Can Self-Photography Work?

We’ve already mentioned in this blog that there’s nothing today stopping a photographer from setting himself up as a photojournalist. You can create your own story ideas, shoot your own series and even set up your own online — or offline — distribution system.antoniabad.jpg

But there’s still something a little pre-Web 2.0 about putting a subject in front of a lens and dictating his story. If a photographer can take pictures of someone else’s life, then presumably that someone can take pictures of his own life… with a little help from a photographer.

That’s what Spanish artist Antoni Abad seems to doing with his portraits of the lives of Brazilian motorcycle couriers, Nicaraguan migrants in Costa Rica, prostitutes in Madrid, Mexican taxi drivers, gypsies in Leon and Lleida, and the disabled in Barcelona. He’s asked members of each group to take regular stills and video from their lives and upload them to the Web as part of a project called Canal*MOTOBOY.

The photos themselves are nothing to write home about, and if you can’t understand the language, you won’t be hanging around the site for long. But the idea’s the thing.

Tory Read explained to us the difficulties — and benefits — of running local photography classes, but those were aimed at documenting an entire community that was suffering from a bad image. Letting individuals shoot days in their lives over a period of time gives a much more personal approach. In theory, that should make for a more captivating exhibition.

The problem, as we can see in Abad’s project, is that the quality of images shot by someone who knows little about photography is rarely impressive. If the photographer were to intervene to lend a hand though, the way the subject told his own story would inevitably change. The picture could be about effects as much as facts or show the advisor’s favorite techniques as much as the subject’s life.

Of course, not knowing how to get the most out of the camera can affect the person taking the picture just as much. If he knew how to shoot at night or play with composition, he might be able tell his own story in exactly the way he wants.

Is it possible then for interesting non-photographers to document themselves and create an interesting effect? Perhaps… but I know I’d rather be looking at an exhibition of well-shot images than a collection of amateur snapshots.

[tags] canal*motoboy, antoni abad [/tags]

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