Habitus photo essay – a few thoughts


A two-part foto essay, by me:

The first is a set of photos of objects, most of them from my own home. The photos tend to be taken idly, e.g. at the start of new film roll. The subjects are often repetitive. E.g. I often load film in my bedroom or in the kitchen (where I keep my film), and shoot a photo of the window. Nonetheless, these accumulating photographs, of the accumulated debris of my home, have themselves accumulated meaning for me, demanding a second glance. This is often accompanied by thoughts about the future, about how I will look back on these photos, and how the vital fabric of our everyday lives often goes undocumented:


The second explores similar ideas, but in the homes of my brother and his friends. Visiting them, seeing their intimacy, and the rich density of the trash strewn around their Newcastle houses, was always very beautiful:


A note on the form: ‘photographic’ images are becoming easier and easier to produce, as digitial photography develops alongside all sorts of mobile/integrated imaging ‘technology’. Perhaps, as a result, photos are becoming more disposable.* If so, this does not necessarily mean that photography is ‘closer’ to our everyday lives, nor that it is now ‘in the hands’ of the proverbial ‘man in the street’ (cf. Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’). Indeed, a corollary response to digital developments has been the proliferation of ‘expertise’: the hyper-production of magazines and clubs and courses and equipment – particularly increasingly ‘powerful’ and expensive camera sensors and lenses. Search the net and you’ve a hundred thousand ‘professionally’ produced images at your tips. The very weight of these accumulations of ‘well lit’ photographs is depressing; the most fantastic images are now the most banal. This hyperatrophy of the photographic means of production, the vast accumulation of photographic ‘wealth’, renders the longest exposure or the keenest portrait equivalent to the most offhand ‘snap chat’ snap. (Again, cf. Benjamin.)

The only way out of this I can see, at the moment, is to shift from the image itself to the organisation of images. In these ‘essays’, the locatedness of the images, and their semi-articulation of ideas and narratives, side-steps the fetish/banality of the ‘image itself’.**

Or, at least, that’s how I see it.

*According to my housemate who, recently, very patiently explained ‘Snap Chat’ to me.
** Having said this, the self-conscious fetishisation of high technique – use of light, composition, printing – when achieved at sufficient intensity, still manages to shock, on occasion, with its beauty and clarity. Obviously I prefer other photographers’ images to my own. Let us hope new and more fantastic methods of arrangment can be dreamed up.


Back to the Future

Neil Montier, ‘The Belt’ (2009-11).

Nicolas Moulin, ‘Blanklümdermilq’ (2009).

“The best art comes from the shit.” (Moulin)

Brutalist architecture has become quite abstract – forms without function, when they used to be functional forms. (Moulin, paraphrase from memory)

The ‘contemporary’ was a postmodernist concept. Now, when we think about the present, we must also think about the present in relation to the past and the future. (Moulin, paraphrase from memory)

See also: Owen Hatherley’s interesting review of Moulin’s Site Gallery exhibition.

See also: Rowan Moore’s interesting discussion of the Park Hill estate renovation.

Following from Moulin’s description of brutalist architecture in the present as ironic ‘forms without function’, along with Hatherley’s critique of ‘pseudomodernism’ in A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, we might note of the Park Hill renovation that it is literally a kitsch appropriation of the forms of brutalism evacuated of its radical content. That is, it is the architectural shell evacuated of its working-class inhabitants — the vitality of modernism recycled (gentrified) for middle-class consumption.*

CW — with thanks to Brian Baker.
* Cf. Clement Greenberg, ‘The Avant-Garde and Kitsch’ (1939) in Art and Culture (1961): as much as I would distance myself from CG, his description of kitsch is (despite himself) prophetic here.

Millbank, 10-11-2010


Millbank, 10-11-2010

What was the meaning of Millbank? What is the meaning of Millbank? What will the meaning of Millbank be?

At the time I was working in a small group of dissenting postgraduate teaching assistants. We felt utterly isolated. The student movement under the NUS was floundering, pathetic, far too close to the bosses for comfort. Our fellow academics and students seemed like sleep-walkers, hypnotised. So we organised by conspiracy. Paranoia saturated everything, along with a certain hopelessness.

Then everything changed. We were overtaken. We became redundant, a relic of a past that, moments before, had seemed perpetual, monolithic, immovable. That very understanding was shattered – in the course of hours. The student uprising at Millbank – the coup, the rebellion – appeared as if from nowhere. We were euphoric: at last, a signal flare, a point of light in dark times.

Here is a beautiful image from that moment, taken by a friend.

Some may argue, of course, that Millbank represented a turning point to the extent that it damaged the credibility of the student movement and scared off many students. This theory is, frankly, bollocks. Millbank was a rebellion against the NUS’s failure to provide adequate leadership and against a political class who, to put it simply, did not even recognise us as political agents. It was right to rebel against these reactionaries. More, Millbank was an expression of popular feeling – not of ‘violent minorities’. Beyond anything, it was an expression of the irreverant, overflowing joy of youth; this was the real force behind the 2009-11 student movement.