I’m sitting here, trying to come up with some sort of “personal vision” for my photo class and I’m starting to realize there’s a real split in my personality that may shed some light on the subject of “vision”. You see, I think that most of the time, 99% or so, I’m normal everyday Matt. A personable, outgoing, fun kind of guy who likes to take pictures of things he sees merely as “cool or interesting”. The problem is that taking picture of pretty things doesn’t exactly make up a personal vision. In my opinion it sure as hell should but for some reason it doesn’t. It’s not enough to simply take cool pictures, I have to explain the “meaning” and the reasons and what I’m trying to say with my work. Well, news flash for you, I’m not trying to say a damn thing. I think I’m fairly traditional and formalist in my work, meaning that I value things like composition, lighting, colors and the aesthetic qualities higher than I do the deep inner-meaning. It’s all well and good if it’s there but I don’t need it in order to appreciate a work. This mentality, by the way, really blows when you’re trying to create work with a vision. Since I only care slightly about it’s deeper meaning, the meaning is often about as deep as a dixie cup.
So, in order not to fail completely in my class I decided to take a look at anything that’s slightly controversial that I have an opinion on. Most of you will call this opinionated person “angry Matt”, probably because I get worked up easily and tend to express my opinion in a louder than inside voice. I’ve narrowed it down to two things: censorship/over-regulation/freedom issues and over-commercialization.
Basically, without sounding like a conspiracy nut, I think we’re all fucked and that big corporations are going to run our lives (if they don’t already). See that as Orwellian if you wish, but Big Brother is alive and well and telling us to shop at the Gap as we go. We’ve lost the 1st, 4rd and 5th amendments and there’s no stopping this train-wreck of a system we’ve set in motion. The government, if it wanted to, can read you email, check your credit card purchases, search your car/house/etc and detain you without reason. All without due process, reason or even explanation. Networks can’t secure themselves anymore, cops can pull you over and search you car without probably cause and blame it on something else later and I can’t get a cup of coffee for less than a buck anymore. Something is terribly wrong. That is concern/issue #1. Not the coffee, the system.
Issue #2 is over commercialization. Don’t get me wrong here, a little commercial here and there is ok. Hell, I want to be a commercial photographer. I don’t mind seeing seeing a 30 second TV spot or seeing an ad in a magazine. What I do mind is when it goes too far. When I go to the ATM to take out $20 and I’m charged $2 from that ATM for the privilege of using it, $2 from my bank for the privilege of taking out my own money and then, the whole time I’m doing it I’m seeing TV ads ON THE ATM, for the bank that I’m at urging me to switch to avoid “excessive” ATM fees! What the fuck is that about? Anyone remember 10 years ago, when ATMs were new and you didn’t have to pay anything?
Remember when the Nike “swoosh” wasn’t on everything and just on their sneakers? Notice how that’s changed? It’s called branding. The idea being that if they saturate the market with as many logos as they can, eventually they’ll either build up subconscience brand loyalty or simply generate sales because that’s the name you associate with a certain product. Why do we call them Band-Aids instead of Adhesive Medical Strips? Why does Coke stand for anything soda related and why when most people are asked what kind of computer they have answer “windows”? Because of the branding. Look around your desk right now (I’m assuming you’re at a desk since you’re obviously at a computer of some kind). Look around it and tell me how many logos and/or company names you see. Immediately I see 10. My mouse and game-pad have Microsoft in huge letters on them. My keyboard and webcam say Logitech and my speakers have a grand total of 5 logos on them. I have a small Cambridge Soundworks setup, 2 cubes and a sub. There’s the company logo on not only each speaker but on the volume knob AND powercord. How sick is that? In case you’re crawling under your desk and somehow forget what brand of speakers that you own, thank goodness the power cord is there to remind you! I know I’d be lost with it. I’m obviously too stupid to put 2 and 2 together and reason that the cord coming out of the speaker might be made by the same people as the speaker itself.
I could go on and on and given enough caffeine I probably would. But I’ll save you from my ranting and get back to photography (finally). So, there we have it. Two things I generally care about and are vaguely controversial. This, I thought to myself, must make good art. But how to actually make art about this crap? That’s the problem.
I’ve decided to try two different approaches. The first, dealing with government/freedom issues, I’ve decided to approach from a more humorous angle. I’m going to continue a series I started in fashion class of all places and use the stereotype of the “government spook”. I’m sure you know the type. Dark suit, sunglasses at night, fedora and briefcase. Think Matrix bad-guy and you’ll be close. Basically these guys are hiding behind every corner, watching everything you do, making secret deals in dark alleys, that sort of thing. My reasoning that if I make them an obvious part of the scene maybe you might notice them. No one notices that their freedoms are slipping away at the moment so maybe I should put them blatantly in front of them and say “here, look, the problem is right here, take notice please”. The second issue, commercialization is more easily handled in Photoshop. Corporate logos are everywhere so why not exaggerate that fact. What if a company owned 99% of a market, or all markets? Lets say that Coke, or Microsoft or GM owned not only the entire market that they’re in, but the others as well. What if we all drank MS Cola and wore GM shoes? What if a company so completely dominated our culture that it worked it’s way into everything. That’s what I’m going to do in Photoshop. I’m going to alter logos, signs, type, anything and everything and put the same company logo on all of it. Probably different companies for each picture but saturation none-the-less.
So, a series about G-men spooks and a series about uber-commercialized society. I don’t know how concrete these ideas are in my head or even if they’re good ideas. All I know is that the 1% of me that thinks about these things constantly is pretty worked up about them and that the other 99% of me wasn’t coming up with any great ideas at the moment. The hard part is going to be explaining all of this to my class tomorrow.
So, what does everybody think? I’d really like some opinions on this one. I don’t know if I have sound ideas, if they’re interesting artistic-wise or what. So, let me know what you think.
Well. I like it (either nobody is reading your rants these days, or they are too awed to reply!) and for the most part – I agree. My only concern regarding the “total logoization” theme is that I think Andy Warhol may have done something similar – I’m not sure but wanted to give you a heads-up, just in case!
Sounds like fun – let us see the results!
I agree. Warhol did use logos to death. I rethought that one slightly and decided to alter mostly text instead of logos themselves. For example, a movie theater marque would now make a statement instead of simply listing movies. I finished 6 of’em and I’ll upload them when I get the chance, probably tonight or tomorrow.
Imagining products like MS Cola isn’t needed. Take Kraft – Owned by the biggest tobacco company in the world. It’s already happening on far too many levels.
If you have an issue of AdBusters magazine handy, I suggest you check it out – Or check out the website at http://adbusters.org if you never have before. You may find some inspiration there along the lines of what you are looking for. Quite a few of their postcards and jammer ads feature depictions of what you are aiming for. It might get you cooking. Hell, you may even find a place looking for your photography skills… be it for a job, or just an outlet and a place to let your voice and work be heard.