I’ve been getting back into the lost gloves project in the last couple of weeks and working towards a version that will turn into my Assignment 4 submission.

Just lately I’ve started to question one of the fundamental parameters that I had set myself when I started this as a BoW project several months ago. A comment on a recent blog post (thank you Simon!) set me thinking.

Throughout this project I’ve considered it important that all the images are found, left completely untouched and photographed in situ. This is, I think, for a couple of reasons:

  • I started photographing lost items in public a few years ago, long before it turned into a project about memory
  • I used for the last version of the project the construct (conceit?) that seeing other people’s lost items reminded me of my own memory lapses – and it felt like I should remain ‘true’ to how I saw the items to respect this concept

However, I am increasingly challenging my own thinking here… do the resulting images really need to be pure ‘found’ subjects?

Part of me still thinks that it would be ‘cheating’ to introduce any level of manipulation or construction into the scenes I capture. Another part of me… doesn’t.

Why I am questioning myself

Setting aside for a moment the question of whether I am considering this just because it would be ‘easier’ (or would it?), I’m giving serious thought to the following challenges to my current dogmatic approach on this:

  • Is pure ‘found photography’ still the most appropriate artistic strategy?
    • the original set of photos could be described as a ‘snapshot typology’
    • the deadpan, vernacular compositions (mostly central/static) fits with this approach
    • as does the relatively low technical quality (mostly smartphone pics)
    • but I am increasingly trying to see this as more of a photographic project, with more of a deliberate authorial eye
    • and shooting items in public, exactly as found, could really limit me achieving how I envision this work
  • Is my current approach distinctive enough?
    • I’m researching other practitioners, and there are a lot of similar-looking projects already in existence
    • they generally work at the level of ‘traces of humanity’
    • I am increasingly concerned that my project could resemble this kind of project too closely, and viewers might miss the underlying message about memory lapses
  • How important/significant is it that the photographs are taken as-seen?
    • does it make a difference to the viewing experience / any thoughts or emotions evoked in the viewer?
    • quite a few people who have seen versions of the work so far assumed that I had set up the scenes!
  • Am I missing out on an additional level of signification?
    • memory itself is unreliable, inaccurate, constructed…
    • … so ‘messing’ with the subject matter is, in one way, highly appropriate
  • ‘Reality’ is a slippery concept in photography anyway…

Alternative approaches

There’s a continuum here, and I’m currently at one end of it:

  • Leave everything as-is: take photos of lost gloves in situ (but well-lit, beautifully-composed photos!)
  • Move the gloves within the scene to be more compositionally interesting
  • Move the gloves away from the scene to somewhere more photographically appealing and/or wait for better light
  • Take the gloves home and construct whole outdoor scenes
  • Shoot the gloves indoors, studio-style, fully controlling the lighting
  • Digital manipulation (a whole other continuum…)

In summary – a simple question

To what extent is the ‘found, undisturbed’ nature of the glove a significant part of the overall message of the work?

This question is for me to answer – but I am very interested in the opinions of anyone else who is already familiar with the work to date.

Thanks in advance x