Subversive Images

by alexmasonphotography

During the lecture for 350MC with Jon Levy we had a look at the concept of subversion in certain photographers works. As an example we looked at the incredible work Telex Iran by  Magnum Photographer Gilles Peress. The work is what I would describe as an honest documentation of what the man experienced. It is fly on the wall stuff.

The idea I got from subversive photography is that the photographer has the choice of what decisions he/she makes. Subversion is like trying to get ones point across without aggression and without shoving it in peoples faces. Subtle hints that may even pass the viewers by the first time they see it.

We saw some great examples of subversion in another body of work by Colin Boyd Shafer called  ‘Gezi Is Everywhere’.

This series was taken in Istanbul at the beginning of what is an ongoing movement against the current leadership of Turkey.

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Screenshot from Foto8‘s website

It helps to watch the photo film so you can see all the images to get a feel for the overall theme. I chose this photo because it is a great example of subversion. The photographer cares about what is going in during the conflict so decides to keep certain things in the frame, like this poster of their leader. Colin could have easily just taken a pretty picture of the woman reading the paper and it would have still had some impact but not nearly as much as giving the viewer the idea of the mass of tents in the area and the poster. Although Colin is making sure the viewer understands the narrative of his work he does leave a certain amount of room for imagination and makes me want to delve deeper into the story.

Here is a photo taken by Simon Roberts from his series We English. Everything is in the frame for a reason. It is of Holcombe Beach on the North norfolk coast line. This was voted the best beach in britain by readers of coast magazine. It is also owned by Nature England and they were trying to ban nudists from using this beach. It is a contested landscape. By having the fence in the frame it is like saying there is a barrier to the landscape for certain people that want to use this space. It is important to have the context with this image.

We English

I project I did in my first year was somewhat subversive. I immersed myself with a small community of gypsies close to home. The work is called ‘Encountering Gypsies‘. The point I was trying to make was subtly aimed at production companies that had created TV shows about gypsies that I think represented them in a bad way. I did some research and started to think that they can’t all be bad people, this was the stigma for my project.

With the work I wanted the viewer to look at it and expect to see a set of photos of gypsies doing the things that people associate them with like hunting hares and stealing your tiles when actually they will just see a set of photos of normal people doing what normal people do with some normal portraits but just a slightly different way of living.