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P A R A C H U T


Welcome to Parachute 02. There  is  a  single strand that  runs through this profusion of photography both still  and  moving; the values,  creativity  and critical prowess  all  point  to one factor.  From  crazed pop fans  to  life–size  photograms,  from celebrations of  behemoths of Art to  micro  aquatic  environments. The BA (Hons)  Contemporary  Photography  programme at  Stockport  continues to produce students  of  discernment and quality,  as  it  has  over  a  period  of  20  years  and counting. A  close critical  friend  of  the  course  suggested  we  needed to  start  to  tell  people  how  interesting  and  valuable  the  course is;  the values  it promotes  and  the  experiences   it  provides. So  we  agreed. Yes,  it  is  important  to  let people  know  about what happens here,  both in terms  of the  work  and  the  way the students,  staff  and  alumni  are  willing to  get involved in,  not  just this  venture,  but  other  external  events  and exhibitions  of  work. Parachute  is  a  case  in  point. Graduates and alumni  have been closely  involved in the  production through collaboration  with the BA (Hons)  Graphic Arts and  Design  students  who  share the same skill, ability and commitment  to  producing an excellent  outcome;  which  they have achieved—well  done. Finally  it  is  important  to  mention professional  collaborations with  external  partners. The  initiatives running  with  both Stockport  Homes  (middle  spread)  and  Manchester  Museum (throughout)  show  the quality  of  work the  students  produce and  the  experience  they  receive  as  a  result  of  this important link  to  the professional  environment. It  augurs  well  for  their professional  futures and  it  also makes the work relevant  and meaningful. I  wish  to  thank all involved here;  the  work  looks great, the  design  is  spot  on,  and the sense  of  excitement  and possibility  is  clear.

Stockport College BA (Hons)

Contemporary Photography Richard Mulhearn Programme Leader BA (Hons) Contemporary Photography University Centre

Stockport College—October 2012

Reflections One  of  the  notable  things about getting older  is  that  change becomes easier to spot. Too  easy,  in  fact:  it's  everywhere, getting  out  of  control,  spreading like a contagion,  like wildfire… This  isn't  true,  of  course;  it's  a  paranoid  distortion  based on the principle that  unfamiliar things are  disproportionately conspicuous  amid the familiar. Nevertheless,  we  are  living through  a  period of  accelerated  change,  one  of  a  series of  such  era that punctuate  the history  of  western civilization. Information  technology  has come  to  define  the times  we  live in. In nature,  change  can  be  catastrophic:  adapt or die,  is  the  faux– Darwinian  maxim  often  applied  to  the  marketplace,  an  arena in which  death is generally  metaphoric. As  a  race,  humanity  has supposedly  tamed  nature;  we have become ‘masters  of  our own destiny’ (a self–evidently  foolhardy  delusion). Individually, we  don’t necessarily  have  to  embrace  change,  but  it is  advisable to  accept  that  it's happening,  otherwise—ironically—your life  can  be  trammeled  by it.  Unfortunately,  in  my  experience, advancing  age  and the ability to cope  with  change  tend to operate  in  inverse  proportion.

