Exercise: Recording

The Brief:

Record a real conversation with a friend. (It’s up to you whether you ask permission or not!)

Before listening to the recording, write your account of both sides of the conversation.

Then listen to the recording and make notes of the discrepancies. Perhaps there are unfinished sentences, stammers, pauses, miscommunications etc.

Reflect on the believability of re-enacted narratives and how this can be applied to constructed photography. What do you learn from the conversation recording process and how can you transfer what you learned into making pictures?

I was not able to do this exercise as I have no tape recorder, and believe it or not, I do not have a cell phone either. However I do know from experience that I would have recorded a pretty accurate account, as I used to take verbatim minutes during collective bargaining with the BC government and the teachers’ union.

But this brief takes me back to a game we used to play in primary school. It was called “telephone”. We would gather a large group together and sit in a circle. One person would think up a sentence, then whisper it to the person on his/her right, who would then whisper the sentence to the person his right again and so on until the sentence arrived at the person who was seated to the left of the originator of the sentence. The final person would then say the sentence out loud and it was always funny to see how distorted the message had become. Miscommunication happens when words are not understood or pronounced properly. Accents can also affect communication.

I believe that photographic narratives can be re-enacted to be believable. We only have to look at Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind to see a successful re-enactment. I think the key to making a believable constructed photograph is to pay attention to the details. It’s the tiny details or lack thereof that will give the image away.  Proper planning is vital.

The only reality which counts in the end is the interpretation which is profound.

John Grierson

Reference List

Bate, David (2009) Photography: The Key Concepts. London: Bloomsbury


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