This photoessay is the first part of my monochrome work from the Melbourne workshop in March; some of my students may recognise the images. I’ve been criticised in the past for not getting ‘close enough’ for my images to qualify as street photography, so I’m not going to claim it as such even though there’s no strict definition of the genre to begin with. Rather, it continues a theme I’ve been exploring for the past couple of years: the exploration of people in their environment, and the idea of modern man in context as a species as opposed to an individual. Perhaps I should take up social anthropology in my spare time…
What I’ve always found is that as a visitor to a place – even if you’ve been there before, a long time ago, or lived there, or it basically isn’t your first visit – there’s a sense of detached surreality about everything, partially induced by time differences and partially induced by the fact that you’re not quite sure what passes as normal or socially acceptable because you’re out of your familiar comfort zone. There’s the feeling of trying to observe and drink everything in but not choke on the fire hose of information. I always feel that my jobs is to distill those observations into a coherent set of images that perhaps either single out what’s unusual for you as a foreigner, or single out what you might interpret as the ‘essence of the place’ through its people – not individuals, but people as collective types. The challenge is to keep the context – enough that you can place the locality – whilst simultaneously not losing that intimacy. I do feel that these would probably would better as either larger images or Ultraprints, rather than web-size – there’s far more detail and nuance than an 800 pixel JPEG can convey, and they were shot with Ultraprinting in mind.
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