Monday, November 18, 2013

street view

Today was a day in which we looked at Photobooks in my Writing and Photography class - using actual books, with students dividing up into groups to look at a whole range of examples - mostly ones that had something to do with offering a particular view or set of views of America - everything from Robert Frank's The Americans to Humans of New York.  And one example was Doug Rickard's A New American Picture - made up of pictures from Google Street View - most of them illustrating run down corners of cities, and of course taken without any sense of composition, without choosing whether there'd be a person in the frame, or not - indeed, robotically.  As Rickard says: “These cameras, these robotic machinery type pictures were taken, anonymously, without any sort of engagement and the fact I was hijacking this created a vision and a point of view and a dynamic within the photographs that couldn’t have happened any other way, so I knew there was going to be baked into there a unique, almost subversive, antagonistic type of reality.”

So, I wondered - what kind of image would I get of 22 Cranbrook Avenue, Leeds - the address to which my grandfather sent that postcard in WW1, the address at which my father was born very nearly 90 years ago?  I've only seen the house once, when we drove round on a very dark, dank December day in 1975, just after my (maternal) grandmother's funeral, and it looked dark and gloomy itself.  The sky's a bit lighter in this image, but not much ... I'm happy to see that #22 now looks very well loved, with plants in the front yard - indeed, the house itself, with red moulded tiles under the downstairs window, looks somewhat more aspirational from the get-go than some of its neighbors. And its front door definitely is a worthwhile improvement.  But what really pleased me about this screenshot is the serendipity of the two figures - a postman delivering the mail, and a woman walking down the street behind the parked cars - like Rickard's chosen images, this is, indeed, an inhabited environment.

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