Pixel Perfect

on adapting When  you're young, you accept  intellectually that the  fabric and nature of  our  culture  is  in  a  state of flux,  but  you  don't quite believe  it  until you've  seen  and experienced  it, until  you've lived it. This is the upside of passing beyond your prime. In my faltering attempts to propound  social comment, I  now find that the dependency on historical documentation —books,  annals, archives, etc—is augmented by another resource: memory.  And  with experience  at  my  disposal, the impulse to theorize fulsomely (or rant) about how we  live becomes correspondingly more urgent.  Having survived  a  full half–century,  my commentary is informed  by the knowledge of  a  world in which certain everyday phenomena  did  not exist, enabling me to make revealing observations about their arrival  and proliferation; surely  now my opinions are worthy of  declaration from the proverbial  rooftop.  And this might  even be  true except  for one problem: the  advantage  of  experience is largely negated by the tendency to regard all things new as alien and incompatible,  based on the age/adaptability formulation proposed earlier.  Naturally, I have a theory about why this occurs.  I  suspect that radical change constitutes a disruption  to  my  personal paradigm,  the model  of  the  world into which  I  was conditioned at a formative age—a complex interconnection between modes of activity, their  enactment through the operation of physical (often consumer–based) objects,  and the value system that underpins  all  of this. Or,  to  put  it  simply, what I do, how I do it and why I do it. Change  can  be  absorbed,  but only  within certain  parameters; I can generally accommodate variations on a theme,  but not wholesale innovation. This can be a fine line,  however. For  example, the mobile phone is essentially  a  ‘variation on a theme,’ a  development defined by the addition of the function of mobility—on the face of it,  a  perfectly palatable step forward. And yet its introduction (in conjunction with  other related technical advancements) has effectively  rewritten the rubric for human communication,  fundamentally  changing the way we live. This makes me uncomfortable;  it  has destabilized  my  utopian paradigm (a world made perfect purely by its passing).  I  therefore see it myopically, through skeptical blinkers; and  I  don't even have the economic  excuse of the Luddite.


t o t h e v i r t u a l l i f e

On the plus side,  I have gained some  small  insight into   how difficult it must have been to adjust to other quantum leaps in lifestyle—those intermittent historical step–changes I mentioned earlier. The emergence of the automobile  as a standard form of transport in the early 20th Century, for example—part of a bigger paradigm–shift in which the world became mechanized and industrialized,   taking  on  the  grandeur of the mammoth:  the factory,  the  skyscraper,  the ocean  liner and  the  passenger plane. The adjustment that my generation has had to make is of a diametrically opposite order.  Whereas the previous revolution turned the manmade  world into  a  place of awe–inspiring enormity,  the  digital revolution  has  effectively reversed  this,  shrinking the world, rendering it as code,  moving us away from the tangible and toward the virtual,  the  quasi– magical.  We now  have everything,  and nothing,  at  our  fingertips. With every choice  I  make online (yes,  I  have succumbed), I  am shaping and refining my meta–profile,  creating  a  version of myself that—at least for the time being—exists only as data, yet has a binary delineation that is strangely alluring, probably because it negates existential uncertainty: ‘Oh right,’ I  am  tempted to say, ‘that's who I am.’

There is one area, however, where my polemical commentary has a modicum of credibility: photography. I have practiced photography,  taught photography, and engaged with its  critical discourse. The advent of digital imaging has effectively dematerialized photography  (no film, no print), necessitating a redefinition of the medium—or not, depending on which side of the argument you subscribe to. Taking sides is important,  because at present the central critical question is not concerned with the substance of a new photographic philosophy befitting the digital era, but whether that philosophy is necessary at all.  In other words:  do  we  need new seminal texts or is it sufficient to pass the issues pertaining to digitalization through the prism of the old (i.e.  Sontag,  Barthes, et al)?  I believe that a radical rethinking is required, if only for the purposes of challenging the orthodoxy,  the recourse to a critical comfort zone. Too much critical theory  is  circumscribed by a dominant agenda, the gospel according to the original pioneers. This may be the result of academics seeking to forge a niche within the established discourse, taking up nuanced positions that are rigorously  contextualized and substantiated but generally fail to transform your understanding or take your breath away. If  I  appear to have set myself up  to propose such  a  radical manifesto,  then  I  am due to disappoint.  Sadly  I  don't have the intellectual wherewithal to conjure up a cogent alternative theory of photography, although I  do  aspire to produce something that  is  at least  oblique in its perspective.

