Portraits in absentia

2017-02-15T04:58:08Z (GMT) by Felstead, Jacqueline
In this project the residents of the Gatwick Private Hotel stand with a blanket covering their faces and upper bodies, standing as photographers themselves used to when they stood under a black cloth to better see through the camera lens. Anonymity and invisibility are symptoms of social inequality in a contemporary culture that increasingly relies upon visual representation. To be invisible is to disappear. Yet to be photographed is to have ones image join a network of images, the reading of which is usually beyond the power of the subject to direct. The aims of this project are to consider the contemporary experience of being transient and at the 'lower end' of the social hierarchy; to consider the complexity of being anonymous and living below a 'visual threshold' given contemporary politics; and to acknowledge the limitations of photography in communicating these issues. Three research questions that have arisen in this project will be covered in the exegesis. As artists, how do we work with the contradictions inherent in social documentary practice whereby we work with a medium that itself contributes to the social inequalities that we wish to address? How might power and its institutions shape our capacity to both make, and observe, artworks about strangers and transience? What does it mean to be, to degrees, absent in the portrait, given our profoundly photographic contemporary vision?