Week 1 Reflections

My project addresses the effects of the climate crisis. So far the work has been largely landscape, looking at the effects of a changing climate on the physical world.

One of the most pleasing aspects of working on the project has been how my practice has evolved. My skills and strategies have all moved on considerably. Now it’s time to start making big leaps.

My landscape pictures featured people as only small parts of the image. I feel the need to turn that on its head and start featuring people as the subject of the image. I have increasingly felt that my failure to have people as subjects, is a significant failing in my practice. So the next phase of my climate crisis project will feature those people who are pushing the issue the hardest: the people of Extinction Rebellion (XR).

This organisation is extremely new and has only come to prominence this year. Consequently, there is very little academic research material on it. Commentary is mainly of the form of articles and news stories:

My research method is to join the organisation and understand it from the inside.  I have already joined my local group and it’s communications team. Already I have discovered that it is an organisation that is very welcoming to art as an act of resistance.
So by joining the organisation, I hope to fulfil two objectives:

  1. To produce a portfolio of work for the next phase of my MA project. This will portray people who are engaged in resistance to the climate crisis and to those in power who fail to mitigate it.
  2. To produce work that supports the Extinction Rebellion objectives. I would make my work available to the organisation for use in their publicity and news activities. Whilst this is a voluntary role, it is working as a photographer and therefore supports the objectives of the Sustainable Prospects module.

I plan to address the project in the following ways:

Creating portraits of protestors.

Creating reportage work on actions.

Creating tableaux images of the demonstrations.

This is a considerable creative stretch for me as I have little or no experience in the above approaches. 
I will be researching:

Portrait photography techniques
Thus far in my practice, my pictures of people have been limited to snapshots. I don’t consider myself a portraitist. But I like to look at portraits and understand that some of the most poignant images are those of people. So I am using this opportunity to build my skills. I have found an “off the shelf” approach to portrait lighting by Sean Tucker, that I can take into the field. https://youtu.be/nuoc53wcnbc
I aim to produce images that present the XR rebels as individuals, motivated by varying backstories and coming together to make a difference.

Reportage techniques
The XR protests are not conflict (XR are committed to non-violence) but they are confrontational. Because of that, I am finding particular inspiration in the work of Don McCullin and Larry Burrows and their depictions of soldiers in combat. The strategy of these photographers was to focus on the individual soldiers and the price they paid. They look at the soldiers, not the army because this is where the human stories can be found.
I am also looking at the reporting of non-violent resistance movements e.g. US Civil Rights and the Czech Velvet Revolution. 

Tableaux photography
This seems a promising way to show the group nature of the protests and the bonds between protestors. Experts in this field are Gregory Crewdson and Annie Liebovitz and I shall be looking at their work and techniques to inform my activities.

(Featured image from https://talkradio.co.uk/news/extinction-rebellion-vote-heathrow-drone-shutdown-19070531541)