Extraordinary the Disconnect

Conceptual content

I have been drawn to the war photography of Robert Capa and have been studying his work. Some of my black and white pinhole photographs submitted for the independent project feature model soldiers and these were indirectly influenced by Capa. These photographs explore the suspension of belief that art and reality is one of the greatest paradoxes; we can believe something that we know does not actually exist. Something that can warp visual experiences, obscure and reveal the layers of timelines and suggest alternative realities.

There are many compelling myths surrounding Robert Capa, one such contentious story that concerns arguably his most famous photograph; "The Falling Soldier" 1936. Claimed to depict the death of republican soldier during the Spanish Civil War, since the 1970's there have been doubts to its authenticity, and Capa has been accused of staging the photo.

Another tale is of his D Day photos, Capa braved the first wave of landings, dodging bullets and shells to capture what happened, however the lab tasked with developing his films managed to cook and spoil most of his material, strangely much of what little survived was somehow enhanced by the treatment.

"Falling Soldier", 1936, Robert Capa

D Day, 1944, Robert Capa

Based on further research and experimentation, I propose universally deconstructing and reconstructing observations and recordings, to objectively discover what triggers perceptions of reality and how to encourage or interrupt that.

Creating and distorting perceptions of reality from my own ephemera, reproducing multiple versions of photographs, manipulating them into paintings and back again into photographs to look for deeper meanings as in Barthesian mythology.

As mooted by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 - 1834) in his Biographia Literaria; it is 'The willing suspension of disbelief that constitutes poetic faith'. Or the difference between watching a real fight and a stage fight as hamlet put it actors 'do but murder in jest'.

My previous investigations into pinhole photography seem to invoke the past, acknowledging value in the weight of documentary photographs and this medium would be well suited to the task of introjecting individual and collective realities. It was Barthes who observed that photography originally depicted the remarkable but eventually things became remarkable just by being photographed.

How a smaller force that looks uniform and is organised gains power, signified by those signs and can control a much larger crowd for example the British in India, nazis in Germany and riot police worldwide. The perception overwhelms the reality, both collectively and individually, in order to stand up to such force there will inevitably be casualties before that force is overwhelmed.

"Visual purism: can be a metaphysical imprint of reality.

Visual purism and emanations of the real world - fingerprints of reality.

The image thus obtained constitutes, first and foremost, the essence of existence [...] confirming that what we are looking at truly did exist, as Roland Barthes indicates in Camera Lucinda

Pinhole photographs are existential traces left on light sensitive material by the light that previously touched people and objects.

Since it is not possible to focus on a selected object everything is equally clear and thus, equally importance.

Staging: an utterance utilising reality as its construction material.

Staging of worlds created with light: reality is both a theatre stage on which they conjure up fantastic worlds and a battlefield where they challenge what they consider false ideas about the world.

Here, light appears as director and whistleblower; masks are employed in exploring the depths of the human psyche and in debunking stagnant thought patterns and exposing the invisible mesh woven by ideologies." (2014 Renner, p 24-32)

I could have drilled down into one of the above, but I have already inadvertently combined them both by introducing models into the landscape. So I will push further by manipulating the cameras, film and the developing process as well as influencing the 'reality' before the camera.

I am limiting myself in the choice of location by only photographing the landscape from Carn Gelli. I want to show how an individual place can be haunted by ghosts of the past and tormented by an unwritten future. A look out post was set up here by the French force during the infamous 'Last French Invasion' 1797. It will make the project awkward, just as taking pinhole photographs is restrictive in the number of exposures possible; this will serve to force focus and deliberate the decision making.

For exhibition purposes I propose to construct a box or boxes that can be sent by courier, The boxes come with instructions and are opened like concertinas, all sides are displayed and they are all artworks, it is up to the recipient to decide how to curate. Lock down is an exciting challenge, how to exhibit, finding ways out or in.

How are our perceptions affected by being boxed in during lock down? Looking inwards, perhaps a box diorama containing mirrors, objects and lights, maybe transparencies, painted surfaces that are viewed by looking into it. That because of the internal reflected surfaces reads as a 'tardis', transmitting back the photographic reproductions of perceptual reality and sapience in the human mind, kaleidoscopically as a 'collidingscape'.


Graduate exhibition at Jobswell Campus and online

To be held in the merrie month of May during the second year of the Great Plague 2021

My Intentions (If things don’t change, they won’t get any different.)

I would like to show that I am a visual artist with a voice of dissent and through my body of work set an engaging and intellectual example. Highlighting that I draw inspiration from everything and everyone and that I fully accept the impossibility of an uncontaminated identity.

Positive Influences

For this major project my main influences have been; the philosophy of Roland Barthes coupled with a fascination of the photography and life of Robert Capa that have been brought together by “Poetics of Light: Contemporary Pinhole Photography” a book by Eric Renner and “I can’t get you out of my head” the documentary series by Adam Curtis.

My Aims (Chaos In Dreamworld)

I aim to highlight that truth is now celebrated as obsolete, showing how perception overwhelms reality and that signs are unnatural and codified. Exploring the suspension of belief that art and reality is one of the greatest paradoxes; we can believe something that we know does not actually exist.

My Themes (Contradictions & Consequences)

Essentially based on the price of fairness being eternal vigilance, i am contemplating

  • Perception and reality

  • Chance

  • Signs and signifiers

Exposing perceptual reality through art

If reality is what we know to be true and perception what we see, hear or feel. I plan staging pinhole worlds within visual purity that are photographed as quasi documentary narrative. In limiting myself in the choice of location, I will show how an individual site haunted by ghosts of the past is tormented by an unwritten future. Further subjecting the media to manipulation prior to shooting, during and after development, I will distort any objectivity but suggest alternative realities.

Presentation Method

(Have you ever thought about looking at the world this way?)

Due to covid risks I wish to present my work without having to be physically present at any point.

For the on site exhibition I propose:

  • A2 size concertina style 'book' that can be opened and displayed on a table for example

  • Projection show (although I will prepare an original set of analogue slides these will have to be converted to digital media for longer exhibition durations)

Both of these can be delivered by courier and curated at the discretion of my tutors and peers.

For the online exhibition I propose a slideshow and/or film.

Invites (Priming & Nudging)

As I have no commercial ambition or desires to be represented at this stage, I would limit invitations to perhaps tutors from the universities that I am applying to. I may also consider sending invites to local political candidates and individuals representing activist groups concerned with equality and the environment

Professional Context (Challenging the Stasis)

Where to go from here?

  • To pursue my non commercial research based practice

  • Next step continuing education at MA level

  • Occupy and other guerrilla tactics of activism appeal to me as a method of communication.

  • Without fear of being accused of virtue signalling I would like to donate my work and offer my services to organisations like Amnesty, Greenpeace, Friends of The Earth, Extinction Rebellion and other causes for the greater good.

Reflective Statement (Can Anything be Anything?)

I have learnt that art is an experience that navigates being and self discovery and the story of creating art is as aesthetically important as any resolved outcome - I see art as an important part of resistance to the lure and manipulation of politics.

I would like to end with three thoughts that might be worth considering for coping with this epoch we are enduring:

  • Lower your Expectations

  • Support Each Other

  • And Keep Going

Thank you.


Presentation – articulating the project – assisting in preparing shooting script

Processes fed into ideas/ concept

Dissertation merges with independent project

Feeds into professional skills module which informs major project.

Free wheeling downhill now, one or two processes underpinned by the idea of perceptual reality and art to produce a sophisticated body of work.