Ideas For Encountering Culture

by alexmasonphotography

The first idea I had for this assignment was to photograph myself on the way to a gig that I have recently been offered a photo pass for. We have been advised to shoot things that we are excited about. I am photographing a musician called Ben Howard. His music inspires me within my work and I have had a passion for music since I could hear, so to combine my two passions in life to create a set of images for this task was almost to good to be true, however I couldn’t imagine how the idea could ‘tie in’ appropriately with the objective of the task. of ‘Encountering Culture’. The gig I am photographing is tomorrow, I have rented out lots of equipment including a Mamiya RB 67 just in case i feel inspired to take some shots at the venue and possibly of the gig.

Another idea I had was photographing self portraits on the train and the journey of getting to the gig. The idea made me think that the possible results that could be unique in context to focusing on my own structure but I was apprehensive.

The idea I am most keen on is to do with races of people. Having started university recently I have become more aware of the different cultures. I arrived at university and came to find that one of my flatmates was black and another one was mixed race. In all honesty it did throw me out of my comfort zone slightly especially with the anxiety and pressure of starting uni. I have nothing against any race, I have friends of ethnic minority at home, I get on with most people, I am well travelled and have met people from all over the world. I suppose I was worried about actually living with the two guys. I didn’t know how they did things in a homely environment. When the other flatmates came in I discovered they were all white and I had exactly the same thoughts about them, that I didn’t know how they would be in a homely environment. You only know what it is like being bought up in your home and because you have only been bought up in one family (generally), that is all you know.

I suppose you could call my views ignorant but I think it is simply the fact that everyday, one experiences new things and new challenges, whether it be an emotional or physical challenge or something new that you haven’t encountered before in which case, everyone is ignorant.

Here are some photos I took a couple of weekends ago on my digital SLR whilst considering the idea of encountering culture. I left my flat and got on the train to Birmingham. I saw a couple kissing on the train and asked them if they could carry on whilst I take photographs. The couple loved the fact i was taking photographs and which was great because I had a good laugh with them and they thought it was “really cool” that I asked them. Another man was laughing whilst I was taking the photos and I said to him “your next” in a joke like way. So he said, “okay, go ahead”. I went on to take photos of this man having a few beers. He seemed like a good guy in the small time that I chatted to him for. He was telling me how he wanted to get home and was hoping that the wife had gone to bed and put the kid to bed so he could chill out and watch some TV for a bit. It was great to have had conversations with these people because I feel I got some natural shots of the subjects looking relaxed.
As I was approaching my stop, I noticed an abandoned-looking building with graffiti that I wanted to check out. I like going to these places because I get a thrill out of taking photos in a place were I know I shouldn’t really be and could be in danger. I planned to go there the next day and take some photos.

I took some photos with the theme of the ‘drinking culture.’ I was at my girlfriends house in Birmingham. It also emphasized peoples need to start posing and playing up to the camera as soon is at comes out. Most of these photos are very posed but weren’t posed by me. I just happened to be there with a camera that they were performing to.

I then went down to a park following the graffiti I could see along the walls and took some photos. I felt like a documentary photographer from this moment on. Although I was still paying attention to composition, I was more pushed to document the boredom of the kids in the area I was in. I was approached by three young lads between the ages of 14 to 16 and they asked me for a cigarette (which I didn’t have). They asked started asking me questions like, “Do you do drugs? Why don’t you smoke? Do you drink?” I found them to be pretty personal questions coming from kids that I didn’t know and had met 30 seconds ago. I spoke to them and asked them what they did for fun around here? They laughed and just told me how bored they were and how there is nothing to do around the area. They were responsible for some of the graffiti that is in the background of the photos of them. It lead me to think that this is where things escalate from. These are the kind of people that we don’t want to damage our society anymore than just spraying some paint on our walls. I ended up telling the kids to ‘stay in school and don’t do drugs’ in a longer drawn out way than that, after talking about some of my personal experiences. I got the feeling that the youths really enjoyed me taking photos of them because considering how bored they were saying they get, I think anything different for them would be exiting. I ended up getting them pose in certain places and also get them looking naturally into the lens.

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