(Photo credit: Drew Forsyth)
Guest blog post from Redeye member Joshua Turner
"The role of photography is dependent on perspective, the importance of exposing your mind to new or alternative ideas is essential to the development of both the medium and your individual attitude to the world.
A general theme of photography, from the perspective of a practitioner, is the isolation that comes with the medium; although not applicable to everyone, this certainly rings true to many people. The tendency to get lost within your own practice is often considered an exemplary state, especially as it can be reflective of a strong work ethic; displaying devotion to your craft. Whilst it may seem positive to have a dedication to your practice, to become so enveloped within your own mind that it can become a restraint, single-mindedly in pursuit with no altruistic response to the subject. An environment in which productivity may soar, yet neglecting to engage with wider issues could be detrimental, narrowing your perception of what photography has the potential to be.
The National Photography Symposium proved to be an antidote for the seclusion that can often arise within our practice as Photographers. Physically isolated in our work flow from original concept to final product, where we attempt to play the role of photographer, editor, designer, advertiser, event manager, archivist. To be in charge of each aspect of our work is to be in total control, but for this we pay the price of limiting the potential of the work. Isolation can also take effect on our conceptual process, an introversion that could result in work that is introspective, inconsiderate of wider social issues which may be relevant, therefore being a subject worth approaching with a certain amount of activism in mind. The symptoms of seclusion were not present at NPS.
An introductory lecture to the work of Pete James, a towering figure in curation of public collections, known especially for his work at the Library of Birmingham, opened the symposium which served to highlight the themes of community and responsibility. Libraries are a key cultural symbol, representing the democratic value of education, considering the individual development that can come from available resources. In the context of the public collection, often facilitated through a library, photography can act as a universal language that transcends time, culture, geography and politics; allowing audiences to explore a diverse survey of our physical and psychological geographies.
From initial conception to exhibition and/or photobook, the curation of imagery for public collections is towards the end of this process. Libraries have the task of collecting a broad sample of work that is culturally rich, in this instance their power for enabling education is through curation. Photographers are earlier in this process as the creators. It is equally important for photographers to consider the cultural and historical significance of their own practice, arguably the creator holds more power than the curator through the act of creation; having an awareness of this is to harness the potential of the medium for the good of society. Though this subject may feel somewhat existential, this should not heavily affect your work, it is simply a consideration that I feel should be included within the practice of a photographer. How does your work sit in the context of a cultural document? This is relevant to all sorts of subject matter; the narrative of the individual is just as important as global issues. Photography has the ability to explore a spectrum of scales from individual stories to vast environmental surveys. There is plenty of room for the exploration of our own interests within our individual practices, I’d say this is a necessity for personal work, but the incorporation of cultural reflection is likely to result in photography that resonates with a wide audience.
In antithesis to the theme of seclusion is the pursuit of a practice that is perhaps always a little out of reach, never taking a true priority and therefore being less likely to develop to the fullest potential. Yet I believe it is beneficial to have the challenge of creating work amidst the unrelenting forces of life, it is this that pushes us to work harder, avoiding complacency; the time set aside for our practice is precious. An immersive practice can seem idyllic, though this is a matter of perspective. Perhaps this state is more relatable than the aforementioned immersion, with a constant struggle to put time to our work.
This pursuit is supported by the philosophy of public libraries, reinforcing our curiosity and creating an environment that enables our pursuits. Providing innumerable sources of inspiration, a space to put action to intention.
Photographers are working in a universal language that can convey rich emotion and topographic surveys, amongst a huge range of other subjects. It is the responsibility of the photographer to be considerate of societal issues and events when choosing their subject. To create and share imagery is a form of activism and this medium transcends language."