The engine of contemporary culture, indeed its apparent raison d'être,  is communication, epitomized  by the inexorable rise of social–media platforms. These function  symbiotically, feeding  off each other in order to generate content in prodigious quantities,  creating a bloated and grotesque monster that is in fact neither bloated nor grotesque—indeed not a monster at all—thanks to its basis in the pixel,  which renders the world neat and tidy to the point of nonexistence. We cannot see the true condition of contemporary culture because it lacks manifestation and the attendant appraisal that comes with materiality, with objects that take up measurable space rather than cyberspace and therefore have to be negotiated physically. This insubstantiality raises issues over location and provenance.  Much of the information  I  receive on  a  screen prompts me to ask:  What am  I  really looking at and how did it get there? Photography, and more particularly cinema,  posed similar questions for the uninitiated upon their invention; hence the famous reports of inaugural audiences shifting in their seats to avoid the onrushing train.  ( We might find this comically naïve, but have you ever flinched at a 3D –movie effect?) What we don't understand threatens us—an adage that speaks to my point about maturity engendering recalcitrance.  Has ignorance made me paranoid?  Possibly, but the fact remains that for me the digital realm is the Other,  the thing  I  am unable fully to reconcile with my version of the habitable world.  I  can marshal arguments against it that are moderately coherent, even convincing, but the truth is that they are fundamentally undermined by a deep–seated prejudice encapsulated in the colloquial refrain:  It wasn't like that in my day.  As  a  result,  I  live in the Hellerian paradox of a firm conviction that  I  am nevertheless obliged to distrust.

Greg Leach Staff—BA (Hons) Contemporary Photography

Thanks to Paul Proctor, Greg Leach, Lucy Brown, Mishka Henner Richard Higginbottom, Alex Keep, Katherine Smith, Radomir Mikulas Henry Mcghie and Bryan Stitch at Manchester Museum, Helen Alderson, Becky Horton and Peter Egerton at Stockport Homes, Paul Hermann at Redeye, Rachael at Manchester Digital Laboratory, Karen Newman at Open Eye All the contributors… Printed by Mortons Print Ltd

What follows,  then,  are three ‘word–pictures’ scattered through the rest of this issue. They constitute a hybrid form, operating at the intersection between observation and theorization,  t wo pursuits  I  have attempted in the past. I  used to take documentary photographs that were self–contained ‘social critiques’, turning serendipitous moments  into  iconic encapsulations,  which in turn accumulated into  a  grand commentary  (or so  I'd like  to  think). Now  I  make up stories in which elevating descriptions of the ordinary play  a  pivotal role. The passages featured here contain neither, and both. They are accounts  of  ordinary/remarkable  moments that I failed,  for one reason or another,  to record photographically. I attempt to tease out their significance through the discipline and  the poetry  of  description.  Because description is the vessel for so many other related activities,  including interpretation, theorization and evaluation. To  study  is to understand. That said, I  embrace inaccuracy,  reveling in its ability to foster greater truths.  Please be aware: willful misremembering and reimagining has occurred  in the construction of these accounts. Their selection is based on a single, immutable criterion: they all relate to the issues raised above—my attempt to understand how digitalization feeds into and affects contemporary culture.  Here's  a  taster: I recently heard a media–friendly social commentator preface a remark with the phrase, ‘When we go offline and enter  the real world…’ This surely implies that being online is the default human condition. Am I wrong to be scared…?


