First Idea: series of light drawings.
As part of my initial research I looked at Francois Grivelet and Antoine D'Agata's work. Both photographer master a uniquely blurry quality that I wanted to implement in my work. As such, my first step was to play around with the camera settings and explore the different visual outcomes. I began to photograph people playing with incense and lighters in dim light with a slow shutter speed. My idea was to photograph my friends as they moved around with different fire sources to create a series of light drawings. Even though it was a fun idea to play around for a bit, I found that apart from the visual outcome, there wasn’t much I was trying to say with it or about it. It was hard to control the drawings because it depended on how quickly the fire blew out. Playing with the shutter speed however let me to a second idea.
Second Idea: Capturing the moving multitudes of people
Thinking about my relationship to London, I realized what I seemed to be noticing all the time was the ubiquitous multitudes of people that seemed to swarm around me, and never go away. I decided to apply the visual technique I had been experimenting with to try to capture ghost of these multitudes in the most crowded areas of London. I did my first experiments without a tripod, and later used a tripod and went around the city photographing with very low shutter speed. My aim was to get stillness in the background and a still standing person amongst a lot of moving people. Nevertheless, I seemed to find the same problem. I was very content with some of the images but I didn’t feel it was personal enough, or that the idea was motivating enough to carry it out throughout the semester.
Third Idea: Documentary Project on East London Jazz Scene
I began photographing jazz musicians one night, when I met my friends for a gig and coincidentally had my camera on me. At the moment I didn’t know much about jazz or the jazz scene in London but I was fascinated by the musicians. I began going to as many jazz gigs as I could around east London, and getting to know the musicians. Originally my idea was to make a documentary project where I would record the jazz scene of east London. Having researched jazz photography, it became very evident that there had been a decline since the glamorous and elegant jazz scene of the 50’s. Nowadays the jazz scene appeared to be more underground and a lot of the jazz venues I was visiting, like the Vortex, are completely non profit. Unless you are involved in this underground scene, you realize that people today reference Jazz when discussing the great musicians of the 40’s and 50’s, but you barely hear people talking about jazz musicians of today. It made me realize that the lack of demand for jazz music from youngers generations has made this profession a hard one for today. As I began talking to the musicians I realized a lot of them had completely different jobs during the day, and almost led different lives. The got together at night to jam out of passion, and not because they lived from it. I was very interested by this idea that they almost lived alternative lives at night
At this point I was documenting with the aim of contrasting the jazz scene in the 50’s with the more unseen and overlooked one of today. I also had a couple of other ideas to focus my documentation which involved, focusing specifically on one venue, or on a couple of musicians and documenting them at home and during their day jobs. The first idea was a bit problematic because in most of these places they asked me to shoot without flash, mainly because they are small places that are dimly lit, and they didn’t want me to disturb the musicians or the other spectators. As such I explored different venues aiming to find the ones with the best light possible, and I even found some where I was allowed to photograph with flash. The second idea, I dropped because it felt to far away from the actual music and scene that I was very interested in.
Final Idea: Visualizing Jazz
After having been photographing jazz musicians for almost the entire unit, I met with my tutor group and went through a some of the images. They felt that they were too descriptive, in simply saying these are people playing jazz and that apart from that there was not a strong enough story to carry out a documentary presentation. There was however a point that was brought up, that would direct my project towards the final outcome. There was an interesting contradiction in the fact that I had been photographing people playing music and, yet the viewer could obviously not listen to the music. I knew that what had kept me interested throughout the unit were these musicians. As such I began cropping into their faces and making passport size pictures of them, where the instrument could not be seen but they had strong facial expressions. I then began to research a way in which I could literally visualize the music. I thought if I could gather information from a given piece of music, I could then use a system through which I could map out this data to make logical sense of a specific melody. I learned that the gathering system of information in music is called the midi, which is in itself read as a graph where every instrument in a song is allotted a row and the tempo is measured as the rows run horizontally. When the instrument comes into a song, a dot appears at the specific time and the location of the dot within the row marks its intensity. Apart from this system, the other way in which music is analyzed is through the more well known waveform music visualizers. I thought arranging the cropped images into a waveform would be too literal, but at the same time the midi graphs would be too simple. Every jazz piece has a designated chord structure that allows space for improvisation. The musicians build upon this chord progression to interpret a specific jazz tune. My final series of images visualizes this principle. The first image is the foundation, or chord progression structure, where I gathered images depending on the instrument and the prevailing color and lighting of the image. The following three images are all “improvisations” where I am freely creating a new composition by building upon the original structure. By flipping, scaling, distorting, turning and multiplying the same structure over and over again, I improvise within a specific order, much like jazz musicians do with a given jazz tune.
There are two main subjects to my series of images, jazz musicians and the music they play. Having spent most of the unit documenting the underground jazz scene of East London, these images are all composed by small photographs of the musicians I encountered. There is a fascinating contradiction to photographing people playing music; by freezing a moment in time instead of filming, one documents the act playing music, but evidently subtracts the ability for the viewer to listen to the music. My aim with this project is to visualize music through a logical system that relates to the actual composition of a jazz song. Every jazz piece has a designated chord structure that allows space for improvisation. The musicians build upon this chord progression to interpret a specific jazz tune. My final series of images visualizes this principle. The first image is the foundation, or chord progression structure, where I gathered images depending on the instrument and the prevailing color and lighting of the image. The following three images are all “improvisations” where I am freely creating a new composition by building upon the original structure. By flipping, scaling, distorting, turning and multiplying the same structure over and over again, I improvise within a specific order, much like jazz musicians do with a given jazz tune. The progression of the images, allows the viewer to understand, first and foremost what the base structure is made of, people. The ides of image and reality comes in as viewers might not understand what they are looking at, before reading this statement. Not only are these people actually musicians, but my series argues that its viewer is looking at music.