“The mobile phone is a little technological wonder that most of us carry all the time.”
I have used its camera function to produce a new body of work ( 2007-2010), which deals with the fact that we can get photographed anywhere at any time. We can be snapped and stored in files and archives kept by anybody; perhaps to be placed in a new context within seconds after the snapshot. To take photographs today demands no skills and it costs nothing if you just have a mobile phone – a camera is a normal extra function.
I find myself going back to basics as a photographer to consider/study my professional ethics when facing the fact, that people everywhere take images like never before. I am questioning the motive when using images on other people even in artistic purpose. I push myself to study, where does the ethical limit go for my self. The mobile is like an observing eye. It is very quick to capture an image, unnoticed by most people. It can all be very innocent, fun to share moments etc but I find the phenomena somehow unpleasant. When I am looking at the image of a strange face or family on my computer screen, I get a specific feeling that is related to guilt. Photography is complicated. We know that context is everything.
I have also experienced a new feeling of worry when making these images. Irrelevant perhaps -or is it a sign that something essential has changed with the new technology? I found myself wondering what does a photograph of a person actually represent and why is it taken? For example, images of children used to be seen as part of a “celebration of life”. Today, when asking permission to take a photograph of a child, I find – instead of proud parents – fear. It seems to me that people are relatively aware of the possible misuse of images. I am worried of the fact that a persons integrity is perhaps permanently lost in a public space.
There lies a paradox in this series: I love photographs on people and have already been taken all these images. I see my new body of work Just anybody as a provocation to study closer this phenomena of our time -loss of image control is already here.”
Method: I use my feeling of guilt as a starting point when deciding which images I consider as “free” and which images could be “forbidden”. I draw white lines and white marks on those images that I maybe should not have taken or that I should be careful with. In fact, I play with self censure.
The mobile that I use is a few years old. The images still have that special digital structure that I find fascinating. They have a visual language of their own which is different from the perfect camera shots produced by new mobiles.
I am taking snapshots with my mobile. Later I study my images and their details on my computer screen. Just like anybody else.”
JUST ANYBODY? IMAGES, ETHICS AND RECOGNITION
text by Paul Sweetman Dr Paul Sweetman is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton. His research interests centre around issues relating to the body, identity, fashion and consumption, subcultures and visual methods and methodology.
Renja Leino was an Art Council England International Research Fellow managed by Fotonet at The Winchester Gallery, Winchester School of Art, UK 2007.
Technique: By mobile phone camera. Digital print, glossy laminated on Dipond.