Content might be a prince, but context is king
Maybe I’m coming at things this way because I hang with archaeologists too much (and nobody loves context more than archaeologists), but the potential of a photograph to transcend its own borders (to provide insight into life, artistic merit being another barrel of monkeys altogether) is largely determined by how connected it remains to its origin, or perhaps how much of its origin comes along with it. In other words, the viewer needs to be able to also see into and begin to understand the context of the photograph’s making.
One of the primary goals of Living Exposed is to provide context for the photography which we present. In this day and age, we have all sorts of ways to accomplish this. Never before has it been so easy to collect and then mash back together a mix of media. So, the above link brings up a series of black and white portraits. How might context be provided?
A basic level of context is first provided by metadata. Provided with title, caption, etc. the viewer is better able to begin positioning a image within their own body of knowledge and understanding of the world. In the Two Islands: Maderas Roadblock series, the viewer is able to read the names of the individuals, know their ages, occupations, as well as where they are coming from and where they are going. In short, being able to relate what we are viewing visually (in the moment) to what was going on at the time the image was made is an important connection.
Additional levels of context can be provided from different perspectives. Scale is important here, as we might think about stepping back and providing context for the region, the island, the country. Again, if such context is provided effectively with an image or a body of images, the viewer’s ability to gain insight is increased. For this series, we’re working now on some other materials that will – you guessed it – hopefully light up a few more of those perspectives.
How do you provide context for your photography?