The project is also an exploration of how we observe from street level. Compositionally, shooting from directly below, juxtapositions of makeshift structures display the landscape as unequal, vertical, and for some, under the shadows of bright gleaming buildings.
In turn, the act of viewing these images becomes an interrogation of home, family and consumption.
Blunt et al. make reference, for example, to the use of living environments to inform and inspire artists’ work, often troubling ‘notions of familiarity, intimacy, privacy and proximity.’ This is the process by which the images for this project are given perspective, scale, and sense of place. The images challenge the viewer and require us to look more carefully. In doing so, it prompts us to consider our relationship not only to the unfamiliar landscape but to our culture as well.
Walking is not just a benign activity as action creates and leads more unique experiences in space. Likewise, the subfield of psycho-geography has done research that has suggested that forming imaginary maps through walking are based on physical interactions, and the way we navigate through our environment is the product of this experience, even when one has never seen an aerial photograph or a map. It is in the everyday rhythms of life that we produce place and create meaning. It is in this method that geographers study the contextual narratives and processes that are inherent to a place.
The places I documented are familiar to me. Given the research project on families as the nexus of consumption, I looked into spaces that I knew had the spaces of consumption that were family driven and home-based. I also deliberately looked for juxtaposed homes in highly urbanized cities, the lack of public spaces in Metro Manila, and upon consultation with the researchers, adding feminized spaces.
What surprised me in this process were the abundance of translocal signages and mobilities, the feeling of the childhood spaces feeling small, and what used to be familiar, becoming unknown was unsettling.
As a documentary photographer trained in geography, my perspective is intertwined with the visual and the spatial.
According to Cresswell (2004), place is everywhere. Dear (2011) concurs with the
statement but he creates a distinction in conjunction with photography.
Place is everywhere in photography, for example, the choice of the subject,
through the placement of the camera, to the composition of an image. Yet
space/place is peculiarly absent as an explicit component in the theory and
practice of photography. (5)
Sanders (2007) offers similar opinions by arguing that the methodological and pedagogical contributions of photographs have been overlooked in geography. She urges geographers to develop their skill of “directed observation” wherein there is a process of looking with active intent and to capturing awareness of the landscape. Massey (1995) insisted that place is a social construct. In her view, “we actively make places” (48) and our ideas of place “are products of the society in which we live” (50).
Goin (2001) pushes for more acknowledgment and the wider use of photographs in social science research. Photographs can be a fact and truth, and these two are very different things. [I]t is important to remember that the facts observed were carefully constructed. Photographs displace time and space. Photographs “frame” the view, creating boundaries and visual emphases that are unique to the process. The specific moment becomes emblematic of the whole. And the combination of aesthetic sensitivity with scientific fidelity creates a problem in reading the appropriate “context.” Texts also add to the context of meaning, wherein “Meaning” is historically and culturally determined. Truths are culturally derived and do not
depend on the same standard of “objectivity.” Truths imply wisdom and
discovery, human emotion and shared values. We know that a photograph can
represent a fact. But a photograph can also represent a truth that transcends fact.
In order for the gap to be bridged (visual practitioner and the geographer) in understanding the concept of home and landscape of consumption, the image as visual poetics must be understood not just as a process, but should also function as the lens of analysis.
Using these shared words and using Fish’s concept of the ‘practitioner-researcher’ will support the process of looking at an image and to develop the interpretative and reflexive approach to creating images and other visual representations. As a photographer, embracing a lived-in and creative set of research methods, more narratives and stories can be interpreted and understood and in different perspectives.
Visual essay by Aaron R. Vicencio and Czarina A. Saloma-Akpedonu.