We all live in a world where we are almost constantly recorded when in public. When we see a surveillance or CCTV camera we tend to assume that it is there to protect the public, to look out for crime, to keep the streets safe. We then assume that the footage will be stored somewhere safe and soon deleted and forgotten about, unless it’s ever needed for security purposes. But what if the camera is being held by a stranger? How does our notion of what it means to be filmed change when it’s an unknown individual doing the filming rather than a government body or corporation?
In my work I aim to encourage the viewer to think about who might be filming them and why. By juxtaposing photographs of people taken on an institutional level, in this case images taken by Google Street View, with photographs taken by myself in the same areas I hope to ask a question about the fundamental differences between the two types of image, that on a superficial level seem so similar. The photographs displayed are arranged in pairs, with the images sourced from Google Street View placed beside a corresponding photograph taken by me in roughly the same spot as its Google counterpart, I hope that this positioning will allow direct comparisons to be made between the images and really question if, and why, there is such different meaning behind each image.
When I first was assigned my space I didn’t like it, it was too big, and too boxed in with another student’s work. Fortunately the space I was initially given was exactly what one of my coursemates wanted, so I was able to swap with her and my new space was a nice, simple flat wall. Filling, sanding and painting the wall was fairly straightforward, as was scrubbing the floor, though the first year I was assigned to help me never showed up. Once the space was clean and ready to go I began the task of putting up the photographs, it was very tedious and fiddly to get my grid neat and even, but after lots of patience and maths I’m really happy with the result. The only minor issue I came across was that the bar running through the wall ended up being where the bottom pins on my top line of photographs should have been, which made it very difficult to hammer the pins in, so on some of the top row of photographs I have had to settle for three, or even only two pins, rather than my preferred four. That’s only a tiny issue though, and I think it’s hardly even noticeable.
Now I have my space painted and the floor cleaned I’m moving onto deciding the layout of my photographs. I have my good quality 8″x10″ prints ready to go, and I have decided to display 36. I tried laying them out in a 6×6 grid, but I think it’s too tall, the photos at the bottom and top will be difficult for the public to look at, so instead I decided to lay them out in 4 rows of 9, I think they fill the wall out better this way, and are more visible for people to look at. The lowest row will be at about 4 feet from the ground, and the highest will be just over 6 feet, so the photos will be viewable by a wide height range. I also played around with the order of the individual photos and whether I would jumble them up randomly or alternate Google photos with my photos. In the end I decided I wanted them in their pairs, so each Google Street image was displayed beside its corresponding photograph.
I’ve been experimenting with printing my photographs, I’ve found a good printer for them (Touch on Crwys Road) and I know for sure I want them printed matte. I’ve had a selection of them printed 6″x8″ and also 8″x10″ and I think there are pros and cons to both. With the 6×8 the quality of the Google Street view images looks better, but I worry that with such a small size they might get lost on a big wall. With the 8x10s there’s a small downgrade in the quality of the Google photos, simply because of the nature of screenshots, but I think that the overall piece will look better with the bigger prints because they will fill a wall better. I think it actually is ok that the google images will have the lesser quality than the photographs as it gives a clear way to distinguish between the two types of image while still maintaining the slight subtlety in the distinction. I think it’s ok for the screenshots to look like screenshots because that’s what they are.
I have now settled on a plan for my exhibition space, I will definitely be displaying a grid of photographs on the wall, and I won’t be putting up a camera. I want to keep the space clean and simple so I won’t have any extras cluttering it up, I think the audience’s focus should be completely on the photographs.
I have been backing and forthing a lot the past few weeks about whether or not I want to have a security camera installed on the wall at my degree show, the reason I wanted one there was to draw the public’s attention to the fact that although we are consistently filmed by security and CCTV cameras, we often don’t know who the person collecting to footage is, or why, but we are so used to seeing the cameras everywhere that we don’t even question what they’re for. I thought that having the camera fixed in the studio space would force the audience to think about their own interaction with surveillance. On the other hand I am worried that the camera will crowd the space and confuse the message I’m trying to get across, the work might be more powerful without the camera. I have submitted an ethics form to get permission to record my audience, so in case I do decide to use the camera I will hopefully have the permission ready.