Grayson Perry is an English artist who is well known for his cross dressing and ceramic vases.
In 2014 he presented a documentary called “Who are you” which looked at fourteen different people. The idea behind this was to look at the identity of each individual with snapshots taken from the narratives of people’s lives.
What I found interesting about this was that in this television series, focusing on identity was important especially for my project because we all have a sense of ourselves that we know; yet we have an identity that is constantly changed by experience and circumstances that sometimes we have no control over.
With the homeless, they have an identity given to them by society, which they can’t escape from. They know that they aren’t like this identity, as they believe they are still the same person before everything happened. Yet their proper identity disappeared once socials one came into play.
Perry says that “for most of us, most of the time our identity works for us so we do not question it. But when it does not feel right, or is under threat, then we are suddenly made very aware of how central and vital our identity is.” I think this is an important thing to note, in that if the circumstances aren’t that bad the homeless will accept everything happily; it is only when things are bad they will realise how they have lost their old identity.
So what I have to realise is that when I’m talking to the homeless and making their story, I want to make their story based on their old identity that they still have, but is just hidden away.
This leads into another photographer I have been looking at called Shahidul Alam; he is a storyteller and photographer from Bangladesh who understood the impossibility of becoming an absolute insider to someone else’s story.
In a 2013 talk for Phonar, Alam states that, “The photographs taken at the time were taken by visiting photographers, usually white person photographers, who came over with a certain type of imagery” (Alam 2013). He puts the blame for wrong imagery on them due to how they capture only the extremely emotional events such as poverty. Rather Alam wants to give these people the opportunity to represent themselves for whom they are, whilst telling their own stories so that the narrative is the original only.
To me this is a very important issue to address as it highlights the fact that when we are taking images, we can manipulate the story to suit what we want to make. As image-makers, this is fine as long as we don’t change anything that could alter the meaning of the identity or story. The original is there for a reason; with my interviews with the homeless they have been honest and open with me, so I have to respect what they have told me when making the images by keeping it close to home.
Internet Archive, (2013) Shahidul Alam : Jonathan Worth : Internet Archive available from <https://archive.org/details/ShahidulAlamWorth> [14 November 2014]
National Portrait Gallery,. ‘Grayson Perry’. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.
Shahidul Alam: Photographer/Writer/Curator,. ‘Shahidul Alam: Photographer/Writer/Curator’. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.
The Independent,. ‘Grayson Perry: Who Are You?, Channel 4 – TV Review: Potter Asks Age Old Question With The Help Of Chris Huhne And Rylan Clarke’. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.
Wollaston, Sam. ‘Grayson Perry: Who Are You Review – It Takes A Real Artist To Get To The Heart Of Chris Huhne’. the Guardian. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.