Sorting out my EOTR photos: ‘What gives this mess some grace…’

‘What gives this mess some grace unless it’s kicks, man, unless it’s fiction’

Okkervil River (Sheff, 2007)

Let’s get the numbers out of the way… 800 average shots per memory card and five cards over three days… that would make 4,000 photos… 4,000 shots and only 46 have ended up posted online under the banner ‘End Of The Road Festival 2013’. How come some ended up in the final selection and others didn’t?

Flicking through a few thousand images is a daunting process. Daunting because it is time consuming and because seeing the result is generally unavoidably disappointing – that dreadful moment when I truly wish I were a better photographer. Yet, it is also exciting and pleasurable because every so often one image will catch my attention, make me smile and fill me with a warm glow. It could be anything: a facial expression, a particular colour, setting, lighting, shade, or a pose; like Efterklang front man’s lost gaze caught in the back drop of a spotlight or Elena Tonra’s back. Looking at these images is like rediscovering the band onstage and reliving the experience, either the taking of the photograph or the enjoyment of the concert, but reliving it in my own terms. It is the fan in me who finds pleasure in this.

I can see both sides of what French photographer Marc Riboud refers to as ‘double tension’ (in Guibert, 2011: 475): the fear of getting too close to people in contrast with this other force that pulls you closer to see. The former I experience when I take photographs and the latter when I view them afterwards. Selecting my photos is not about choosing the ones that are most likely to please an editor or some readers. No. It is about this force and pull.

Selecting my images is like freeze-framing the concert, pausing it visually, as if taking a fragment of it in my own home. Looking at my photos on my computer screen I finally ‘get closer to see’ without ‘getting too close to people’. Yes indeed, I have been transfixed by the curves on Elena Tonra’s back and amazed at seeing Lou Barlow’s own back as straight as a ruler. I can blow up an image, scrutinise every inch of it, wherever my gaze takes me: the (seemingly) grumpy yet mischievous face of Damien Jurado, Daniel Lefkowitz’s tattoo, the reflection on Matthew Milia’s sunglasses; for the fan these details are exciting.

Tisseron (1996: 36) observes that the analysis of an image can either go upstream from production, or downstream. I have explored upstream in previous blog posts, critically analysing the events which lead to my photographs being taken, as well as reflecting on some of the political decisions surrounding the photographic act. If taking photographs in a concert or festival setting is somehow something of a reflex or automatism (or a well rehearsed activity) the selection is the opposite. Because my photographs are shot using high ISO, even during daytime, they lack details. It is because of this lack of details that my mind can wander so loosely. Downstream from production is embodied in the act of viewing the images, not with the aim of exhibiting them, but viewing the photographs for the sole purpose of enjoying them, getting pleasure out of them, perhaps guilty pleasure.

References

Guibert, H. (2011), La photo, inéluctablement. Paris: Gallimard.

Tisseron, S. (1996), Le Mystère de la Chambre Claire: Photographie et Inconscient. Paris: Champs Arts.

 

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