photographic index

ba digital photography london south bank university

Jonathan Dodds

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Image 1: Annagh, 23. Taken outside SWP meeting, Southwark.

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Image 2: Marie, 24. Taken outside Student Respect meeting, Peckham.

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Image 3: Julie, 21. Taken outside Student Respect meeting, Peckham.

Title: Young female activists/feminists
Artist: Jonathan Dodds
Type: Inkjet photographic print
Date: 2007
Description: Young activists/feminists shot outside SWP and Student respect meetings, London. Completed May 2007. Made in response to Anita Corbin’s photographic series ‘Visible Girls’, Girls Subcultures box held at the London South Bank University, London. A series of 3 images.
Subject: girls, subcultures
Measurements: …x…
Location: London South Bank University Digital Photography Dept
ID Number: PI-RGSB-JD0001-JD003
Licensing: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales, Jonathan Dodds c/o London South Bank University, Digital Photography Course, UK

“Subcultures can be distinctive because of the age, race, ethnicity, class, and/or gender. The qualities that determine a subculture as distinct may be aesthetic, religious, political, sexual, or a combination of these factors. Subcultures are often defined via their opposition to the values of the larger culture to which they belong … Members of a subculture will often signal their membership through a distinctive and symbolic use of style.”
Source: Wikipedia

We have been looking at the archive of Anita Corbin’s Visible girls as part of our Photographic Index unit. We have been set the task of re-interpreting this project, choosing and photographing a relevant sub-culture from modern day.

I have chosen to represent “activism/feminism” in my project. I have chosen to use both words as the title because of the broad and complex nature of feminism and the modern feminist movement.

The word ‘feminism’ has seemed to attract negative connotations over the past decade or so, and as such many young females hesitate to use the word. However, an ever-expanding group of young women are becoming more active in the field of feminism and as part of the movement as a whole. My own involvement with the Socialist Workers Party and with Student Respect has personally taught me a lot about modern feminism, and is an area I was extremely interested in exploring photographically.

My biggest problem has been representing an entire movement and philosophy in a series of straightforward images. I initially wanted to photograph inside meetings, but came across a lot of hesitation from organisers and members; many people within the movement are still very hesitant to be photographed within meetings. Because of this, I decided to approach the young women individually, and to photograph them outside the meetings. Again, because of hesitation from other members, I couldn’t shoot directly in front of the buildings, so I chose areas close to the meeting place.

The photographs are shot against plain backgrounds – shutters and a wall – because I wanted to focus primarily on the girls themselves. In doing so I have not only physically captured the girls, but also their fashion and attitudes. This I feel relates my work strongly to that of Anita Corbin.

Anita Corbin represented her subjects on a night out or about to go out, dressed as they normally would for such an occasion. This gave a true impression of the girls as would be encountered if the viewer was actually there. I attempted to do the same thing. Initially I wanted to ask the girls to bring along items that represented themselves and the culture I was trying to show. These would have been items such as feminist literature (there has been a large surge in the amount of books released on the subject), campaign flyers/posters and placards. However, after thinking more about the project I decided against it.

The reason for this was that I wanted to represent the girls exactly as they would have been if I had not been there with my camera. I feel this brings more realism to the images, being less staged through the lack of props.

The first image was shot outside of an SWP meeting in Southwark. Several young women attended but only one agreed to have her photo taken. This was slightly disappointing, as I had looked forward to capturing the images I needed, but did provide me with a greater insight into the girls’ personalities. There still seems to be a hesitation amongst the young women at these meetings in being photographed. One girl told me that she didn’t like the idea of being ‘captured’ practising her political freedoms.

The second shoot took part outside a Student Respect meeting in Peckham. This had a larger turnout, but mainly from young men. Again, out of the four young women there, only two were comfortable being photographed.

This is a project that I am still very interested in expanding. There are several events coming up this summer, with the Marxism Festival being the biggest. I intend to continue this project in a personal capacity at such events, and to gain a greater understanding of what defines a subculture, and what defines a modern young feminist.

References
Wikipedia, (Unknown) Subculture (Online) Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subculture (accessed 20/05/07)

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