The reality of life post–graduation is a world brimming with questions,  decisions and possibility. Exciting opportunities arise but circumstance can often intervene,  acting  as  icebergs on the horizon that encourage you to alter your course.  It  is  these icebergs that can force you to question your methodology,  integrity as an artist and what  I  would refer to as your  ‘creative conscience’. How do we,  as graduates deal with one’s unforeseen circumstance? Although  I  would consider myself fortunate in that  I  gained full–time employment within six weeks of graduating,  this did not come without its own set of complex problems. My  role as  ‘Digital Artist’  allowed me to showcase my skills in a genuinely practical  and ‘real’ industry environment but this was certainly  a  departure from my original plan.  I  found myself having to sacrifice  my  earlier intention to explore the gallery and curatorial route and instead,  plunge myself into the commercial industry. Generally the work undertaken by  a  Digital Artist is volume–based and this became my first obstacle.  I  had very specific tasks and briefs to complete which, although they required  a  high level of proficiency, did not demand the  ‘all round package’  of critical thinking,  creative practice and technical  competency  of  University  projects.  A  lack of artistic  stimulation also  encouraged me to try to complete personal work but this was indeed, a futile effort.  Work without structure, support and reasoning has no depth and cannot fulfil its potential. I  started to ask questions such as, “How can you push through a creative block?”  and my answer came in the form of re–focusing my energy.  Industry was  to  be my new  ‘project’  and one in which  I  would give my all. As  the months progressed,  it  became  clear  that this approach was not working.  Offering my whole skillset in many varied forms was quite simply,  not required. This was  a  curious concept  for me. The environment in which pushing the boundaries and applying every niche skill you  have  had clearly disappeared  and instead,  I  was faced with  an  industry  in which  I  had  to  become ‘fit  for purpose’.

Fit For Purpose Am I good enough to do the job I was designed to do? Why  would  I  be giving industry this huge set of specialist knowledge and skills  when they were  only  paying  for  me  to  ‘get the job done’? They  wanted the task finished  to  specification but my  desire to apply  100%  of myself had lead me to essentially  give myself  away  for free. Had  I  somehow become  ‘too good’  for the job  I  was designed  to  do? Restlessness and frustration can lead you to seek new creative outlets. This for me came  in the form of Post–Graduate study as this would give my ideas  a  purpose and provide the creative environment  I  was yearning for.  However, it became clear with some research and deliberation, this choice would be motivated by sheer frustration and embarking on that crucial journey  was essentially  a quick fix solution to a long–term issue.  I  found myself  in a position where pushing forward in either direction would be detrimental  if  I  were  to continue on that plotted course. The only logical solution to the issues  I  had identified was to change my  approach  yet  again. A transformation was required to morph myself into  a ‘tool’.  Rather than offering industry every aspect of my creative thinking,  I  began to offer knowledge and expertise that  I  had gained whilst working on previous personal projects. I  continued to apply myself,  but only provided skills  that were useful and fit for purpose. This move enabled me to still withhold some of what  I  would consider my  artistic integrity and gave me the discipline to generate high  quality  work, direct to  specification.  It  also  gave  me space  to  reevaluate  my methodology  and approach  to finding the time  and  purpose  to  develop  my  personal  practice.

Alexander Keep Alumni—Graduated Summer 2011

ajkeepphoto@live.co.uk

My  first  year  as  a  graduate  has involved  a  hectic twelve months  of instability,  internal  questioning and almost constant reevaluation. This steep  learning curve has enabled  me to feel  closer to  answering  the  initially  posed question, “Am  I  good enough for the job  I  was  designed  to  do?” The simple  answer  is yes.  But  I  feel  that  a  new  idea  has arisen from  this first line  of  questioning; “Have  I  been designed  to do a  better  job?”


Sandra Gerrard

vimeo.com/42821598

Alexander J McCorkle Graduate—Summer 2012

info@alexanderjmccorkle.co.uk


R i c h t e r e d

Mishka Henner

mishka.lockandhenner.com/blog

Staff—BA (Hons) Contemporary Photography

A Question    for Mishka Henner Ed Ruscha's recollection  of  events  leading  him  to  start  creating photobooks  in  an  interview  from 2003, “I guess maybe I woke up in a cold sweat once and just had this light bulb go off of doing a book of some sort.”  How  do  you  recall  events  leading  you  to  methods  of  appropriating images, and also,  your  use  of  photobooks  in  your  own  work?

