I got great insight this week watching the Lewis Bush guest lecture from March 2019 and further reviewing his work. Lewis considers and confronts invisible power and the helplessness of those without it to do anything to take it on. In Metropole he looks at the investment in new major buildings to show that ‘London is now a city of demolition, cranes, and glittering new high rises, built not for Londoners but for anonymous overseas investors and speculators.’ source He further carries out ‘an extensive investigation into the activities of many of the property developers behind these schemes, including the extensive use of opaque offshore financial structures and unaccountable political lobbying.’
The insight is the value of a work of photography as a witness to something that is going on but putting yourself at personal risk. What Lewis does is brave and produces important work. What is of concern in a democratic society is how political figures and investors such as Mandelson and Ganduja can subvert the system and get away with it in broad daylight. The witnessing and documenting is important and brave.
Lewis did a project ‘Shadows of the State’ in which he listened in to short wave radio transmissions by spies. The technology is basic and numbers were being read out for long periods on certain frequencies. Using public information he sought to find the transmitters and worked on the ‘possibility of turning the practices and technologies of espionage back against their users, and in doing so bringing some light and accountability to a world which exists in stark contrast to these things.’ He located sights in ‘Russia to Liberia, Cyprus to South Korea’. ‘These sites are then mapped using high resolution satellite imagery and the signals themselves are made visible to in the form of radio spectrograms alongside recordings and extensive information about each station.’ source
In his lecture he talks of nights hearing helicopters hovering above his house and wondering if he was at risk. It is another example of work that witnesses what is happening in the world.
It makes sense that emotions experienced within a photographer can help him or her produce work that will have an emotional impact on an audience. Capturing something that comes out of pain, risk or crossing a boundary we normally stay within can produce interesting work.
I crossed a boundary recently in my own project. Being encouraged by Laura Hynd to explore further different ways of representing myself and ‘let go’ (the name of one of her own projects) I considered photographing myself nude. I was also interested to play with lighting to get an effect. On the way to Arles I went to Figueres to visit the Dali Museum. A great place I would recommend to anyone. In my hotel room the curtains were closed and I saw the light from the bathroom on to the curtains and thought that is interesting light to play with. I thought let’s have a go at the nude. It was interesting observing the battle within myself to do this. But I said….’let go’ and ‘have a go.’ I set up the tripod and chair and had a go.
What interests me about these images now is that I have no problem with them. I can show them freely and as Elina Brotherus would say ‘they are not me.’ The boundary I crossed to make these images is no longer a boundary. Furthermore whilst it is not a boundary I feel totally free to make and distribute images like this or to say this was one of my experiments with a boundary. We shall see.
As input to the development of my practice and my project I wish to consider more the role of pain, risk and boundaries. I will add fear to this. Does what I fear offer interesting work for either the truth or beauty of me?