Updated: Nov 16, 2020
As I take a step forward to impose a social interaction with a stranger they stand still, listen and give their consent; unaware that it is the ephemeral engagement that is truly the art.
The Walker Evans quote I found on an fellow photographers Instagram account (Login • Instagram, 2020) really defines my current practice:
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long" Walker Evans. (Walker Evans Quotes, 2020) https://www.instagram.com/julsan9_bnw/
I stare and they stare back at me. As I step into peoples lives, just for a few moments, I gain their permission to stare. .My art, in fact, is not the resulting photo it is the trust of the stranger, the feeling of self worth they experience as I find their beauty, the fleeting social interaction.
To impose is uncomfortable as one risks rejection every time, though rejection happens rarely. Each imposition is a favour which is reciprocated by my reflection of their self deprecation as beauty and worth. My questions are never too inquisitive as my intention is to step in and out as a stranger. Noting that about 20% of the photos are people known to me I see the difference in the results as they are more posed and contrived.
The photo is evidence of the encounter, a snap of a moment behind which is a communication that needs to be preserved. I listen to the moment, to the feelings, the emotional response of the person. One can stare, watch but to observe one needs to pay attention to the words people utter, their vulnerability as they try to pose. I give them simple instructions and find the more we talk the better the shots get and the last one is normally the best. Two strangers staring at each other feel a spark of social connection.
It is interesting when I meet a group of people, how they socially interact, their body language, their relationships. I see the smiles between lovers, the devotion of a father, the joy of friendship. Each moment fills the portraits with reality, relationships and observed social interactions.
Die Knowing Something
The ultimate state of social isolation is death, devoid at that point of any further interaction, we deny our loved ones of our presence. Quality versus quantity; to live is to experience. They are pigeonholed as 'vulnerable yet they go out; for the sake of living they risk their demise,
They stare back at themselves
I wonder if they are looking to see if themselves staring back. The participants engagement does not end as we walk away; they contact me on social media asking for their photos. I check the area login on the map in the wix app and see that the area where the participants come from has registered logins. In fact when I took photos of four people visiting moray from Aberdeen the next day, there were coincidentally four logins from Aberdeen.
Instagram.com. 2020. Login • Instagram. [online] Available at: <https://www.instagram.com/julsan9_bnw/> [Accessed 13 October 2020].
BrainyQuote. 2020. Walker Evans Quotes. [online] Available at: <https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/walker_evans_141186> [Accessed 12 October 2020].