from Colette Longden


I'd been making books for  a  long time before  I  got into photography. I  used to write short stories, illustrate them, then make photocopied booklets that I'd sell in bars and to people  on  the  street. Books  are  the  perfect  vehicle  for  ideas. They  cost almost nothing to make,  you can keep them in your pocket,  pass  them  on to anyone you like and even drop them from a great height. Try  doing that with an iPad or a Kindle. When  I  started working with photography  I  had the same  feeling about photobooks and for years worked  on  documentary projects with the photobook  as  an  end product in mind.  Appropriation came  later  on  when  I  started taking  an interest in artists who were working with photographs. They had  a  very  different attitude  to  images than photographers seem to have. If  you think  about the effort and cost that goes into the production of  images that

are  all  around you and then think about how easy  it is to transform those images just by  changing their  context,  it tells you something about how slippery images really are.  In that sense, images are  no  different  to  language.  A  word or  a phrase is easily transformed just by the way  it's  said, or by putting it into a different context. It's interesting that copyright protection can be applied to images but not to words,  yet there are so many more images in the world than there  are  words. You'd think it should be the other way around.  So the process of using appropriated images  really came  from  those ideas.  Besides,  even when making work with our own cameras,  we're  always thinking of other people's imagery. Isn't that  why  we describe  it as ‘taking pictures’? The  pictures are always already there. The  camera simply  captures them.


Woman the Hunter


Andrea Jane Smith Graduate—Summer 2012

andreajanesmith.com


M u s e u m

Alison Hagger Graduate—Summer 2012

P i e c e

alisonhagger-photography.photoswarm.com


Eating chips all day

and having parties Andy Moseley Graduate—Summer 2012

vimeo.com/andrewmoseley


The  collaborative  project between  BA  (Hons)  Contemporary Photography  and  Stockport  Homes  involves  students working  with  residents  of  different  areas, teaching  photography and  setting  projects  for the  residents  about  their immediate  environment.

Tondi 1

Stockport colette@longdenflooring.co.uk

Colette Longden Current Student

Richard Mulhearn Programme Leader

Stockport College—July 2012

“Working  with  Stockport  Homes  and the people  from  both  community  groups  has  been an incredibly  valuable  and  rewarding  experience  for  the  students  and  staff  of  the  BA  (Hons) Contemporary  Photography  at  Stockport College. The  experience  for  our  students  has  provided a  vocational  opportunity  alongside their  academic  and  creative  study,  and  this  opportunity  will prove  vital  in  the  post–study  environment. This  initiative  indicates  a  very  interesting  and  exciting future  for  students on our  degree  programme;  it  gives  them the  chance  to  independently  confirm  the  skills  and  approach they  are  learning  on the course  in  an  external  professional  environment.”


Homes 2PM–4PM

oneofakindalmy@hotmail.com

Sophie Almy Current Student

“There  is  an  ongoing  commitment  to  supporting students  at  Stockport  college  to  gain  an  appreciation of  the  demands  of  working  in  partnership  in  a  business  environment  and developing skills that will be  useful  to  students  once  they  have  graduated. We  have  an  understanding  of  students' needs  in bridging the  gap  between  education  and business  needs  and  are  keen  to develop a good  working  relationship  with  Stockport Homes  that  is  mutually  beneficial.”

Rebecca Horton Customer Involvement Officer

Stockport Homes—July 2012


Unrecovered (No. 1) 2012 Bori Pocz Graduate—Summer 2012

boripocz.webs.com


I  take my son to swimming lessons on Saturdays at the local sports and leisure centre.  It's a  singular half hour in my week.  I  watch him with a mixture of concern, interest and pride,  emotions that have incrementally diminished over time, in direct proportion to his growing ability to function independently in  the  water,  in  the  world.

Incident 1

July 2012 There is very limited  provision  for spectating  in  this small–town amenity.  It's a confined,  claustrophobic,  over–heated space consisting  of  plastic chairs and junk–food dispensers.  Parents vie for  space  in front of  the  viewing  window,  which has  a  door in it with a notice forbidding obstruction,  but people obstruct anyway,  because space is at a premium. The  newer  parents have the sharpest  elbows. I often wonder what  it  looks  like from  the other side  of the glass,  this gaggle  of  onlookers, framed, incarcerated, clothed, yearning for the liberation of the swimming pool,  with  its  abundance  of  air,  light, water.

