Record a real conversation with a friend
Before listening to the recording, write your own account of both sides of the conversation.
My husband and I were chatting last night and he was telling me about meeting up with some old work friends since he retired from the Fire Service. He told me that so and so had moved house, so and so had moved to Red Watch, so and so had passed his ‘Crew Managers’, so and so had done something else, so and so’s wife’s business was doing well and so and so’s daughter had a baby and can you believe that all this has happened in just over six months?
My side of the conversation would be to periodically ask which one ‘so and so’ was and what was his wife’s business again?
Then listen to the recording and make notes of the discrepancies. Perhaps there are unfinished sentences, stammers, pauses, miscommunications etc.
Well in reality all these ‘so and so’s’ had names. It’s not that I wasn’t listening or that I wasn’t interested; it is that I do not know these people; I cannot imagine their faces, their homes, their wives, or anything about them so names are just names. Without some context to relate to, they have no meaning to me and as a result I cannot recall them after the conversation, or if I could I would get them mixed up.
Reflect on the believability of re-enacted narratives and how this can be applied to constructed photography.
The exercise made me think of context and how we each bring our own experience to an interpretation. My husband would have recalled this conversation in far more detail than i did. He would have been able to add more facts and his experience would have been more personal. He would have his friends’ images and voices and mannerisms in his head, he would be able to picture their circumstances, know how they would react and so on. To me the conversation was less emotive. He was interested in these people, unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly. Next time, I will have to ask again what the sex of the baby was whereas my husband will just ‘know’ that information.
Regarding constructed photography, attention to detail is key in building a story that a viewer can relate to. Also, an awareness of audience and how different people bring their own experience to a viewing; what an image means to one person will be different to another.
If one of the ‘so and so’ friends was having the conversation, instead of me, they would have added more to it, brought previous joined memories to it, asked different questions; participated more. Similarly with photography, different viewers have different levels of participation depending on their experience.
Regarding believability, my version of events would be very different to my husband’s but both are correct to us as individuals. Likewise, different interpretations of images are all believable, just different.
What do you learn from the conversation recording process and how can you transfer what you have learned into making pictures?
For me the recorded conversation is the raw image. The recall is the individual interpretation. Regarding making pictures it has highlighted the joint nature of creating meaning in photography and the importance of both the photographer and the viewer in the experience.