What’s Underneath

Marian has raised what I feel are some really crucial points about what we found in the York Hotel: the shots we each chose, the approach to the work of taking photographs (‘big’ ideas of truth, history, honesty – but also the selective process of framing, editing, the choice of subject).

Photography allows the image maker to manipulate the image before it is presented to the world, but does so within the context of a general association of photography with veracity; it has always been so, but photographers have also exploited the tools available to them in the darkroom and elsewhere to alter the ‘truth’ found by the lens into something different, something that spoke a different kind of truth (or truth in a different way).

I find myself profoundly aware of the subjectivity of all of it – how it is that to one degree or another, there’s always the hand and eye of the maker in the work at every step, making decisions that value some things over others, that – in effect – choose a truth to be presented.

But for all of that, I have to agree completely with her position on wanting to take honest photographs … . I think that there’s a place in this work where we can acknowledge our own subjectivity and editorial choices, but still present what we found with honesty – and stand behind what we present as honestly capturing  the place and what we found in it.

It was an ugly place in many respects, and I think there are some images that we have in the collection that depict some of those ugly things quite plainly.  But the converse is also true; I think we both saw – and captured through photographs – moments that held beauty, that showed something under the surface of things that was important to try to find and to understand.

No less ‘truthful’, either of those things … as the parrot continues to tell me:

... the parrot as we found it on the wall...

… the parrot as we found it on the wall…


… and what it looks like now, with the layer of grime removed …

The relative merits of the bird’s original colour scheme I will leave others to debate. Working with this object in particular taught me a great deal (again) about the existence of multiple truths.

And how much I hope what we’ve captured in this work will reveal those multiple truths about the York.

– sydney


Ideas Behind Truth and Photography

This is my first post on the York blog.  Sydney has been far more productive at this end then I have!  Going through Sydney’s previous posts, and also through our many, many conversations, I have realized that although we are coming at this project with the same thoughts and ideas, there are a few things we deviate from (slightly).

One of the main reasons why I studied photography in university was the idea and the need to capture what is real and what is true.  For me, I believe that photographs are a vehicle to capture a moment of truth and record a part of history.  Holding onto a photograph is like holding onto a truth, and it is this personal philosophy that is my own personal thread throughout the York project.

The York project has got me thinking about photography and my relationship with it.

Photography, especially with the advent of digital cameras, has become a less reliable source of truth.  Now, I’m not saying that the camera, or photography, has ever been a 100% reliable  vehicle of truth, take photo ops and press conferences for example, things can be rehearsed or posed to project a certain feeling or idea.  I am also aware that a photograph may not show an entire scene.  The photographer can decide what to include and what to omit when framing a scene, the viewer may not know what happened moments before and/or after the photo was taken, and the viewers own personal history may affect the reading of the image.wall with graffiti

6 x 9 VER sticker and room number

My goal was to take honest pictures for this project, and I am hoping that when seen together, an honest portrayal of the York emerges.  Yes, evidence of drug taking and prostitution can be seen in some of the photos, but there is also evidence of children playing, gifts being given, and friendships being made.  Evidence of people making their space a personal space by hanging religious imagery, movie posters, and photos on their walls.

With the ugly comes the beautiful, and the York Hotel was a great example of this.