We were given our project title for term one last week at the first class of the course. When  it was read out, my immediate thought was hmmmm, don’t you mean “People and their environment”. But no, clarification sought, the title is what it is, to make sure its as wide as possible. After bouncing around a few initial themes to follow, the one that caught my ear was social commentary – this could be looking at “people and the environment” from a macro perspective. Photographers such as Martin Parr and William Eggleston  were mentioned… So of course I will have to explore their work in more depth as well as others within that “genre”.  This project sits within the unit of lens-based image making which forms the foundation of this term’s work. And in short this is about taking pictures with equipment that has a lens… so pinhole cameras do not count.

But what of ideas… well I had one… which would be to look at subcultures within wider  society. One of the things Zig talked about was taking pictures that had no people in them, but things which would convey the person… this followed on from a post from a classmate about Faceless London by Jim Grover http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-37471476 . So one way of approaching this would possibly be to photograph the “items” in or out of context as a way of depicting “people and the environment”. As for the subculture(s) that may be used, that will be revealed later once I have satisfied myself that I can make it relevant to the project title.

A second idea was handed to me by a friend when I told him about the project title. He suggested recording the clinical testing .. for patients with HIV. In the context of social commentary, this is undoubtedly a powerful subject to cover. My only initial concern with this is one of time. I would need to secure permission from the relevant NHS Trust/Clinic to be able to photograph on their premises. Secondly, I would require explicit written consent from each and every individual that I wanted to photograph (even if faces were obscured from the picture). This idea therefore is a potential longer-term side project that I will seriously consider pursuing… so I’m going to have to think carefully about what I want to capture and draft my permission letters with care.

So what else have I been doing.. well a quick Google search of “social commentary in photography” has brought up a wealth of articles, images and research papers that I will need to get into. But from what I have read so far, one thing is clear, photography can help change the world by bringing to the attention of the masses as well as those in power issues that need to be addressed and making that part of the political discourse. We see this manifesting itself in recent times for example: with the refugee crisis in Europe; the civil war in Syria and the fight against Daesh in that region;  and the Black Lives Matter movement in the US in response to the fatal police shootings of (predominately) black men. So whether I stick with subcultures or take a completely different route, one thing is certain, I am positive that it will be social commentary that I will want to underpin the work of this project – let’s see if that is the outcome.

The featured image I believe is © Stephy Jane Rhodes

Assessment criteria 2