While I had been researching Gill Golding’s work, particularly Welcome to the Fake (s.d.), I became very aware of the concept of hoarding being a place of imagery within the developments in any town undergoing regeneration. More specifically I began to imagine my imagery appearing on hoardings as part of my project. The imagery could be somewhere on the spectrum between affirming the slick, glossy facade of regeneration or refuting it in a dystopian nightmare; showing its true colours. I have created the beginning of a diptych or grid which I think falls somewhere between these two extremes and is a direct example of how my Contextual Studies has informed my Body of Work.
To (digitally) insert my own imagery onto hoardings in Deptford, I first had to find some suitable hoardings. I had previously passed by some hoardings while shooting a different diptych and had committed these to memory as being a possible solution. However, when I returned to look for them they had disappeared as the new developments had been finished. Even though there is so much development going on in Deptford, I found it difficult to see where else had any hoarding but then I passed by some on my bus journey which seemed ideal. I returned there on the 03/02/2020 and shot from various ways along the stretch of hoardings, trying to arrive at the best angle for the hoarding and the development behind it.
Eventually I arrived at some framing I was happy with and shot the scene much like I had been photographing the rest of the composites. However, this time I had in mind three things which would help the eventual diptych I aim to complete to stand out.
Firstly, I was mindful to a certain degree of where in the frame my images might be digitally inserted. I was mindful of this while shooting the image because there was quite a lot of writing and images on the hoarding already and I didn’t want this to overlap. Secondly, I had a bit of an epiphany that I could incorporate people as composites (i.e. people who were there but not at the same time) into the image. These would appear in the image but in front of my images on the hoarding. This would make my images on the hoarding seem more realistic, while also alluding to my impression people tend to ignore hoardings by walking straight past them. In my mind, this might signify that for a lot of Deptford’s people, the new developments are out of reach financially which comments on a pertinent topic in regeneration. Lastly, I was aware passing by the hoardings on the upper deck of the bus that development was going on behind the hoardings but in front of the already new builds that are present at the back of the frame. Hopefully, when more of this development is completed, significant change will be present in the middle ground for the second half of the diptych.
One aspect of consideration when processing the image was the hoarding had information on its surface. This information wasn’t imagery; I had deliberately shot a segment of the hoarding where imagery only appeared where my own imagery would appear on top of it. Text was present though. I was half-tempted to leave some of the text in; it read: ‘An Exciting New Chapter in Deptford’ which I thought could easily be restructured (and reinserted) to: ‘An Exciting New Chapter in Reconstructing Deptford’, in line with my provisional title for the project: Reconstructing Deptford. However, I felt leaving text out of the image altogether left more room for the viewer to interpret the image and its hoarding imagery for themselves.
To accomplish removing the text I went into Photoshop and painstakingly used the healing brush and clone stamp tools until there was little evidence any text had been in the image in the first place. This does bring up its own ethical issues and I am well aware even adding my own digitally inserted hoarding imagery makes the overall image my most controversial as part of the project. When I complete the diptych, by inserting the second halves of two more diptychs onto a reshooting of the hoarding, I think it will be fairly obvious to the viewer that the images are not realistic. For a start, the images appearing on the hoarding will likely also appear as images for the project in their own right. Furthermore, I would imagine I will refer to the addition of images to the hoarding and removal of text in the supporting text for the final presentation of the project, whether this is a photo book or exhibition. The case remains however, that in a photojournalistic context, the images are not ‘true-to-life’ and do not fall within the realist convention. With my other composites the argument could be made everything has appeared in the same location, just not all at the same time. Here though, where elsewhere in the project the images are loosely tied to the real world, now there is the displacement of image into the virtual world. As well as this, the virtual world (the image of the hoardings) has been tampered further with by the removal of text. Therefore I feel it is important to at least present this work within an art context, probably through supporting text with some allusion to the images, particularly this last diptych, not being as they seem.
Inserting the images onto the hoarding was easy enough; I just opened them as layers and resized them until they fit over the original hoarding images. Making them look realistic was more challenging while also provoking some thought by myself with regards to ethics. I reduced the brightness of the inserted images so they didn’t protrude too obviously from the hoarding or contrast with the rest of the image. I used a brush on the layer mask of the layer to make one of images slant at the bottom so it was in line with the bottom of the hoarding. I painstakingly cut out the people in front of the hoarding so the images appeared behind the people. Lastly and most intrusively with regards to ethics in my opinion, I added shadows to my hoarding images, to the inside of the top of the hoarding images and to the outside of the sides and bottom. This was subtly implemented but I felt helped the images to blend into the hoarding.
Overall I feel adding this hoarding location to my project along with the inclusion of digitally inserted images into the image, makes the project much more provocative and even political. Even without any text on the hoarding there are many messages for me quite easily accessible to the viewer. Meanings can be interpreted and I still think there’s space for the viewer to make up their own mind. However, there’s more intention implicit in the image produced for this hoardings location because of the digitally inserted images. By including these images there is the element of picture-in-picture which I feel fixes meaning more. This is done through the juxtaposition of the overall picture with the picture-in-picture. That is the reason why in my eyes the project takes a more provocative tone. The nature of the picture-in-picture juxtaposition implies my political viewpoint on the developments. The composite image shows a vision of Deptford’s regeneration more explicitly and that is a different vision to the producers of the hoardings’ contents and even my other diptychs. It implies I feel the slick, glossy facade of the hoardings is a space for the developers to promote their promising ventures but actually might just be a veneer hiding less ideal realities.
Golding, G. (s.d.) Welcome to the Fake. At: https://www.gillgoldingphotography.com/work#/welcometothefake/ (Accessed 16/01/2020).