A recent report on the local CBC radio morning show is a good illustration of the kind of ideas I want this work to broach. You can have a listen to it here: http://bit.ly/ykRusL. One of my goals with this is to look at how the fish plant fits into the community, physically as well as socially.
As an artist, I have a certain belief that by looking at things in various ways we are able to gain new perspectives into issues and ideas that affect our lives. This can be a direct relationship, as in an illustration or description of an event [Massumi] or it can be more subtle, demanding attention from the viewer and an effort to connect the dots and create relationships between the represented subject matter and the reality around her/him. In this project I created fairly strict parameters influencing my decisions for composition, exposure and printing.
The “New Topographers” was/is a grouping of photographers who believe that a photographer should try to develop strategies that allow for the most objective look at subject matter, exemplary of this group, and most influential in my work, is Lewis Baltz. Though globally there is a belief that photography is objective since it is done by a machine with the human simply pushing down on a button; it is impossible to separate the series of decisions leading to the click from the subjectivity of the photographer in any clear manner. The choice of angle, composition and exposure is part of a personal aesthetic that is formed by experience, not to mention opinion. If I am looking at a devastated landscape and I want to “expose” the power of the scene, I may choose to shoot lower to the ground, making the scene more overwhelming, and play with exposure to make the scene more dramatic, darkening skies and increasing contrast in the subject matter. Though the image is perceived as being machine made and thus objective, this is obviously not the case. A photograph is always more about the photographer than it is about the subject at this level.
The New Topographers would attempt to compose and expose in an effort to flatten or suppress their own identity as much as possible. There is a need for a mastery of craft and an ability to take a certain distance from one’s own preconceptions. It is a scientific approach, not quantitative, but qualitative; it is based on observation. It requires that the burden of dramatic effect be placed on the subject not in its representation. It is hard work and in stark contrast to the emotional language used in the CBC report, but as can be seen in the images attached to this post is still able relate the state and impact of these sites that are so important to many communities. Yes, indeed many of these fish plants are being left to disintegrate and become obsolete. But the question remains of trying to think about how this happens. Why are these industrial sites that are so important to communities allowed to be separated from the life of the community? Why aren’t they the source of corporate engagement with community? They are after all where most members of a community spend the most time together, even more time than is spent with family and friends.