Book Project: #14 Taking Pictures


It is worth pointing out that the first discussion about taking pictures comes only at the 14th entry.  One reason for this late arrival goes back to one of my objectives: plan before shoot.  So at this point, I have a number of themes, keywords, symbols, etc. that can direct what I should shoot.  

By way of example, one of the themes relates to:  the homogenization of thingsthe decline of character (individuality) and the accession of the banal.  Another theme has to do with how we perceive thingsthe difference in interpretation (perception) by different cultures.

As I thought about the first theme (the homogenization of things) several metaphors came to mind. I thought first of the simplification of architecture over the years (e.g., the detail contained in the gargoyles of a 14C cathedral vs. the sheer glass exteriors of the modern office tower). This thought of architecture lead to specific types of buildings: churches, homes, grocery stores.  When I landed on [grocery] stores it struck me that big-box stores were symbolic of this process.  These massive, international franchises replaced the independent, privately-operated (often family-run) store.  The contrast exposed several dimensions.  Each of the latter was a unique incarnation, defined by the owner. Each of the former is a cookie cut replica of a thousand other instances located around the world; go in one you’ve seen them all.  Friendly vs. impersonal. 

“Neoliberalism as a political order privileges free trade and open markets, resulting in maximizing the role of the private sector in determining priorities and deemphasizing the role of the public and the state’s function in protecting and supporting them. This pro-capitalist governmentalism has radically shaped the current geopolitical and social map.”

— Nato Thompson. Living as Form

In my mind, this quote offers an explanation to this trend.  If one accepts the purpose of free trade etc. is to broaden market access, the need for a business to increase scale to take advantage of — or defend against — bigger markets comes to mind. Scale grows from local, to regional, to national and now global.  Globalization.  Achieving scale through process optimization often results in commodification: reducing differences and increasing commonality in the way things are done and the outputs.   Regardless of where the store is, make it the same, make the processes the same, make it consistent, to keep costs down.   Scalability appears to be a force which the independents could not immediately deal with.  

Choosing to photograph a closed independent store intends to convey the demise. Presenting a grid of Walmart stores intends to convey the replication of similar things.  The grid, in my mind, supports the notion of order, uniformity … cookie cut.

2017-04 Remnants, @VAu 1-250-108 (2016 Mau-Jul unpublished), @book-2016-Newfoundland-Art Edition, @book-2016-Newfoundland-Personal Edition, Architecture, Bright, Building, Canada, Cityscape, Content, Door, Event, Event - Travel, Favourite-All Time, Historic, House, Image type, Maritimes, Newfoundland, Photography, Places, Projects, Travel

John Farewell’s Store, Port aux Choix Newfoundland

9 Walmarts, all the same

9 Walmarts, all the same

The choice of Walmart was arbitrary; I could have picked any other big-box store.  However, when I was shooting I noticed something in the detail and I cam up with the series below:


What I saw was a progression from art to Walmart; a transformation of interpretations — and depending on ones perspective on things — from positive to negative. The change in interpretation also pointed to the element of misunderstanding.  This then supported the second theme noted above: how we perceive thingsthe difference in interpretation (perception) by different cultures.

Some learnings from this experience: 

  • planning helps get things started; it offers a starting point for the shot list
  • it allows you to identify opportunities when they come up in the field
  • it facilitates the comparison and assessment of different photographs according to a common benchmark: how well do they portray the theme, symbolism, etc.
  • you can’t plan everything; serendipity offers interesting options that need to be picked and chewed on with delight. 


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