Earlier in this module I did some research on art projects that have used lost objects generally but now I want to take a closer look at who else has photographed the specific subject matter of lost gloves.
Just for clarification following a comment by another student: I’m not equating Instagram accounts to art projects; I’m more commenting on the huge volume of Instagram accounts using the same subject matter as me, leading me to conclude that there is a risk that my work could be bracketed with these snapshot / typological collections if I’m not careful.
Instagram glove overload
I am very glad that I didn’t do this research before I started – I may have abandoned the idea completely!
Over recent months I have posted some of my lost glove work-in-progress to Instagram, and used the hashtag #lostglove. This attracted some new followers whose account names suggested a shared interest. I decided to follow these lost glove accounts to see what kind of images they post. Then Instagram started suggesting other lost glove accounts I might like. After a fairly short space of time I realised I was following about 40 Instagram accounts that post exclusively lost glove photos. This number grows every time I log on to Instagram…
The sheer number of accounts (and I’m sure this is the tip, not the iceberg) did initially dismay me somewhat: my idea is so very unoriginal!
However, it only took a few minutes of reviewing the accounts to realise that the resemblance to my current work is a surface one. There are a few key ways in which I shouldn’t consider these projects as encroaching on what I am aiming to achieve.
These are Instagram accounts – rolling, uncurated collections of thematically-linked images rather than edited, purposeful projects. That’s not to say that one could not edit a sequence of images from within a particular collection and produce a coherent, meaningful body of work – but that’s not these are, yet anyway.
A linked but separate point is that almost every account I’ve found so far has been very straightforwardly posting pictures of lost gloves without making any kind of comment on symbolism or drawing any overt conclusions – there is no apparent conceptual underpinning, it’s just photos of lost gloves. Of course, as a viewer one can interpret significance into anything, so the takeaway from any of these accounts could be about (for example) inattention, loneliness, consumerism, grief, relationship breakdown and so on – or one might wonder about the story behind the loss, the human narrative. However, very few of the accounts offer such clues as to their own motivation. It’s largely typological.
There are exceptions – these are the bios of a couple of more conceptually interesting accounts:
We are all united by our sympathy of the lost and left behind@lonelymitt
A documentation about loss and loneliness@lostglove_adocu
What I found simultaneously disappointing (as a viewer) and exciting (as a creator) was that every single account adopts the same visual style. Every. Single. One. Even the ones with interesting biographies…
I’ve included an example here, not to pick on anyone by any means – I could have chosen pretty much any one of the 30-odd from the grid image above – but simply to show what the average lost glove collection looks like.
Deadpan, objective, documentary-style, plain, unadorned – call it what you like – to me it’s incredibly repetitive and unimaginative. As noted above, it makes these projects look purely typological. It’s why I find myself using the word ‘collection’ with regard to these works – it feels like a glove version of trainspotting.
Gloves are almost always on the ground, positioned in the centre of the frame. They look so static, pinned like butterflies.
This whole exercise has made me realise what I don’t want my images to look like.
I don’t want my photos to get lumped in with this kind of typology collection. I don’t want viewers of my images to go away thinking about gloves – I want them to go away thinking about memory.
Looking back at the 21 images I submitted for Assignment 3, I’d say most of them were unimaginatively composed and lit. I think I was unintentionally taking the ‘snapshot typology’ approach for most of the time I was photographing gloves – up until the last few months anyway.
So if that’s what I don’t want my images to look like – what do I want them to look like? That’s the next thing to think about…