Monday, March 28, 2011

The man behind the Machine

Having studied the photographic styles of Abbot and Baltz in closer detail, the idea of capturing the human effect on landscape inspired me most, to create an analogy beyond the survey. Both took worlds which are familiar and isolated fact, Baltz devoid of personal prejudice and Abbott's infused with emotion. I would like to juxtapose both styles. I have always had an interest in industrial landscapes, the unusual forms, noises, smells and robot like movements of the humans that inhabit these spaces. The people become the machines. I am intrigued by the Dublin Docklands. It it is a secret world, hidden from society, a walled fortress which never sleeps. A mini city with its own infrastructure where land and sea have a mutual dependence.

Human habitation is evident by the order of things; stacked containers or rows of cars in a parking lot. It lives and breaths efficiency. A fluorescent safety jacket on a chair in a security hut is the only indication of human presence within that space. People do not walk on these streets. The footpath acts as a threshold, a large curb. The cabin of the machine becomes the room, a mobile office, inhabited space. A trail is formed from loading bay to canteen, a ritual pilgrimage for the workers. Long canteen tables lined with benches and chairs emulate the rigid ordering of the docklands only broken by littered paper cups in the same way silos rest among steel boxes.

A steel ramp forms a bridge from boat to land. Cargo is loaded and unloaded, everything has a destination and a place. The worker overlooks and takes part in this procession. Their life although surrounded by people is isolated, conversation is minimal due to constant noise. There is a unified code, a seperate language for this place. Its identity is formed within itself. There is no hint as to where this place exists, it could be anywhere in the world.

Allan Sekula has captured a non romantic image of the docks, the workers and fishing in his book '
Fish Story'. His images are highly sensorial. He uses flash photography and atmospheric lighting to reinforce the human markation of these terretories. The subject matter varies but maintains a running theme. The images are arranged to tell a story. If they were shown alone one could interperit anything from them.
Taking Sekula's idea of relative matter I would like to create a story of the Dublin Docklands in a similar fashion. I would like to create an analogy of the man behind the machine, to try and capture the alien like quality of docks life in the 21st century. I have started by photographing the routes and inhabited yards along with the machinery. My next step is to trace the movements of the worker and the machine and lastly to focus in on the worker and their habitiation of sole and communal space.

I have also looked at Jean Gaumy's 'Men at Sea'. Gaumy joined the French Fishing Vessel on one of its voyages and maintains a written diary. The images are hugely atmospheric and truely capture the essence of life on the sea. Again, I would like to emulate Guamy's approach to photographing manual workers in their habitat.

Sebastiao Salgado's 'Workers; An Archaeology of the industrial age takes an account of the manual labour from cocao to tobacco plantations. Man is the machine.

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