Archive: Jul 2010
The Great Twitter Portrait Project has had to climb into the back seat this week as I’ve been on the road in Europe.
A free set of my Ten Postcards for anyone that can work out where I am.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter may know about my plan to photograph as many followers/followees as I can over the next few weeks.
The fact is that, these days, I communicate with people that I have never met far, far more than I ever do with my real, tangible friends. Of the people on there that I actually know, only one, Martin Deeson (follow him @martindeeson ) is what I would call a proper friend, in the long standing and traditional sense of the word. We have known each other for 16 years, we’ve been all over the world together, at my wedding he was my best man and once, in Ireland, on St. Patrick’s Day, I saved him from an unpleasant immediate fate in Mountjoy Prison by coming up with £1000 at very short notice, in order to pay his debt to Irish society for the terrible damage he did to one of it’s CCTV cameras after becoming socially involved with internationally acclaimed herbal entrepreneur Howard Marks, a man who has appeared in more passports than anyone ever. And yet, he and I see each other maybe once every 3 or 4 months. We speak every 2 weeks or so and that’s it. We communicate through Twitter more than anything else. In fact, while staying at his house just before election night, we both lay on separate sofas watching Question Time and tweeting from our phones. We barely spoke and at one point, 4 feet from me, he tweeted me a message offering to top up my whisky glass. I accepted his offer via Twitter. If you grew up in the 70′s & 80′s, like us, then there’s a big part of you that finds that weird but you do it nevertheless because it’s what we are evolving into. None of my other proper friends are on Twitter and I don’t speak to them very often. I miss them.
Then there’s the way my job has changed in the last 5 or 6 years. In the old days, I would take my book/folio to meet someone at a magazine or ad agency or record label and then maybe they’d commission me. You’d have more meetings, shoot the pictures, take the film to a lab, hang out for a while, chat to other photographers that were in there at the time, go home, sit around for 2 days stressing about whether anything would be on the film, go back to the lab, collect the contact sheets, sit in the lab and look at them, have a cup of tea, chat to some other, different photographers, hang out for a bit, chat to the printers that work there, leave the lab, take the film to the client, put it on a table, gather round, look at it, discuss it, go home, sit around and stress that they hate it, get a fax (A FAX!!!!) with their print choices, go back to the lab, hang out while the printer that you liked the best made prints of the clients choices, chat to more photographers that were in there that day, leave the lab, take the prints to the client, have a little chatty time with him/her, go home, type an invoice, go to the post office, buy a stamp from the lady in there and post it, go home and sit around stressing that you’ll never work for that client again, for reasons real or delusional. The point is that there was so much more opportunity for randomness in the encounters one might have with persons known or unknown.
Nowadays, as Ray Liota says at the end of Goodfellas – when he’s in the Witness Protection Programme – “There’s no action anymore. The other day I went to a restaurant and ordered spaghetti with marinara sauce. And you know what they brought me? Egg noodles and ketchup.”
Shooting digitally is the photographic equivalent of being in the Witness Protection Programme. People don’t want you to come out. ”Shall we meet and talk about this Sistine Chapel ceiling thing then?”
“Ermmm…Y’no I don’t think we really need to. I’ll email you over some photos I took on my phone and you can work it all out from those, can’t you?”
But we are still communicating. We’re just doing it differently. I sit in front of a computer all day, being incredibly productive, without ever leaving the house. It’s possible to go for days without getting dressed or conceding to the routines that are a vital part of entering into the actual world. When I have a job I leave the house for the duration of that job and then I go home and do all the stuff that I used to do that also involved travelling around town and meeting people and communicating with them- but I do it in front of a computer, which means I don’t do any travelling anymore and I don’t ever meet anyone anymore. And my friends are all doing the same thing too.
And I think it’s sad that a whole way of being has passed away without anyone really noticing, but I also quite like it because, at my core, I’m a melancholic and without that constant sweet sickness I’d probably feel way off balance.
In my life now, I have Twitter and it seems to have taken the place of all that sliding around town. I have the little Tweetie thing open on my screen and as I sit at home doing all this stuff I have one eye on that. It has become like taking part in a virtual grown up school classroom while the teacher’s been called out to speak to the deputy head. But instead of it being like Facebook, which I’m not on and which seems to just be all the people you went to school with, Twitter is like all the people you wish you’d gone to school with and I thought it would be interesting to try and actually bring them together, rather than virtually bring them together. What if I tried to bring a whole load of people who only exist inside an application window on a computer screen into my actual world? This is what I’ve been doing the last 3 days and it’s been a real ride. Tying to shoot video of them, photograph them, live tweet the results whilst continuously reminding Twitter of the invite to come down to London W10 and be a part of it and then manage the reactions and find time to fit everyone into convenient time slots has been the fun part of it.
In virtualand there isn’t really any meaningful space or time. You can come and go and still collide with people when you need to. In actualand if you want everyone there at 10am on Monday then it’s got to be 10am on Monday, as simple as. Getting specific groups together for this project has been the difficult part but I’ve found that if I plead with them enough they can bend their space & time to fit the needs of the group.
The next thing that happened was that once people began to show up for their portrait they would tweet about it afterwards, so there has been an exponential rise in the tweeting that is covering the project. The more people I photograph, the more tweeting there is about it, the more people become interested and curious. Today is day 3 of the project and it’s gone 1,2,16 in terms of energy surrounding the idea. Tomorrow is day 4 and I’m looking to go from 16 to 64.
If you are interested and would like to take part then Tweet me @chrisfloyduk – for now, please enjoy this short film of day one on The Great Twitter Portrait Project.