Where am I?... A Critical Incident

I’v been having a real headache with this project now. Turning this way and that, looking at different subject matter, different aesthetics, told to shoot this and try that and making very little progress as far as end product is concerned but making huge leaps in attempting different techniques and new styles of working that I am not use to and although it has been enlightening it has caused me to move further away from what it is I want to shoot and what I enjoy doing.

The reasoning behind the subject matter of festiavls and events is that I originally wanted to shoot was because this is the field I want to work in when I leave university so an extended project on this genre of event photography would have really boosted my skills and style but spending so long allowing myself to be lead down the wrong path by considering a large documentary project which is the antithesis of my original idea as set me back but has been an eye opening learning curve that has helped me realise who I am and what I do.
 When I finally came up with a project to photograph and the aesthetic in which I wanted to shoot it was regarded as a potentially flawed idea and could be a waste of time as digital manipulation can affectively recreate the look of film.

The most recent idea that I was working on was covering the 100 year anniversary of the Cheltenham gold cup and to focus on the idea of the age a history of the events I wanted to shoot the project on film. I wouldn’t have focused on the event as a whole but try and capture the excitement, energy and passion for the event with the aesthetic of bright, grainy film to take away the look of ‘the modern’ that is inherent with digital to give the project a look that would appear to be almost timeless as an almost ‘historical’ encapsulation of the famous race.
I had briefly considered shooting the project on Polaroid and although this doesn’t give the desired grain obtained when shooting on film the light sensitive paper itself has a nostalgic feel with it’s square format, exaggerated colours and soft focus as well as the ‘fun’ factor of instant film much like the feel of the race.
Displaying the individual hard copy Polaroid’s framed in a gallery would in my opinion added a interesting and exciting new level to the work similar to Jim Goldberg or Mike Brody aka ‘The Polaroid kid’ and would hopefully make it look less like a photoshoot for a magazine spread and more of a personal project on the race itself and it’s hundred year history.
Unfortunately this idea was poorly received during my last tutorial/critical feedback of my work where it was suggested that shooting in this style wasn’t worthwhile and that I should shoot in digital and add the film grain in Photoshop afterwards and if I wanted a photo that looked like Polaroid then this could also be achieved in Photoshop by printing on card and cutting it out to look like a Polaroid shot; it was also suggested that a better idea would be to set up a small studio in town and take portraits of race goers.

Again this isn’t something that I want to focus on and misses the point of the project. I agree that portraits might play an important roll in a documentary project on the gold cup itself it isn’t in my opinion a particularly important focal point for a project on the ‘energy’ of the 100 year celebrations. If I am trying to photograph the event and what’s happens on race day in terms of the people enjoying the experience then formal portraits within a linear narrative of the day would not fit in a series of this style.
The idea of shooting digital and making a ‘Polaroid look’ print  misses the point of the sentimentality of an original Polaroid image working with the idea of this 100 year celebration of a historic horserace and the idea that shooting in digital and making it look like it was shot in film in Photoshop is not something I agree with at all, I don't feel it is possible to recreate the same analogue curve that you get with film but there is an aesthetic in film that cannot be reproduced in Photoshop but what that is it isn’t something that I can put my finger on.
I don’t believe that had Don Mccullin taken his photo of the Shellshocked soldier on digital, converted it into black and white and added a bit of grain in Photoshop it would in any way have the same effect on the viewer emotionally as standing in front of one of his original prints, its not just the subject matter that has an affect on a person but a culmination of the subject, style, aesthetic that makes the image. Obviously Mccullin didn’t have an option at the time to choose between film or digital but this is the reason the film aesthetic has such nostalgic value that is so deeply ingrained into our society and it’s this that I wanted to use to reinforce my imagery.

I have started to lose faith in my idea and will be shooting the event digitally, the crit really made me question myself and what I am trying to achieve and being so close to the deadline and with the race only days away I have lost my belief in my idea and the concept so I must rework the idea I have so the work still contains a historic homage to the 100 year celebrations whilst utilising digital imagery without looking like a piece of journalistic reportage.
The next task is to work out how these digital images will be produced. I don’t feel a gallery exhibition of digital prints alone are exciting enough to be interesting, I feel it will just look like some photos taken for a newspaper or some advertising campaign and have no relationship with the centenary. 
I have starting looking at an idea that occurred a number of times whilst in Bangladesh, Laurence Lablanc and many of the Pathshala students were showing bodies of work that were supporting with an audio soundtrack.
Unfortunately the work Laurence showed to the class is not yet available online, this was presented as a digital slide show along with a fitting piece of background music which I found particularly interesting.
I would like to do something similar but utilising what I learned from creating a promotional video I would like to gather video clips, sound bites and images from the internet from previous gold cup race meets and use them to form an introduction to the work leading into a rolling slide show.

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