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Reflection: Where does documentary end and art begin?

Posted on by Ben Hodson

In understanding my practice I have had to ask questions such as where does documentary end and art begin? This question was easy to answer several years ago, but no I find myself flirting with these two distinct areas in different ways.  Artists such as Luc Delahaye blur the distinctions further (interestingly his work is one of my personal favourites).  I personally think that as I regularly interact with the space in front of the lens, then my practice fits more comfortably within an art context, however, I mostly present a documentation of what I have been performing/constructing etc, so the relationship is inherently more complex.  When you document something there is an implied relationship to the truth, although this can be heavily scrutinised in an era where “to photoshop” is a verb.  This uncomfortable association with the notion of truth is one of the defining practices of documentarians, where as artists seem skilful and intentional at lying or bending the truth to suit their aims and objectives.  

Our Farley, Documentary Film Project

Posted on by Ben Hodson

As part of my on going research into visual peace making and artist intervention, I have been one of the main organisers of a summer film project.  The purpise is to use a creative skill (in this case filmmaking) to give people a voice and address some of the tensions in the Farley ward of Luton.

With this project we will aim to use film making to bring encourage further community cohesion. We will run a series of workshops training young people with the ability to make documentary films. We will then ask them to use these new skills to get footage for an overall documentary of Farley. The documentary will then be shown at a premier where the entire community will be invited. The subject on the film will be on Farley looking at its positives and also some of the challenges but from the point of view of the inhabitants. The project will be aimed at 16-21 year olds but will hope to have an effect on and represent the entire community. 


On the first day we will put on taster giving a brief overview of the project and all the aspects to all who come along, we will then choose 3 groups of 5 people who will be given provided with some basic camera equipment and will allowed to progress to the rest of the course. We will then do 4 days of training over the next two weeks while the groups will still be creating their own footage. The training will cover technical skills, but will also look at subjects like understanding other peoples perspectives. We will then take away the footage and make the film, seeking to be true to the themes and words of the people of Farley. The young people will have an opportunity to contribute their thoughts to the final edit of the documentary before the public showing.

 

 

Truth or Lie? Art or Documentary?

Posted on by Ben Hodson

As I regularly interact with the space and people in front of the lens, my practice fits more comfortably within an art context. However, I mostly present a documentation of what I have been performing/constructing etc, so the relationship is inherently more complex.  When you document a subject there is an implied relationship to the truth, although this can be heavily scrutinised in an era where “to photoshop” is a verb.  This uncomfortable association with the notion of truth is one of the defining practices of documentarians, whereas artists seem skilful and intentional about their bending of the truth to suit their aims and objectives.  Although connected to the truth my work manipulates and redefines the reality around it to touch on deeper and important truths.  Such as “it is better to live in peace”.

A quick skate snap

Posted on by Ben Hodson

I took this photo on the way home.  I am constantly drawn towards high contrast scenes and I am beginning to find a love for B&W agaain.

To documentary or not to documentary?

Posted on by Ben Hodson

One of the aspects of my project I am unsure about, is how much time I give to the creation of a supporting documentary?  I have been working on more and more film projects and I have enjoyed engaging with the moving image.  As party of my planned trip to Iraq I will be creating a documentary alongside Ian Rowlands, Josh Hodson and Dan Atkins.  I will be creating this either way, what I need to establish is how much of it will form part of my MA?

Research: Colonialism and Photography

Posted on by Ben Hodson

I have been collecting images in other countries including; Zimbarbwe, Turkey, USA, Morocco and Iraq.  This desire to document the places I have been and bring back images (almost as trophies) has made me start to connect what I am doing with the very history of photography.

As the invention of photography (both Daguerre and Talbot) starting spreading around world, photographers starting using 'field' cameras to take out door photos and record the exotic and far off places.  This ability to give people back home a photorealistic glimpse into these far off lands became appealing.

I have been doing some research into the relationship between early photography and Europe's colonisation of the world.

Some of these early photographers recorded these places in more formal portrait sittings of the local inhabitants. Others choose to document the places in a more 'travel' style.

 

Artist: Dorothy Lange

Posted on by Ben Hodson

Documentary and photojournalism seems to me, to be one of the most obvious agitators in the change of popular opinion.  Documentary photography came out of the public's desire to view the “reality” of situations.  There are a number of examples of documentary photographers who managed to draw attention to issues that they felt needed to be changed.  Dorothy Lange's image “Migrant Mother”(1936) was dubbed the image that changed US policy towards the incredible poverty during the great depression in America.  Her image of a mother and her children both affected the left political resolve and forced new aid to the people directly affected by the starvation.  Lange intentionally composed the shot to give maximum impact.  Through some initial research we see that this individual family actually had a car and had just returned from their work place.  These facts were not made clear for a number of years and her image certainly doesn't relay this information.  This removing of the context made her image incredibly powerful and subsequently has become one of the most reproduced images in the US.  It certainly is one of the most famous images associated with the great depression in America.