PicBod- Representation, Conversations as records and stimuli

Prior to the start of this weeks lecture, we had a ‘tear and share’ session, where students could bring interesting work or articles based around the module of PicBod. One of the photographers that was put forward was Gracie Hagen, her work, ‘Illusions of the Body‘, really interested me as she showed how a slight change in posture can change the whole way we see an image. Her body of work placed two photographs next to each other, with the same person posing in each, the pose of the left was more ‘recognised‘ as it could be see as more fashion related, yet the other was contrasting to this idea. Hagen’s work made me think about my own work and how if I chose to photograph people for this module, I should consider their posture as different postures do create a different mood to the image.


During this weeks PicBod lecture we were looking at the ideas of representation and conversations, as both records and stimuli. It can sometimes be seen that combining imagery and conversation gives context and allows a more personal reading of a body of work. I feel this is a valid point and something that I should consider in my own work, by talking to my subject I may get a greater understanding about them and their life as well as giving me context that I can use in my body of work.

We also put forward the idea that we have a viewer, subject and photographer. However the subject can become a collaborator, by joining to work together, the photographer can spend time working with a subject and making the work stronger due to two minds working on an idea. Time should be spent getting to know both the photographer’s and collaborator’s vision, to compromise and come to the final body of work. In my own practise I could consider the use of collaboration for a project to give me a different way of working and to also learn from another, even if they are not in the photographic field.

From this idea of collaboration, we looked at the work of Ben Krewinkel, and his body of work ‘A Possible Life. Conversations with Gualbert‘. This is a documented account of an undocumented resident of The Netherlands. Compiling an assortment of legal documents, postcards, transcripts of interviews, family photographs, and contemporary photographs taken by the photographer, the work gives a sense of the life of an illegal alien, as well as a sort of biography, though the documentation and photographs are anonymised. Bound in an A4 packet of papers which are sealed and must be opened, the medium promotes the feeling of both an official document, as well as a secret which must be kept, and to which we’ve been made privy. Not only does this book look at a personal matter, but it also involves the subject personally, as it was a collaboration between Krewinkel and GualBert.


In a conversation with Matt, Krewinkel spoke about his project and process, and how conversation was an important factor of making this body of work. Krewinkel and GualBert were having conversations all the time; from the very start of the project, these converstations were important as it allowed both the view of the photographer and subject, there had to be compromise between what the photographer wanted to show but also the privacy of the subject. At the time of the project being made, the subject was staying illegally in Amsterdam and so it was worrying for Gualbert that he could be identified; to overcome this problem he told the photographer which photographs need to be censored.

As time went on through the project, the subject became more comfortable and allowed more; and the further the relationship progressed, the more Krewinkel found out about the subjects story. Krewinkel began with the converstations, before he even began to photograph his subject, he wanted to build trust between himself and Gualbert. This is an important aspect to consider when making work with a human subject, time should be spent getting to know them and their life, rather than just charging in taking photographs. Conversation is an important factor for this project and could also change the way my own projects develop.

When it came to taking the photographs, Krewinkel waited to take the photographs, he didn’t want posed or set up images. He wanted a more natural and real approach that showed his subject true to who he is. In my work for this project, this is something that I should consider, as people often put on a ‘front’ when they are aware they are going to have their photograph taken, however if you wait long enough they will give up their pose and you will get a more natural image.

This work has been created both as a book and an exhibition, the book seemed more private and personal, something that you have to spend time with, echoing the time Krewinkel spent with Gualbert; yet when the work was on the wall, Gualbert  is more exposed for everyone to see. For this reason Gualbert did not attend the opening of the exhibition, even though they had still worked together on the exhibition. This is interesting to think about how work is read depending on how it is displayed and presented to the viewer; in my own work I should consider what I am trying to say with my work and chose an appropriate presentation form that echoes my ideas and work.

From this idea of conversation, our task this week is to first record a conversation with a stranger – this may be done through images, written text, audio – transcription etc. You should then use this record as a starting point for a small series of 3 – 7 images. This is an interesting idea of how to start a project, but it allows you to use a conversation to stimulate an idea. My initial thoughts for this task are to look at the idea of online chatrooms; I plan to have a conversation with someone on a chatroom, and see if I can have an in-depth conversation and learn about someone through the internet.


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