Part 2: What does listing exactly what you see mean to you


My favorite way to begin discussing any work of art is not by presenting facts but by asking questions. This photo series is narrative and when discussing this work with others, after initially listing exactly everything they see (simply just listing what is in the image, details on this process here. I ask them to create a story based on their assumptions of the photos. I have no qualms asking questions that I do not necessarily have the answers to because I am much more interested in the impact the art has on the viewer and the exploration of that impact than in the factual details of something as subjective as art. Hopefully after making some very basic and self-evident observations such as noting the weather, the style of clothing, the colors, the time of day, possible location etc., the viewers have begun to form a notion of what all these details mean to them and are able construct possible explanations.

One of the groups I spoke to hypothesized that since we could not see the face of the man in the photos he was being stalked. The seeming lack of composition was another clue that led the viewers to this conclusion; they thought images looked more like surveillance photos. Another group thought that in the middle right frame the man was stepping onto a trap door and the last two photos were of him trying different ways to get back to where he had come from.

Since I have looked at and studied this series of photos I find it difficult to separate what my initial reaction might be to it had I not studied the artist already but these images do remind me of my own personal stories that are similar.  I assume that it is the same man in each photo and that he is wandering. I know that this does not mean he is lost. It seems that we’re following a man in Spain or Italy; so much of sight seeing as a tourist entails aimless wandering. The first time I travelled alone I went to Brussels and I was constantly aware of how both self sufficient I felt and how extremely alone and terrified I was. I knew that no one in the entire world knew where I was. For however long I was to stay in Brussels, I was off the grid, and to an extent, vulnerable.

This man seems to be travelling alone. In Brussels I loved that I was alone but I secretly hoped to fall into an adventure with someone I would meet there but the reality of allowing a stranger to be the only person who knew where I was scared me to death. I was also nervous because I basically had a conveyer belt of foreign men walking by me and hitting on me. That scared me also, I was not willing to trust or talk to any of them. It felt wrong and too dangerous. I preferred to eat my waffles and drink my beer alone. I preferred to walk through the parks and find the museums alone.

I travelled alone because I was spending a few weeks in England with family and while everyone was busy during the week I wanted to go on an adventure of my own. I assume the man in the photos is older than I was when I travelled alone and I wonder on the reasons why an older man would travel alone; I assume older men travel mostly for business when they’re alone. A few students assumed the same thing and that since he was probably in what looked like Italy he probably worked for the mafia.

These are the conjectures that make for a really personal and insightful evaluation.

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