TURNING POINT

 

I am a street based photographer, however I have often felt uncomfortable applying the term 'street photographer' to myself. The photographers I have associated with the genre are distinctly bold, assertive and confrontational: there is a confidence in occupying public space and assuming the right to photograph. It requires a dual identity of bravado and invisibility. I struggled to see my place within the predominantly male genre, trying to adapt my photographic approach to match the photographers I admired. Photographic approaches are the result of direct experience, and the street photographer's images represent the extent to which freedom of movement can be enacted. When attempting to fit into my perceptions of the genre, I never managed to ignore the effect of my own presence and photograph people and places without regard for position, identity or privilege.

 

Over the last two years studying on the Photography and Urban Cultures Masters programme at Goldsmiths, University of London, I have embraced that unease. Studying in a sociology department has undone and reconfigured my viewpoint. I have enjoyed the process of theory informing practice ever since my undergraduate degree; reading theory has enabled me to contextually ground my images in the real everyday spaces that fascinate me.

 

It was not until starting my Masters that I learned to place myself within my work. Until that point I never truly considered the impact my socialised identity had on a photographic process conducted in public space. When a point of view is prioritised it is important to acknowledge the subjectivity in that position, and the social conditions that have constructed it. During the last two years I have realised the extent to which a street-based photographic process is an active relationship between place and photographer. My practice gains vitality and utility as I learn how the act of appropriating people and places fits into a wider awareness of how we embody the social on either side of the lens.

 

I now realise that the reasons I felt unsure about my role as a photographer can be powerful when explored as part of the process. Instead of aiming for the confidence and protection of invisibility, I see the value in a consideration for ethics that requires me to evaluate and question myself as I photograph. Reading the landscape should be a reflexive process. When the embodied presence of the self is acknowledged, the photographic process is added to by further shifting the dynamics and possibilities of interpretation. Having now completed my MA, I have been selected to attend the Visa pour l'Image International Festival of Photojournalism under the Canon Student Program. Understanding my role within the image making process, I have learnt to value and enjoy my photographic practice; I am excited to explore future subjects and contexts, leaving behind fixed notions of genre.

© 2018 by Jessie Martin 

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