As I work on my latest project, Transitional Seam, I also find myself questioning my objectivity in what I photograph. I will also admit that at times this same questions of being objective were also present while working on the series Bad Trip – Sad Trip. For both of these projects, I seem to be acutely aware of the idea that I knowingly choose certain subjects and that I photograph them in a certain way. That is probably part of the process of photographing, what I choose to photograph is also a statement of what I have choose not to photograph. What I choose not to photograph is extremly hard to evaluate if for no reason that you have no evidence of what it is that is not photographed. Okay, just what the heck am I trying to say??
When making the intial images for Transitional Seam, I had this idea of what it was that I was trying to suggest with the series, thus I wrote a brief note for myself outline my artistic goals. For some reason, I thought that in order to complete this project that I needed to be “Objective”. I drive around this area of the Inland Empire, arbitrarily turning out some of the dirt roads that run through this area. I see many older homes and the homesteading lots. Okay, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that. I then stop to photograph when I see some unique configurations of home, surronding landscape, sky and other items that form a composition that I find hold my attention. And that seems okay as these areas help me with what I want to suggest. But I also see the demolotion of these old unique homesteads that are very individual, as though the homes are a true reflection of those who live there, being torn down for new cookie-cutter housing developments. This loss of originality is gradual and I am not sure that anyone is noticing.
And I think that might be where I am losing this objectivity that I thought that I had. I don’t think of myself as an agent for social change and I don’t think of myself as a preservatist, to keep the old buildings for the old buildings sake. So part of my question for myself is that am I being objective or do I even need to be objective in what I photograph for this series? Or was I ever objective to begin with?
Partly to answer my own question for myself, I am not a news reporter who can not alter the image, thus I do not need to have that kind of strict objectivity. I am not a documenatary photographer who is trying to preserve the here and now. Perhaps by using the project or series format to suggest a feeling, thought or mood, I am more of a story teller, that what I photograph here is a metaphor, and could be similar to what others might be experiencing? Thinking about my photographs in this frame of reference, then I do not need to be objective at all.
For some reason, that conculsion makes me feel uncomfortable. and I don’t know why…..
Best regards, Doug