What are your photographs about?

Christopher Phillips Photograph

There is no preconceived subject. I take photographs during the course of pacing round cities or the countryside. The image has to be arresting - the main considerations are light, texture and formal strength. If there is any preconception of subject creeping into my working method, it is for the almost invisible, modest everyday subject rendered exciting because of the light. The subject emerges later when groups of photographs are sorted to see how they complement each other in the physical arrangement needed for a book or an exhibition. The theme then becomes the project but only in retrospect.

Why don't your photographs have descriptive titles and place names?

 Places can become brands. Brands are for consumers who faced with an over-abundance of choice and with them insecurity to discriminate, seek sanctified brands for expediency and to avoid social embarrassment.

What happens is that the act of recognition of a brand place becomes the main motor in the reception of the image. The viewer can switch off as soon as the place or emotive title has been read. I am reluctant to disclose locations in the hope that it may disrupt this phenomenon. The descriptive title also limits further interpretation. I prefer my images untitled so that the viewer can work a little more to discover the visual content.

Why are still photographs important in a world sated with much richer multi-media environments?

There is a paradox in that although most people are swamped with visual imagery on a daily basis, the ability to process or make any sense of it is reduced rather than enhanced by this abundance. Much of this imagery is public or private propaganda or advertising.

The quiet viewing of a still photograph is an opportunity to stand apart from this relentless barrage. It can be viewed and thought about independently rather than be part of a narrative or media stream being beamed aggressively at an audience.

I would encourage anyone to wander around the 3 dimensional world unplugged and without the distractions of the mobile phone, i-players and digital cameras.

Since digital media now has almost no cost, taking photographs or videos can be a way of avoiding direct visual experience. Time is of the essence - tourists often photograph everything in front of them in the hope of making sense of it later. In reality these snapshots are then dispatched to the virtual world of the digital cloud. Sometimes they are shared with friends or replayed as a second hand experience. Often they remain unseen, unloved amongst billions of others just consuming electricity on a server farm.

Why are your exhibition photographs the size they are?

The photograph is a different experience from looking at the world with ones' eyes. The cone of visual attention is about 54 degrees. Peripheral vision is obviously much wider - its main purpose is to detect movement (possibly danger) and not to process the image in any detail. This movement between the various angles of view and the scanning and reassembling of different elements is how the brain tries to make sense of a scene.

Obviously there is no objective "best size" in a photograph, as this depends on subject or the sharpness of the image. 23 x 16 ins is large enough to see detail at a viewing distance of 3 foot. Larger sizes have a very different psychology at play. The viewer is no longer the outside observer but becomes physically immersed in the image. This alters the process of interpretation. The understanding of the image becomes less formal.

 

Bibliography: Trunks and Trees 104 photographs by Christopher Phillips      ISBN 978-09538-150-1-2   Published October 2011                 

                    City Still Lives       98 photographs by Christopher Phillips.      ISBN 978-09538-150-2-9   Published December 2011 

 

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