Having a conversation with a complete stranger? Oh boy did it seem hard. How do you even go and approach someone you don’t even know and start a conversation with them to avoid it being awkward? As a photographer, these are some of things that we have to overcome in order to carry on with projects.
If we look at work from Laia Abrill in Epilogue, it is a piece of work that conveys the story of Cammy who died from bulimia. Laia went about having a conversation with the family about Cammy’s story producing a very strong and powerful book that drives emotions to the limit. What I liked about this series was that the conversations Laia had about Cammy, she treated Cammy with the upmost respect and gave her an identify own all the time.
What is so interesting about that is that when we have a conversation with a person, we can easily loose the notion we are talking to a person. We tend to focus on the things that are said rather then the meaning behind them. So for me work, I would want to make sure that the person’s identity always remains.
SO how would I approach my person? Would it be in a shop, or on the street or someone that just looked interesting to me? There are all these little things to consider that actually it makes this task much harder, especially when we have to go out and take photos afterwards that fit into the conversation.
However, I decided to go with someone that actually, I kinda do know. And with this, it’s not someone that I actually know in person but someone I have seen when I have been walking to and from uni. Someone after time I have began to recognise but never spoken a word too.
And his name is Paul.
Paul is a busker sitting on the streets of Coventry playing away on his guitar. And what is different about him is that, every time I have passed him he has never asked for any money or sorts like that. He just gives a smile and a nod whilst you go on your way.
And here are the extracts from the conversation I had with him:
Now to someone else, this may not seem like a lot, but to me, this was actually quite significant. When we see pictures of buskers or the homeless, there is a certain “stigma photo” attached to them that we perceive off. Black and white, moody, people ignoring etc. This is the imagery that we as a viewer and photographer we expect to take. Yet we never usually go on and get the full details of what has happened in that person’s life. We just presume something has gone bad, yet we ignore it and carry on.
With this work, I wanted to go against the norm and get to know the person for who they are and not what they have became. I wanted to know the reasoning for what has happened, but everything else life has brought to that person. I won’t go along and seem them as a homeless person, but rather as someone that I would see on the street.
I found this work quite interesting, especially with the image making afterwards, as I made it into what I wanted. The images taken weren’t on Paul, but rather they were my interpretation of his stories. In my eyes, he was the storyteller and I was interpreting his words in my own images.
One of the most powerful ones here would have to be of the army trousers due to the simplicity of it all. I didn’t try to make it symbolic, but rather the lighting that showed the trousers on the bed signified some event that happened in the army, which could be related when reading the text.
Link to the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zooI6K00PU&feature=youtu.be
There were only two problems that I encountered with this work. One was of the relation of text and image; in the quick book I produced, I had the conversation with Paul in text before the image that related to that text, but others felt like the text was too distracting and really should be considered where it would lay in a piece like this. I actually agree with this because after re-reading the book, I felt I spent more time focusing on the text rather then the images. So where does text like this lay in a book? And personally, I feel that if I was to go on the routes like this again, I would actually have the text at the end because then it would make the viewer read and go back to the images to fully understand everything once more.
Secondly, another issue that came across from the work was the idea of truth; when speaking to Paul, I gave him some money because I wanted to. However how much did that one gesture have as an effect on Paul telling his story? Did he say something for the sake of saying it so that he would get some money quickly, or was it done in pure honesty? Really, this is one of the things I won’t know unless I speak to him again, or someone else goes up and asks the same questions. That would be the only way to find out if this whole thing is real.
Yet I like that idea of not knowing for certain. I think it makes us, as the photographer and viewer, really think about the whole story and try to dissect it for ourselves. We can never know if a picture is real, but the idea of a story to me is to make us think. A story is never meant to be real (hence the irony of things saying ‘true story’) but it is supposed to make us think “what if?” And to me, this whole conversation makes me think that it was real.
But I am also glad that I gave Paul an identity. I didn’t just take the images and give them no meaning at all; rather, I told his story and made him real in terms of his life and how he has lived it.