Photopoetry, a fertile playground for pretendSunday, November 14th, 2010 | Author: Salina Christmas
Recently, I sent out an email, headlined “Vampire weekend”, to my fellow Digital Anthropology course mates, announcing the imminent disqualification of the entry below for the UCL Research Images Competition 2010/11.
I did that in jest. You never know when a newly conceived format called photopoetry becomes a valid entry for image competitions, whose requirements for entries are often rooted in hard copy and digital formats such as TIFF and JPEG.
This body of work is based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s seminal gothic poem about a vampire, written in the late 18th Century.
We call this format “photopoem” because it uses the traditional narrative form of English poetry and also the online video genre which enables us to combine still and moving images. In doing so, we are redefining the traditional notion of “photopoetry” which lies largely in portraiture, in postcard-like manner, with a strong “keep-sake” quality to it. Our version is strongly influenced by a particular photographic narrative favoured by the Spanish photographers that have graced the covers of Sojournposse (see this section, Photopoems). Why do their images have a meditative quality to it, with each frame following a certain rhythm, like the iambic pentameter is to a verse in a poem?
I was once shown by a friend a few “poetry” Powerpoint slides that are widely circulated by email among members of a Latin American community. I’ve always associated Powerpoint with turgid presentations and the height of corporate unimaginativeness (whoever coined the term “death by Powerpoint” knows what he/she is talking about), but I am very intrigued by the simplicity and effectiveness of the said poetry slides, and the ease of which they get disseminated online. They nailed something there by successfully making me disregard the corny Microsoft medium.
Poetry and motion
I am not alone in falling back on Literature and Linguistics – in which I was trained at undergraduate level before straying into journalism, web development and most recently, anthropology – for informing my digital storytelling. Our contemporary, photojournalist collective duckrabbit, uses the Shakespearean soliloquy as a reference for their photofilm’s audio narration. Not along ago, Susan Greenberg, Lecturer of Creative Writing at Roehampton University, wrote about the “Poetics of fact” (TES, 10 August 2010), touching on literary implications in journalism. It’s a piece that got me thinking about my craft.
For those of you who could recognise a few of the settings in this photopoetry, that was purposely done. The theory of ‘frames’ has it that the physical attributes of a space, like a room or a hall, determine the way the people in this space behave. In a theatre, for example, the proscenium arch (a fact pointed out by one of my course mates a few weeks back), the apron and the audience seating area automatically signal out visual cues which dictate the way the audience of a play should behave.
But why not turn a space not designated for art to be performed, a playground for “pretend”? Coleridge asks us to suspend our belief in enjoying poetry. We should do the same for photopoetry.Categories: Anthropology, Culture Production, Design & Craft, Digital Anthropology, Inspiration, Photography, Storytelling, The Review, Video, Visual poetry | Tags: Salina Christmas, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Zarina Holmes