Project 2 The archive – Exercise 2

Exercise 2

Record a real conversation with a friend. (It’s up to you whether you ask permission
or not!)

Before listening to the recording, write your account of both sides of the conversation.

Then listen to the recording and make note of the discrepancies. Perhaps there are
unfinished sentences, stammers, pauses, mis-communications etc.

Reflect upon the believability of re-enacted narratives and how this can be applied
to constructed photography. What do you learn from the conversation recording
process and how can you transfer what you learned into making pictures?

For this exercise I recorded a conversation with a friend  down the pub. I asked my friend first if it was OK to record a conversation. We spent the whole evening putting the world to rights but I recorded roughly a 17min conversation. I have decided not to share the actual conversation on line, for my own privacy but I have a recording if my tutor wants to hear it.

My recollection of the recording was that we were sat drinking pints outside in the evening. It was fresh but not cold. My beer was good! There were a few people about and there was some kind of function going on at the pub. There was also a bit of Police activity further down the road during part of the conversation which kept distracting me (4 Police cars drove past at one point, generally unheard of in my town) along with people walking past.

I remember having the usual catchup conversations but I find recalling the detail of the conversation is quite hard now thinking back to it. A lot has happened in the past week. It was a clear night and I remember chatting about how it would be a good night for photography, talking about different camper vans, travelling and wishing I knew more about fixing up engines.

Having listened back to the conversation I was surprised to hear how many different things we discussed in a short period of time; some interconnected/linked others entirely random. I spoke about a red umbrella I’ve recently purchased, book purchases, framing pictures/photographs and YouTube.

As a general observation I noted how conversations don’t take a linear storytelling form and how the un-constructed conversation differs massively from a pre thought out or planned story, play, film, conservation or speech.

I think one of the challenges for photographers as storytellers (whether fictional or non-fictional) is to make the conversation coherent but also fluid and natural. When I think back to some of the TV shows that were around when I was a kid growing up in the 90’s some of the dialogue seemed out of place for the characters i.e. written by an adult for a teenage character and audience, the two things didn’t align correctly. Ever watched an episode of Dawson’s Creek or Roswell? It could be it was an adult trying to recollect their own childhood but only seeing it now through the eyes of an adult in a different time and place.

I think another challenge for photographers is getting your visual message to communicate effectively to different types of people who all have different backgrounds and upbringings etc. A single photograph may mean something different to different people but you may want the core message (your intention) to reach as many people as you realistically can. I also think we as photographers may learn something new from fresh eyes that we never saw ourselves or never originally intended. Its important to be clear about what you want to communicate, unless you intentionally want to leave something widely open to interpretation.

I was also interested to observe the following:

  • I really hate the sound of my own voice recorded. Its sounds really different to how I hear it in my own head or when I write. I struggle to find the correct words sometimes when I speak, as if the thoughts are too fast for my mouth to communicate verbally. I may even hang on a particular word for a moment or take a pause or drink some of my pint!
  • It was fascinating to see how conversations start, often through open questions or through observations on society and reflecting back upon them.
  • how topics end and lead into other ones.
  • how themes or patterns in conversation develop.
  • how conversations can go off on tangents, sometimes coming back to its original theme.
  • how conflicting ideas are dealt with in conversation.
  • how fascinating the introvert mind is.
  • how there are gaps in verbal conversation where other types of communication take place, like visually observing your surroundings.
  • the recording doesn’t necessarily capture all the distractions around us, like cars driving past or people walking past. I find I am often highly aware of my surroundings or easily distracted, this in turn means I sometimes don’t hear what people have said properly. So it was interesting to hear that on a recording. For example at one point I misheard a town my friend was talking about, it wasn’t until further down the conversation my friend and I realised we were thinking about two different places! I guess this is an example of miscommunication.
  • how the words we use and the way we say them impact on the successful or unsuccessful delivery of our message. This would seem extremely relevant to the visual language of photography and how we as photographers communicate our message across.
  • how conversations don’t always follow a smooth pattern of one person listening and the other speaking. Communication isn’t always a straight line, it jumps around. There are stops and starts, interruptions, sometimes someone loses their train of thought and the other person tries to pull the conversation back to where you were.
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