and encouraged many young people to surf and adopt the surfer lifestyle. As a result there are today many older people surfing which again keeps the idea of who a surfer is changing and evolving. When I was in Hawaii a few years ago my husband and I stayed with a couple who were probably in their 60’s or 70’s. They took us out surfing with them and it was the first time I’d ever surfed with, or known, surfers who weren’t of my generation (give or take a decade!). I wonder now about other female surfers of an older generation, and the changes in surfing and female surfers over the last few years. It could be interesting to look into this and would give a different angle to my project.

In the same way that it would be interesting to look at older surfers now, it would also be interesting to follow a younger surfer over a period of time to observe the changes from now moving forwards. To create a record of the changes, or lack thereof, in surfing/female surfers over the next, say few years.

I had been considering my project as something that would include surfers of all ages, but I don’t think I’d really though in depth about what that means, and the messages that could say. I do have an agenda with my project; to show a more realistic view of who UK female surfers are, to show that media stereotypes of female surfers are not accurate, and to show what it is like being a female surfer in the UK. I hope that this is viewed in a positive way and maybe by thinking about including elements of repeat photography or looking to record the subject over time, this will help to contextualise my work within a larger or more global framework. 

[i] KLETT, M. WOLFE, B. 'Grand Canyon'                                                                           Available at http://byronwolfe.typepad.com/klettwolfe/grand-canyon/                        [Accessed 03/06/2017]

[ii] HUGHES, M. 'Souvenirs'                                                                                                   Available at http://www.hughes-photography.eu/portfolio/souvenirs-gallery/?v=79cba1185463 [Accessed 03/06/2017]