See here for posts leading to this assignment:
These images of Boris Johnson show the many sides of this polarising political figure. Appropriated from social media posted during the 2019 General Election campaign and stripped of their context it is sometimes difficult to tell which are intended to be in support of Johnson and which are not. We are left to consider who the real Boris is, and indeed, whether it is possible to make an accurate assessment of someone’s character by simply looking at a photograph.
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:
Making this work has required rephotographing images found on social media and manipulating these in Photoshop to remove the background. These were then presented as a book in PDF form and publishing to Issuu. The images are made by photographing the reflection of my computer screen into an illuminated mirror – this was a lengthy process that involved much experimentation in order that no reflections were visible in the image and the view was focused solely on the face of Boris Johnson.
Selection was probably the most important aspect of this assignment, first selecting possible candidates to be rephotographed, then reviewing and choosing possible final images from these before arriving at a final choice. I have tried show a variety of images but similarity has also been a factor in the images selected – repetition is an important aspect of this series both in terms of subject matter and theme. Although I describe this process as selection, deselection is more accurate as I refined my choices by removing images that I either felt were duplications or lacking in some way. The most common reason for this was removing images that either showed someone else in the frame or contained an element that I found distracted from focusing attention on Johnson. My usual method of selection is to make prints and review and select them physically. On reflection, this is something I should have done from the start as making choices on the screen is much more difficult than choosing a physical photograph. Publishing these images as an electronic book pushed me to select a large amount of images – my aim here was to emphasise the importance of image in politics and make a comment about how much politicians are photographed.
At this point I am unsure as to whether a smaller section would prove more effective. In my post detailing the development of this project, I discuss ideas about making a physical book from these images and my desire for this to allow the viewer the opportunity to influence the sequencing and viewing experience of the images in some way. This is something I am still interested in pursuing but feel I need to spend some time away from the images to allow some reflection before returning to make any further decisions about how to progress.
Quality of Outcome:
I am more satisfied with the concept of this series than the final outcome. When I started collecting social media posts during the 2019 General Election I had many ideas about possible ways to proceed and I am pleased with the way this assignment has developed organically. I am unsure how successful the conceit of photographing the images reflected into an illuminated mirror is, however, the experimentation I engaged in before arriving at my final approach has been a valuable learning experience for me. I have tried to make something that is not a straightforward exercise in appropriation, but I simultaneously worry that this has resulted in something that is simultaneously contrived and straightforward. I have tried to create a united set through the use of a consistent style and by photographing the mirror at the same angle, however, something more free form could have led to a more stimulating visual experience. My selections also aim to display nuance in the way Johnson is portrayed in an attempt not to impose my personal thoughts onto the viewer. Perhaps I should have made something more critical of Johnson, or a more overt narrative and not let this bother me so much. I had originally wanted to use text extensively but decided against this as I decided to leave the series ambiguous and open to reader interpretation and require the viewer to draw their own conclusions about my intentions and what the images mean. This is something I think works for the series and my intention to focus on the fallibility of image.
Demonstration of Creativity:
My aim with this series was to produce a set of images that makes the viewer question the way politicians are presented and present themselves in the media. I also wanted the nature of Boris Johnson’s persona to be called into question without overtly saying this is how the images are to be interpreted. There is enough ambiguity present for the viewer to arrive at differing conclusions, but I hope there is commonality in the realisation that the projected image of Johnson is more complex and contradictory than it might first appear. As I mention earlier, the key success for me for this assignment is how I have developed the idea organically to its eventual resolution, although I would consider the project not yet fully realised or possessing the ability to be taken in further divergent directions. A major problem that I must address however is the length of time it has taken me to bring the assignment to this point. Some of this has been the result of time constraints driven by family and home life, but much has been because I have procrastinated too long about what I am doing. Thinking about the work as unfinished is something that I have been focusing on as a strategy to help me get the work over the line – sometimes you can just end up being too close to what you are making that you arrive at a deadlock. By thinking about the work as something that is evolving and that can be returned to, I have eventually been able to finish this version.
The artists I have studied throughout this section of the course have been a major influence for me, particularly the way themes are developed and transferred into subsequent projects, there is a large amount of research evident in the ‘Artists’ section of my blog. Artists such as Penelope Umbrico, Joachim Schmid and Hans Eijkelboom and their use of repetition is something that has influenced this project. By putting visually connected images together the effect of similarity and difference is amplified and subtleties become more pronounced. The work of Christopher Spencer/Cold War Steve is also a major influence – his satirical edge is often brutal and funny and I greatly admire his prolific output and the way he publishes this on social media.