I was taking a break from my assignment when an email notification from The British Journal of Photography caught my eye. The email linked me to ‘Documentary Photo Review’ and it took me a while to access it at first as I was quite unsure as to what a podcast actually was. There were approximately 8 podcasts to choose from and I just happened to click Antonio’s interview. I think the heavens must have been smiling on me because this was exactly the interview that was going to completely engage me. Oddly, I listened to this podcast before I even looked at the body of work…and I am glad it worked out that way because, actually, I’d have handled the project completely differently.
I understand the rationale and love his ethos but the actual body of work I think misses a sense of …I’m not sure really. I saw a body of work called ‘Missing’ a few years ago at Brighton MA exhibition and before I knew what the images were about, I knew I was looking at a crime scene albeit there weren’t any visual prompts to reinforce that belief. I now realize that the photographer of ‘Missing’ had undertaken research with a forensic photographer and it was the style of forensic photography that I had recognized from experience. I think Antonio could have considered the statement he was making with his composition. I know he is trying to normalize the environment of an abnormal event but I need some more time to digest it all I think.
What this interview did was enable me to start formulating ideas about how the experiences of my last career don’t go to waste. I’m not ready to share personal experiences yet for reasons that will become evident further on, but, needless to say, Antonio’s concepts that contributed to the project ‘The Landscape of Murder’, I needed to hear.
There is no doubt that, like Antonio, I am full of gritty documentary ideas but the timing is critical. I could run back to Shepherd’s Bush tomorrow and revisit ‘things’. But why would I? What is the purpose? Who is the audience? What is the narrative outside revisiting my own experiences? I have often thought about going back and undertaking a narrative that could become a compelling body of work and I will when the time is right.
The interview with Anonio was 1 hr and 11minutes long and it was so refreshing to hear some of my own sentiments that I have held quietly and without confidence being expressed ‘without a doubt’ in the tone of his voice.
One of the first things he spoke about was the need to have an analytical mind. To study politics, psychology, philosophy…actually anything other than f stops and shutter speeds. (For me, where I haven’t had the opportunities to study philosophy and politics to date, I do, however, bring life experience) I guess what he meant was that you can have every piece of equipment and technical skill under your belt but you won’t be able to produce and justify a compelling and potentially difficult body of work unless you can work out what it is you are trying to communicate.
There is a difficulty in starting out with documentary photography because most of us cut our teeth on street photography. Maybe for many years prior to owning a camera we have noticed people who would make ‘great photographs’ without considering the ethics and the audience let alone any narrative. I think it is almost a rite of passage and one I walked down but very briefly before I realised that protecting peoples dignity and privacy was an important step in forming an ethical stance. Antonio speaks about this on an international crisis level too. Should we go to a God forsaken part of the globe and photograph people suffering for our own portfolio? Yes, we should if there is a story to be told and a guaranteed audience – a purpose to it all by exposing suffering/ injustice/ humanitarian issues. Antonio went on to speak about priorities of newspapers.
The interview did tend to go off on tangents and very interesting tangents but I often forgot that he was being interviewed about the project.
I liked his rationale for the project that was based on murders that happened within the M25. He is exactly right in his conclusions that most murders don’t make the news and that many more murders then you’d imagine are as a result of domestic violence. He acknowledged that the media would pick up on ‘gangland’ murders because it plays into sensationalism and political stories that sell papers. Domestic violence is not a story as far as many journalists are concerned. So his purpose was to attend every murder location using Internet sources to locate the incidents. Antonio would arrive and be honest and forthright about his purpose in being there and respected wishes of the mourners if they wanted him to leave the scene.
I will have to listen to the interview again as there was so much and all of it was relevant and helpful in influencing the development of my personal voice. His ethics and belief that there is plenty of narrative on our doorsteps was heartening, especially as I have to accept that the opportunity for me to be airdropped into an international humanitarian crisis is over. I know there is so much narrative under each and every ‘stone’ on this planet and I just have to go and find it. It is the same principal that I carried in my last career involving criminal justice. ‘It’s there and it’s just a case of outing it!’
Most of all though, he said that we need to undertake projects because we want to and not get hung up on who is going to pay and how much.
Unknown. (Unknown). An interview with Anotnio Almos. Available: http://www.documentaryphotoreview.com/podcasts/podcast-an-interview-with-antonio-olmos/. Last accessed 20th April 2014.
Albos, A. (2012). The Landscape of Murder. Available: http://thelandscapeofmurder.wordpress.com. Last accessed 20th April 2014.