“The photograph draws attention to and enlarges on the most minute of events. It can make anything important. It has the capacity to move between extremes – philosophical, cultural, social. The Photograph is free of limits. just as its subject-matter is infinite. The ‘moment‘ is thus its greatest asset, for the moment is always unique, and it is the moment that the photograph brings into focus.”
– Clarke, The Photograph, p215
Road Sign: Moment (Is Just a) Way
While trying to develop my ideas for the A3 project I came up with this additional personal project.
This idea to create a solid sculpture type piece primarily came about thanks to reading and research for A3, although I was definitely present and involved in the development of this additional expansion of the MOMENT concept and – kind of retrospectively (and unconsciously?) – found comparable ideas.
My main objective with this piece of work was to challenge (although not negate) the pervasiveness of the accepted Cartier-Bresson/Winogrand (to name but a few) approach of seizing that elusive and so-called decisive moment in photography. It is something that I can appreciate and respect as an approach to a certain type of photography, and something that I feel will always be present in, again – a certain type of street photography. However, as the graffiti on the sign implies, it isn’t the only photographic avenue that we can take and where we must all inadequately stumble down like brain-dead mice enthralled by the piper and his allure.
To some extent, for me anyway, I feel that I have come to a dead-end when it comes to the decisive moment in street photography, hence the inclusion of the dead-end symbol to the road sign itself. It’s not that the road sign and its implied or declared photographic dead-end is to be seen as a dismission of those masters that have used (and still do) a decisive moment in their photography (and who have undeniably contributed so much beauty to the field), but rather a non disrespectful finality to this collective adoration of the decisive moment. I get it, it works, but let us not cloud our creative vision with this overriding, and on occasion, suffocating dependency upon it.
Every photo, it could be argued, has – or even must have – a decisive moment, and, as Graham Clarke points out, Magnum bases its whole philosophy on it: “What Magnum has always stressed is the moment as crucial to the meaning of an image.“(Clarke, 1997, p157)
It goes without saying that a photo – if nothing else – is simply a captured moment of the continuum of existence; a fleeting chance thing that flickers around us and then embeds itself within the memory – even replacing the memory, becoming the memory (Sontag, 1977, p16, and Scott, 1999, p235).
I do not deny that moment, I welcome it. But as I have said before, it has become tiresome for me – no less wonderful – I’m just a little tired of it, that’s all.
My road sign idea was enforced as a concept thanks to re-reading chapter eight of The Photograph as Contemporary Art (Cotton, 2009, pp219-249), looking at the sculptural work by Sara VanDerBeek (Higgins, 2009, pp206-7), Keith Arnatt‘s Trouser Word Piece (I’m a Real Artist), and in particular the photographic use of language in Shannon Ebnar‘s work, although, unlike her work, I have not placed letters in an urban scene but rather I have gone looking for them within the urban landscape which these letters, in turn, have become an iconic urban scene of a London road sign (and my road sign project is certainly less “darkly ambiguous” than her work with language and photography). There is a nice connection to her use of languages of resistance with my sentence “Moment is just a way” being a kind of resistance towards the over glorification and adoration of the decisive moment that permeates our collective photographic psyche.
Possibly, with this additional project, it is my way of defying this veneration and devotion of the decisive moment and its seemingly dominant prevalence, as well as being a satisfying type of closure to the A3 project itself.
the-artists.org. (2016). Ebner, Shannon – the-artists.org. [online] Available at: http://the-artists.org/artist/shannon-ebner [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016].
Kev Byrne 1971. (2016). Me and the Decisive Moment. [online] Available at: https://kevinbyrne1971.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/me-and-the-decisive-moment/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016].
Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: https://whitney.org/www/2008biennial/www/?section=artists&page=artist_ebner [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016].
Scott, C. (1999). The spoken image. London: Reaktion.
Sontag, S. (1977). On photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Clarke, G. (1997). The photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Higgins, J., Why It Does Not Have to Be in Focus – Modern Photography Explained, Thames & Hudson, London, 2013
Cotten, C., The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, 2004
Tate. (2016). Keith Arnatt, ‘Trouser – Word Piece’ 1972–89. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-trouser-word-piece-t07649 [Accessed 9 Sep. 2016].