‘Sometimes you have to choose: is this situation aesthetically more interesting to me? Or is it a situation I want to experience?’ (Bruijn, 2017)
This hypothetical question posed by Gioia de Bruijn in an interview for lensculture particularly resonated with me during my Sense of Place project endeavours. Following a meeting with my personal tutor, who brought to my attention that I was letting my emotions rule the images I was capturing, this quote could not have come at a more appropriate time to aid my reflections as I approach the end of this project.
As an aspiring photojournalist, I can at least understand the basic concept of becoming the ‘invisible’ photographer, discussed in this interview piece. It is easy, particularly as an individual who suffers from acute social anxiety, to use the camera ‘as a shield, a way to create some distance between [the photographer] and their surroundings’ . Perhaps even easier, then, is to assume the position of the impartial photographer, the one who looks in from the outside, observes, and provides a narrative. I have always assumed this to be a quintessential part of the photojournalistic practice, however Bruijn holds ‘moral qualms with documentary photography’ for its voyuerism. She notes,
‘When I photograph someone, we enter into a symbiotic relationship, if only for a little while – I really prefer not to be on the outside looking in’ (Bruijn, 2017)
I think this perspective is depicted with ease through Bruijn’s Weekend Warriors and Beyond. The typical ‘detatched’ photographer doesn’t seem present; rather, she creates space for aforementioned ‘symbiotic relationships’ with the subjects on every occasion which echoes such spirits of togetherness and comprehension to the viewer.
This is particularly meaningful for Sense of Place. Admittedly, I have begun to allow my emotions to rule the situations in which I am photographing, most likely as a consequence of my time in Calais and the ever-increasing distance I feel between my life back in Surrey and the one I live now, as a student in Brighton. I photograph protests and demonstrations in my spare time, always unable to resist the temptation of hiding behind my camera and assuming the ‘invisible’ photographer position. This project, however, has been far more difficult, but has brought this distinction to my attention and has allowed me to make informed decisions about the photographs I am choosing to present as my final collection.
‘[t]he camera definitely creates a barrier—once you’re invested in operating the apparatus, you can’t be simultaneously invested in the situation.’ (Bruijn, 2017)
Below, you can view some of the photographs which were removed from my final collection, following this critical self-reflection. These photos feel much more spontaneous and loud, influenced by how I felt in these situations. Although I like these images, they created a sense of incoherence when juxtaposed with the other images I have selected.
‘A photograph is a subjective impression. It is what the photographer sees. No matter how hard we try to get into the skin, into the feeling of the subject or situation, however much we empathize, it is still what we see that comes out in the images, it is our reaction to the subject and in the end, the whole corpus of our work becomes a portrait of ourselves’ (Silverstone, M., in Short, 2011)
Bruijn, de G., 2016. Weekend Warriors and Beyond. Interviewed by Alexander Strecker. [online] LensCulture. https://www.lensculture.com/articles/gioia-de-bruijn-weekend-warriors-and-beyond. Last accessed 13th Jan 2017.
Silverstone, M., in Short., 2011. Context and Narrative. London: Thames and Hudson