a visual language
Burtynsky also said something about authorship in the Manufactured Landscapes film that has been helpful to me in thinking about Shops and some other project ideas. He said that one image alone is not necessarily interesting, especially for photographers who document objects that were created by other people, but a series of images which show a distinct style of interpretation is more clearly the creative effort of the photographer rather than a documentation of someone else’s work.
Instead, what he’s looking to develop in his own body of work is a “visual language” that has nothing to do with beauty, but rather serves to draw the viewer into the picture, to provide a visual hook that compels viewers to look closely and become curious about the subject matter, realize the significance of what they’re looking at.
Interestingly, Natchwey said something along the same lines in War Photographer, which follows him as he documents poverty in Indonesia, grieving families in Kosovo, genocide in Rwanda and fighting in the West Bank, among other things. In an interview, he says the aesthetic component of his photos serve to make a visual impact on viewers and make them think about the cause that Nachtwey is documenting. That underlying story is what makes an emotional impact, which is what he hopes will lead to individual action.
So both photographers don’t take stunning photographs for the sake of art or beauty; they use photography as a tool to shed light on the issues they’re concerned about.
And with that, I’ve finally got the Burtynsky bug out of me! Phew.