Thoughts on collaboration:
Last Monday, Frazer came over to mine to go through all the materials that we have made over the last few months – two workbooks that contain several hours of interviews and lots of images, as well as research. It’s varied, it’s rich and I presented to Frazer an idea of how it could be exhibited. My idea was to displaying an edited workbook, containing glimpses or moments of the process we have both been through to reach the point we have, alongside a larger image of F’s choice.
He has been my partner in this journey, and it’s true to say the work couldn’t have got to where it did without him! No way!
Frazer spent the day going through all the interviews and images, editing them – what did he feel okay about, what he didn’t…
At one point he drew lines through virtually a whole page and a half of one of our interviews and I just looked at him… Gob-smacked!!! My instant reaction was – ‘HELP!’ Am I going to have anything to show? OMG!’.
A sense of panic set over me (all panic about me, and how I would look in others’ eyes!) – as it did him (about how he would look in the eyes of others and what would they think). We looked at each other and started justifying our points of view, making the other wrong and being right about our own position. Impasse!
A few minutes passed, I calmed down and brought myself back to reality, reminding myself that we have enough communication and trust between us to talk about what was going on for each of us. He felt vulnerable about certain aspects and it wasn’t just about him – it was about other people in his life, those whom he cared for. In a moment, I realised that for me it was about letting go of being attached to a particular outcome and looking for a way forward – the one that would work for both of us. Once we had said what there was to say about how each of us felt and was ‘threatened’ by, we found a way forward, and Frazer continued editing and noting in my workbook, as I took some final images.
Many discussions have focused on where power lies in photography – with the photographer or the subject? Sontag described the camera as a ‘predatory weapon’ and that to ‘photograph people is to violate them…’, while at the other end of the continuum, Nan Goldin has redefined the autobiographical use of photography and camera in her unflinchingly honest and open manner, such that the images of her life and her friends are viewed as a private journal made public. In-between these two views/practices lies the question: can a photograph ever represent the collaboration between its producers? Can a photograph ever be the material realisation of a relationship? How would a viewer of an image ‘know’ that?
In my experience, it is difficult without the use of words (written or oral) to anchor a process or a relationship. I could explore this problematic a lot further with references to the work of other photographers, visual anthropology and the work I have done so far.
Some of what I intend to present at the exhibition is a series of pages from my workbooks that shine light on the process of collaboration, as much as on the process Frazer and I have been on individually over the last few months.