I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit during my morning jogs. I think I can really break my interest in photography down into two categories: pastiche and portraits. This blog entry will discuss the former, and I’ll post another on the latter.
I associate pastiche with the postmodern. More specifically, I think it’s about the influence of new media on old forms. Think remix in music. This is when musicians take samples of previously recorded music and incorporate it into a new song. It can be as subtle as a few vocal notes to full musical phrases. When I think remix in music, I think Moby, though he’s not the only one doing interesting stuff in this area.
“Pastiche” literally means an imitation, but it’s also a place of convergence between different forms — a combining of various sources. The latter is more of what I mean when I apply it to photography. More specifically, it’s a photograph of layers — different images — superimposed on each other to bring a different literal and figurative texture to the main photo. Part of my approach to pastiche has to do with new media.
At the foundation of new media is participation. Think of new media as democratic: those who use the devices are in charge of the content that they send, display, consume, and therefore value. Think of the difference between television in the 1950s versus YouTube today. The former is centralized and authoritarian, keeping viewers separated and under control of the prime time and the exclusives that the authority decides are important. The latter is decentralized and democratic — anyone with a video camera can take shots of anything they deem important: from their child’s birthday to human rights violations in Tunisia. YouTube is about bringing folks together and putting the power of creation in their hands.
Photography, too, has moved into the realm of new media. It used to be a formal process in the hands of studios — equipement and film was expensive enough to keep the products of photography out of the hands of the masses. Need a family portrait done? In the past you had few choices: you had to go to Olan Mills’ studio, pose in particular ways, and pay way too much for the final product – something which you never really owned. The framed photo on your living room wall was less about your family and more of an advertisement for Olan Mills and what they told you photography was supposed to look like. Even when inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras and Polaroids came on the scene, photography still retained much of its exclusivity: film was expensive and inconvenient — even if you were lucky enough to have a dark room and the knowledge to use it, photography was still only available to a few.
Well, how things have changed with the introduction of the digital camera. Now, everyone owns a camera. Most of us carry around a camera as an incidental part of our phones — and these phones take pretty good photos. This is not to say that everyone is a “photographer,” but everyone with a camera has that potential. And everyone with a camera now has a voice. Just look at all those Flickr streams. All those Facebook photos. What a bunch of crap. But at the same time: wow, what a bunch of great stuff. With so many new perspectives, yes, we get tons more garbage, but we also get many more gems.
So part of my approach to pastiche is using those gems for my own work much in the way that Moby uses samples. I begin with an original image, then I add textures to it. Sometimes I shoot those textures myself, but more often I get them from another photographer. Sometimes, I begin with someone else’s original image and add my own textures to it. My rules are that I have to have an original image to contribute, and the rest is “found” and Photoshopped.
The idea here is to (1) acknowledge the community of talented photographers without whom I never would have found my own voice, and (2) work within the zeitgeist of new media, calling attention to the medium of photography itself by forcing viewers to look beyond the subject matter and consider the frame of the art itself.
Check out the Pastiche gallery that I made just for the Arts Festival.