Photography Statement

The Trespasser, 8x10 Black and White Film. Ben Dolman 2014

The other day I received an email from my course leader for my MA to inform me that there will be a Photo Day and we were asked to bring along a single print for discussion and a short statement. After the email I started to ponder what my statement should say as I come to the end of my course of study, would it be answers to what photography was for me, a summary of my practice, a reflection on the single print that I have submitted to the peer to peer discussion or something other. I have posted the statement below and the resulting text came from a desire to provoke a debate, the document is full of questions and contradictions that have arisen from my course of study and a reflection on some of the rapid changes in creativity we have witness in the first 14 years of this new century and how we deal with them and proceed.

Photography Statement

Ben Dolman MA RP Photography - Photo Day 27.06.2014 NTU

I love taking photographs but I love making photographs more

“What the fuck is he taking about?”

We now live in the digital age where taking a photograph is considered ‘free’ of cost, no longer do you have to buy film and pay for processing & printing, but in reality there is a cost, you need a computer, internet connection, digital camera that is replaced every three years but the true cost in the digital age can be even more. Photography alongside other forms of creativity are now sometimes seen as ‘free’ from music to movies that can be downloaded with ease from peer to peer networks and shared ‘freely’ at no cost to the user. Is this new view of ‘free’ user made content a liberating or a self defeating experience, can artists and makers survive without payment for their creative endeavours or does this not matter anymore as anyone can be an artist and there is no need for professionalism or skill as all you required is a concept and smartphone. If you want to live from your creative activities and you are not in the creative elite bewitched by their dealers and hedge fund backers is the future funding only going to be coming through Facebook adverts, Kickstarter or personal wealth as your work is FREE now, do not bother look at public funding* as usually the only person not being paid is the artist.

 “Is the future of photography just fucking cats and selfies?”

To be an artist or a maker today do we have to reinvent ourselves in how we make, think and communicate and chose a different path to the one offered by mainstream digital media and distribution. Perhaps putting a cost and investment back into the creative act so it is no longer deemed as free and offer a more considered dialogue than the nausea of ‘likes’ and ‘views’ that seek the lowest form of cultural denominator and buy into the notion of something dare I say ‘worthy’ a word that I make in reference to Jorg Colberg's blog posting ‘In Defence of Merit’** To be critical, to discriminate, to reflect, to make, to slow down and reject the urge for instant gratification.

“But is this bullshit! lol”

Maybe but at the moment it works for me, I need to keep some kind of sanity why I make photographs or anything thinking about it. I no longer want to be careless, to be used or abuse others. The digital and the web should be viewed as a useful tool and not as a master and seek alternatives to the silicon kids and the venture capitalists only seek free content to sell clicks, the content providers always get their cut, the web and technology can be used for other purposes, perhaps learn code the new language of the digital world and create your own platform on your own terms, free is for the lazy and free does have a cost, the cost is the loss of employment, worth and substance. 

“free can have no value”

*The Guardian ‘by paying artists nothing, we risk everything’ Susan Jones 19.05.2014

**’In the defence of merit’ Jorg Colberg

Post Note

I thought I would update this post on how the Photography Statement was received on the Photo Day by my peers and tutors. It was quite interesting and the responses were what I had expected, I knew that I had push the statement beyond what is expected of your typical art statement it’s understanding in the context of academia and the art world, this was done on purpose for I wanted to see if anyone could see the relationship between the photograph and the text offered for discussion. Initially there was bemusement, they liked the photograph from my Trespasser series and the way it was printed and presented but could not see how the statement I had written related to the photograph. Next they did not understand the form of the statement as it did not conform to what they understand what an artists statement should be which by the way is petty dreary and formulaic full of arty bollocks and descriptors like ‘memory’ ‘self’ ‘impressions’ ‘ephemeral’ ‘discourse’ and so on. After a state of confusion some of the tutors did start to get what the statement was about but still they did not understand it in the context of the photograph. From the statement the tutors did draw out that there was an element of rage, a questioning of visual media networking, an acknowledgement of an inquiry into what is the worth of art and making today and all of these responses were correct though one tutor bless him had an issue with the colourful language from the troll remarks on the statement.

The relationship between the photograph and the statement is one of rage but a rage that finds beauty rather than destruction. A rage that is born out of the visual digital deluge and seeks worth in making rather than consuming.

It is as simple as that, nothing complicated, to make and show photography on your own terms.