In September of 2000, I moved to a city in the north of China. I’m glad I did. Slowly, over the year, I realized that I had to change to the world, if I wanted to get along, not the other way around. My home, Yantai, wasn’t a big city, so the western treats you’d expect to find in major foreign cities weren’t there. There was one pizza restaurant though. Massively expensive by my standards of the time, it was where you could find all the ex-pats on a Friday night, and also the wealthier Chinese, too.
The year 2000 isn’t ancient history, but it felt that way. Without instant access to the internet, there was less of a worldwide mono-culture to drive our tastes and behaviours. So it was kind of fun to watch the locals order pasta and ice cream together, and then just load the one on top of the other. Because they felt like doing the western thing, and this was how they felt like doing it.
Pasta and ice-cream. They don’t really go. Kind of like text and photography, for me. Although notable exceptions should go to photographers like Eugene Richards, Darcy Padila, and Jim Mortram whose words lead to greater understanding of the people and issues they concern themselves with. But art and text? Vanilla flavoured meatballs. Photography’s beauty lies in its’ ability to exist between reality and the fiction we create for the image. To attempt to fix the meaning denies an image the ability to do this. Loading an image with extra information stunts the potential of the image to shift and grow.
I do come back to the text/image issue though. For the meaning of the images we see everyday are often defined by the context they are used in. And the context is often given through text. So is it possible to play with image/text and create something which both further explains -as those who use text/imagery do, yet also does not detract from the power of a standalone image?
I considered and played with this idea last year, by adding found pieces of text randomly to images, both of myself, and of others. I enjoyed the results too, the finished pieces making believable and mysterious wholes. I’m looking at ways to continue this process now, using the images I make of the place where I live and matching them with historical texts relating not to the exact places in the images, but of the wider area. Of events which have occured, and have a similar weight to the images.
So above, is what will be, minus text to come. Below is what was.