Strategies of Looking

There are many ways in which we can decide what to photograph and probably an even larger number of reasons for making the image we have chosen. Two of those reasons that I have looked at have been Re-Photography and Repeat Photography although, at the time I was experimenting with these concepts I was not aware of the terms.

My interest in re-photography stemmed from an encounter with the work of the American Photographer I.C. “Chuck” Rapoport in the village of Aberfan made after the Aberfan Disaster in 1966, while he was on assignment for Life Magazine. Having been born in Aberfan and within a half mile of the site this is an event that has always remained firmly within my consciousness.

Before starting this M.A. Course I had spent sometime attempting to reproduce some of Chuck’s images in present day Aberfan by getting as close to the original location used by Chuck then taking an image of the location as it appears in the present day. This was not entirely successful to my mind, there had been so much change, not so much in the buildings themselves, apart from new windows and doors but in the number of cars that were now parked in the streets. However, while I may have considered this attempt to reproduce something as a failure it did server to increase my interest in Photography and desire to learn more about how Photography operated and the ability of a photography to evoke and emotion and recall memories of other times and places.

My family moved from Aberfan in 1967, locating to the other side of the valley and the almost self contained community of Crescent and Taff Street in Merthyr Vale. I lived here until 1984 when I moved to Aberystwyth although my mother remained there until 2009 when it became obvious that the two streets were to be demolished. This news inspired me to return and photograph the area as it was then, something I have repeated at various intervals up until the present time. I did not attempt to match the location of my original photographs and neither did I make new images at regular set intervals of time. All this was taking place before I commenced my studies on the MA course. In neither case did I realise that I was practising, in a very offhand way, the strategies of Re-Photography and Repeat Photography. My aims had mainly been to obtain and seek to maintain a record of the area for future reference.

Both of these techniques can be utilised to produce a reasonable measure of change although the process of Re-Photography is more subjective. Repeat photography can produce a far less subjective and more realistic measure of change, provided that the locations from which the images are made is noted and the same locations returned to on a frequent basis or set time interval. However although they can produce a measure of change, they cannot provide a reason for the change although providing evidence that a change has occurred.

Both of these techniques, I consider may be of use in my Final Major Project although I am not sure of the extent to which I can or may utilise them.

References:

RAPOPORT, I.C. 2005. “Aberfan, The Days After : A Journey in Pictures”. Parthian Books. Dinefwr Press, Wales.

KLETT, MARK. 2011. “Repeat Photography in Landscape Research”. In ERIC MARGOLIS and L. PAUWELS (ed.). The SAGE handbook of visual research methods. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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