Today  I  am in the second tier,  chatting about football to a father whose name  I  should know, but we've inadvertently  exceeded the period in  which the simple question  What's your name? is socially acceptable,  so  now we're stuck  with mutual anonymity. This  is  a  male thing;  women always establish names. We're discussing his team,  Liverpool—whether  Andy Carroll  makes them  one–dimensional  (a subject that later becomes academic).  He  shares  transfer  rumours  about foreign players  I've never heard of.  Occasionally  I  glance through the window to see someone who may or may not be my son cavorting in the water. Directly in front of me a small blond– haired boy sits at his grandmother's feet, playing with  a  yellow toy truck.  I  catch his eye and he  returns my smile,  coyly. To  the right  of him is another, older boy—maybe eight—with  his back to me, facing the window but not looking through it. He is a spectator, however.  He's holding a state–of–the–art smartphone about a foot from his face, watching a moving image of himself on the screen, the content of which corresponds,  with only a split–second delay,  to the expressions he's  pulling. The  form  of these  expressions,  their  particular contortion, is dictated by how well he feels they transfer to the screen. I  cannot see the boy's actual face from my position, only the shrunken,  slightly jerky version that appears on the phone,  pulled  out of shape  by the  wide–angle camera lens.  He  simultaneously shifts the tilt of his head and of the phone,  leering  at  himself, seeking out the grotesque but without resorting to cartoon antics. It's a compelling performance, simultaneously comical and disturbing.

I  am  reminded,  at  first,  of  the  fairground mirror,  but  it's  a  crude comparison. Then  I  think of this boy  as  a  juvenile  Narcissus, an analogy no doubt prompted by the expanse of  water  beyond the window.  But  he is not captivated  by  his  own  reflection, because this  is not a mirror image;  its  form  of  mediation  offers something more interestingly (and permissively) nuanced. No  putative or implicit vanity attends these actions, which is why he is unselfconscious: he  is  not gazing at his  image  per se, he  is  creating  another  version  of  himself. He  is,  in  an  idle moment, rehearsing what society is encouraging him  to  become: a  series  of  virtual profiles,  a  protean  cyber–being, trapped in  a  realm of collective  isolation  to  which he is inured, wary of  anything that carries  the label ‘reality’ without a  qualifying adjective.

At that moment I notice a seated spectator, a mother,  looking towards my feet and smiling warmly.  I  follow her gaze, and there is the blond toddler gazing up at me, holding out his yellow toy truck, presenting it to me.  I  am humbled. Has  he seen the strain in my face and responded with this symbolic salve for my neurosis?  What could be more solid and reliable in the life of a boy than a toy truck? I accept it with enthusiastic gratitude, alive to the privilege of this benefaction. I  take a moment to study and appreciate it, pointing out some  of  its admirable qualities before giving it back to him. These  are the kinds of things that once never happened to me. Despite —or perhaps because of—my resistance to all forms  of  remote communication,  I  am more connected to the world than  I  ever have been.


Martin Barnes “I  could see and understand the planning that had gone into making these pieces as  I  know how logistically difficult it is to make work such as this. The uniqueness of the prints and the process as part of the artwork is crucial to a philosophical and conceptual understanding of camera–less photography, and  I was pleased to see that you had grasped and understood this. Your subject matter—your own body and its changes in the stages of pregnancy—was an aptly chosen. I  liked the way you had included the element of a salt solution to the water you were floating in to make the images. To me, this suggested the child growing inside you, suspended in a saline solution, just as you yourself were floating in saline solution: an invisible floating body inside another floating body made visible by the process of camera–less photography.” Senior Curator of Photographs Word and Image Department, V&A Museum, London

