Approaching the Theme of Utopia

The following samples of work were presented in the Reflexions Masterclass forum during the Mois De La Photographie in Paris (Nov 2010). One of the challenges of participating in such an event is the heavy demands to create, prepare and present work on a specific assigned theme within a very short period of time. The pressure to create is largely accredited to the knowledge I have of the intensity of the experience of these presentations and the presence of such esteemed and informed artists and guests, with whom I have to share my work. It is daunting and testing; but stimulating and energizing at the same time. One of the benefits of such a thematic task is the possibility (at times necessity) to change and alter ones style, approach or direction, for instance. It also encourages, for me, a type of re-negotiation of self – provoking questions of exactly what ‘type’ of photographer I have become and how I have allowed myself to become this way.

With the thematic works there is also the opportunity to investigate or develop a previous subject matter or project. My starting point for the theme ‘Utopia’ was a ‘mini-project’ that I worked on in 2004. The work as a whole, at the time, was ‘thin’ to say the least. I didn’t fully understand the topic, or indeed photography to any great degree. But, I liked to (try to) make disconcerting photographs at the time and was starting to think about using the camera to respond to real social conditions. For the purposes of the RM, I decided to expand on this project in the context of the specific conditions of today.

Utopias’ are generally ‘models’ proposing an alteration in reality or ‘models’ to understand reality. These conceptual models propose invented places - places constructed in the imagination. In this case, constructed in an ideal future. This connection with an imaginary and an unattainable social condition is inescapable. This reality/imaginary duality can help to devise a useful categorization of a central feature to the theme itself and an interesting point of departure for what would be considered a side-project for the moment. My concentration is on places which are surrounded by a certain utopian trope – advertising hoardings and images which project an ideal futuristic environment. However what is presented is the failure of Utopia. Damaged hoardings surrounding abandoned environments in Dublin, Netherlands and Morocco. (Note to Self: The diversity of location is something worth persuing?)

Notes: One thing is undoubted: the camera creates its own reality, regardless. My intention is to re-inforce the sense of the imaginary. This sense of confusion is an important sensory strategy to represent this theme – introducing a more dynamic and playful focus, use of colour, etc. It was/is important to keep my ‘personality’ within the work, but, perhaps transform my ‘palette’, if you like, perhaps reinforce more energy, more visual stimulation. The subject demanded a suitable approach, yet, still contain a similar vision which is consistent with my ongoing projects. (Nov 2010)