In the second of three articles about the Web 2.0 photosharing service Flickr (the first is here), I continue to make a case for the quiet but profound innovations created by the sheer scale and ease of use, of these services – something which enables self defining artist, outsider artist, hobbyist & people who would run a mile from being called an artist to share and be mutually influenced by each others work. Here I offer some notes on the beautiful, funny and humane photography of London art teacher Joseph Cartwright, who operates under the Flickr name Noitsawasp.
Very few humans directly in these images but everywhere traces, evidence of human activity. Not cold. Full of humour.
Patterns of human activity, some accidental but capable of being invested with new meaning. Some straightforwardly meaningful, interpretable. Evidence of events and activities.
Always formally engaging.
A map of a world. A map of our world. A map of the world of work, of most of us, of the 99%.
Impossible to imagine these images made on streets of a town where less than 50 languages were spoken.
What we see when we look at these is what we see when we look at art.
An invitation to narrative.
Patterns on the one hand // traces of the wake that humans leave behind them in the world.
One of those humans is Joseph C––sometimes the images are records of his interventions in the world of images––those image fold-overs or blends. Sometimes the photos are a record of him as performer, actor, in the world ( but after he has left the stage). Sometimes they seem to place us directly behind his eyes.
I think he looks quizzically at the world. Do you know him––does he look quizzically at the world?
You imagine his eyes darting around––down, to the side, up occasionally, lighting on something, some congruence of objects, pausing to decide whether to make an image…(brows knotted, a sense of pressure, the need to seize the moment…)
look at this; see through this; look into that; make that out
grids; grids; patches of light; a dictionary of cowboy terms
People nail nails, people mend things, people bend things, people break things, people clean, people wash clothes, people read, people admonish, people alert, people have funny feelings––goose bumps, shivers or feelings it’s hard to explain somehow.
I saw a pattern! It was a message to me! It was a message to you. It made me feel…oh…I can’t say what…
This empty table here; those empty chairs there
The café/condiment photos––a series––eating––so basic––and we always remember that but we also think––‘we know this kind of café too’, ‘we go here on these occasions’––and we wonder what kind of a person this serial café goer is, is this an important routine in his life, does it define him amongst others, his friends, colleagues, what does he eat, are the condiments incidental or fundamental to his café visits, does he keep his distance from the condiments, use them with discretion, does he go to the café now only or mainly for his mission to image the condiments or do his meals and his art dovetail nicely, conveniently, pleasantly here. Do his companions laugh when he takes today’s photo? Or does he eat alone?
Cables, pipes, tangles––runes, ciphers, hieroglyphs.
The morning was sunny. It rained. The afternoon was still warm but muggy. There was a rainbow. The sky was blue. The fence was a different blue.
Shadows, folds, stripes, other repetitive patterns. Some there, pre-intended, functional. Some found, loaned, in the process of making the photo.
Objects that are (or have been) useful or functional removed from or seen out of their usual context. (Sometimes by human agency––dumped, temporarily abandoned, or simply cropped)
Estrangement––making us see the world anew // making us remember our world anew.
Found patterns, found juxtapositions.
A lively eye and a lively mind.
Joy in colour. Grace in handling, in apportioning that colour. It’s like he finds the best tidbits and, smiling, hands them to us.
It isn’t abstracting from the world // the function is often still evident so it’s like layer upon layer of meaning and affect and confusion // the original function or action…the strange pattern it makes… its removal from its usual context.
These images lend us Joseph C’s eyes. These images lend us another human’s mind and sensibility.
When you are a child and you’re walking along by the side of a grown-up and they have important things to do or say and so you are free to look around and feel and think and wonder and also you are half their height or less so you have both the utter freedom to look where you will and you lack preconceptions about what it is you see signifies or how it ought to make you feel and on top of that you see it from an angle that will never again be natural to you without a degree of contortion. And you are become magically a kind of still, observing, feeling centre of the world.
Joseph C gives us back some of that.