I n t e r n a l

S h a d o w Patrycja Poludniak Graduate—Summer 2012


Routes

Richard Higginbottom Alumni—Graduated Summer 2011

richardhigginbottom.com


Stupor Mundi

Chris Ecclestone Alumni—Graduated Summer 2011

whynotbesilent.tumblr.com


August 2012 Unsurprisingly, perhaps,  I  have an unhealthy attachment to  aspects of cultural life that achieve continuity  in  our  fast –changing world, particularly in the mass media. The Today programme on Radio 4 is a primary example—although even it has had to embrace the curious recalibration of the newsworthy that the Internet has engendered.

Incident 2 It's seven o'clock in the morning. The pips have just resonated around the bathroom.  I am standing over the washbasin, water dripping  from my bristly chin, trying to decide whether  I  can be bothered to shave or not.  I  can waste considerable amounts of time deliberating on such matters. The newsreader delivers the day's headlines in his dulcet tones. Top is Syria,  the quotidian  litany of murder and mayhem that barely registers. This is followed by the revelation that  a  teenager has said something crass and insulting about another teenager.  What…? Am  I  hearing things…? I  abate my ablutions and rapidly work myself into another sort of lather, turning my ire on the radio,  asking it, with suitably outraged  incredulity,  how such  a  story  can  be  worthy  of  a  place  on the international news agenda—let alone second in the running order.  Answer, of course,  comes there none.

Granted, the recipient of this insult is Tom Daley,  the precocious Olympian diver,  and granted (again) the defamatory remark concerns Daley's father, who died recently, making it all the more egregious.  But still, but still… Had the insult been delivered in passing on the street,  would we have heard about it? Perhaps the real story here is its platform: Twitter,  which like so many  forms of modern communication hovers uncertainly in the hinterland between formality and informality, between pub banter and publically articulated opinion. The law,  I  suspect (without having conducted the requisite Google–based research), remains equivocal on this matter, leaving the media free to apply its somewhat dubious standards to the process of selecting from  it.  We can be thankful,  at least, that tomorrow it will all be virtual chip wrapping.  And anyway,  I  have more pressing matters to deliberate upon: to shave or not to shave, that is the question this morning…


Fans

Joshua Fox Graduate—Summer 2012

joshuafox.co.uk


Belly pork

Rachel Samuels Graduate—Summer 2012

rachelsamuels.tumblr.com


September—November I  have  a  fascination  with  time stopped;  with  the  unfathomable poetic transformation of the photographic moment. Yet  I  have always disliked the single truth  aspect  of the medium, the role prescribed to it  by  cultural  theorists as  an  instrument  of  collective memory,  requiring  it to be  accurate,   factual, truth bearing.

