Working with the quote unquote real has become complicated. The inside of my head is a much easier place to be! Although, as I’ve said before, it is probably less interesting. And my practice has always exploited the tension between the conceptual and the real. It has been about the experience of making photography in the real world and the expectations and disappointments that come from that.
When I started working with photography there was very little conversation about consent. The photographs I made belonged to me, were authored by me, even when they involved the lived experiences of other people; even when those people were young, or vulnerable, or powerless. The balance of power between photographer and subject has shifted massively, and while that’s a good thing, and the days of mostly male photographers sneaking around with their cameras capturing quote unquote real life are thankfully on the way out, something else is also lost; spontaneity, transgression, and the feeling that anything might happen.
I wasn’t sure how to be a photographer in this new paradigm; how to approach people in the street, in their homes, in their communities; and what is a reasonable expectation of privacy. I knew the answer was to go back to the impulse that drew me to photography in the first place: encounters with strangers; the beautiful accidental moments that come with getting lost in the world with a camera. It didn’t go well though, and I wanted to write about that, about the difficulty of making photographs in the age of the algorithm, when there is so much anxiety about how images are shared and experienced, and that became the main preoccupation of the book.