Richard Mulhearn Programme Leader BA (Hons) Contemporary Photography

projectsojourner.wordpress.com


Incident 3 Somewhat reluctantly,  following a blissful summer sojourn, I am making my way back to work on the Buxton–to–Manchester train  line,  refamiliarizing myself with the landmarks,  both the topographic ones beyond the window and the psychological ones that attend various stages of the journey. The childish game of musical chairs played out to the rhythm  of the train's motion (the aim in this version being to secure  as  much isolation from other passengers as possible) is one  in  which I wholeheartedly engage, to  my shame.  Fortunately,  this train has the luxury of space for all, so  I  can relax. Scanning my fellow travellers,  I  note a demographic shift since  I  last made this journey, due, I  suspect, to the time of year. The young couple sitting in front of me exemplifies this. They  are a conspicuously coupled couple, by which  I  mean they have a physical connection that remains unbroken throughout the journey. The ease of their intimacy strikes me as a very continental trait, and this is confirmed when  I  hear them speaking Spanish, clearly their mother tongue.  The body language is typically patriarchal:  the girl is turned at right angles to her beau, revealing her profile to me in the seat behind, whereas the boy merely tilts his body towards her by way of concession. Nevertheless,  he returns her unstinting gaze with almost equal devotion.  Further  absence of Mediterranean machismo arrives when two female backpackers board the train and choose to stand up with their rucksacks.  In  a  show of gallantry that strikes me as quaint,  he offers to move his rucksack to free up a seat,  even though there are numerous others available to the girls. His suggestion is made  with charming old–world formality, in perfect English. In  declining, the girls cannot match his finesse,  seeing the redundancy of his offer as a cause for embarrassment. From the girlfriend's puppy–dog expression,  I  gain insight into why she's so smitten. We travel on. The couple continues to exchange intimacies under the cloak of a foreign language. Feeling uncomfortably voyeuristic,  I  try to divert my attention elsewhere—but then the  young man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a mobile phone. He pushes one or two of its buttons and, in the manner that has lately become customary,  raises it in the air rather than putting it  to  his  ear. This is,  of course, a photographic event, one that has become prevalent with  the advent of the phone camera: the auto–portrait,  which  I  am beginning to suspect is actually a self–monitoring process,  a  means to allay  the momentary existential crises that strike  us all from time to time.  Instantaneously,  our presence in the world can be verified via the  resulting image—a use of photography that ironically relies  on its alleged unique relationship with reality, one that digital imaging has helped put under such intense interrogation.

August 2012

Greg Leach

But perhaps I  am doing our Spanish paramour a disservice. Perhaps he has a valid reason for wanting to commemorate the moment photographically. Perhaps, it occurs to me as their heads meet in readiness for the artificial click, perhaps these lovers are about to part, which would certainly explain their ardour, and her lack of a rucksack.

Staff—BA (Hons) Contemporary Photography

My  view,  through the gap between headrests,  is  an  odd  one: two conjoined backs  of heads  from which  a  single  arm  extends like a trunk,  tipped  by the tiny eye of the phone camera. The flash fires; the arm is  lowered and the couple resume their previous positions. Having pushed a few more buttons, the young man holds  up  the phone again to show  the  girl the diaphanous image on  the screen, inadvertently sharing it with me in the process. Although  I  view  it for only  a  few seconds, it  leaves a lasting  impression. The  t wo  beaming  faces are distillations of innocence and joy,  as  if the camera has serendipitously captured not only the spirit of the their current infatuation,  but also the apogee of their individual  lives. The phone snap,  I  realize—despite  its inherent disposability— has some of the potency  and durability of  a  treasured  memento, like a locket warn for a  lifetime.

Of course,  the flipside to having only a fleeting glimpse is that it tempts you,  subsequently,  to interpolate around the incomplete impression forged.  Memories are made  of  this, to a greater or lesser extent.   And the more  I  think about this particular image, the more convinced  I  become that it contains a third, subsidiary subject.  Me. This is based as much on a reflection of the image–capturing event as it  is  on  my inchoate memory of the picture itself.  Positionally—given the angle of the phone and the  properties of camera–phone lenses—it seems likely that my face is floating somewhere in the background, and if so, what impact does my presence have on the purity of this euphoric frozen moment? Am  I,  in effect,  a corrupting influence,  a spectre  of  cynicism sent to poison an otherwise blissful future?  No.  Photographs are of the moment;  they do not presage things  to  come. So why, then,  can't  I  bring myself to turn and look at their sweet  faces  when  I  pass  them  on my  way  to  the doors…?


BA (Hons) Contemporary Photography Programme Leader—Richard Mulhearn 0161 958 3446 Richard.Mulhearn@stockport.ac.uk www.stockport.ac.uk/content/ba-honours-contemporary-photography

BA (Hons) Graphic Arts and Design Programme Leader—Lucy Brown 0161 958 3513 Lucy.Brown@stockport.ac.uk www.stockport.ac.uk/content/ba-hons-graphic-arts-design

Design by Radomir Mikulas CzechoslovakGrafikDesign.tumblr.com


Parachute Publications Issue 02