Rational “Being is Existing”
Initially, an investigation into the capitalist society, specifically advertising and branding, was the focus of the project by photographer, Joseph Mayers’. The aim was to illustrate how materialistic values and self-interest creates a world of illusion, designed for corporate profit at the expense of honesty and integrity.
Through further research, the scope of the project expanded. It was then necessary to decide upon a main focus.
The artists who were the most significant influence throughout, helped the photographer to decide on the central themes to explore in studio work. Jackson Pollock has been an integral influence. Through expressional mark making, Pollock represents society, conveying the sporadic and chaotic nature of life. His style shows a sense of honesty, which evokes his own deep emotion about the world today. The photographer has taken the essence of Pollock’s work and looked further into the nature of being, to derive his own personal understanding of existence.
The raw emotion shown explicitly in Francis Bacon’s paintings have also had a significant influence on the photographer’s work. Distortion is used by Bacon and the photographer to express the experience of the anxiety of the modern condition; Bacon’s abstract portraits have suggested to the photographer how the theme of internal anxiety can be expressed in photographic distortion, focusing on the head to symbolise the conscious and unconscious mind, which is subjected to anxiety in the modern world.
The research led the artist to concentrate on the nature, insecurity and transience of being, which is reflected within the body of work. This lead to ideas regarding the bombardment of suggestions and expectations relayed by advertising and branding, which affects the ordinary, everyday person. The strong feelings which followed from this, have resulted in an effort to summarise these effects, using photographic techniques. Mayers intends to explore the way in which he attempts to portray life in contemporary society, using his own understanding of the world today.
The final major project is expressionist portraiture, focusing on studio images of blurred and distorted faces; representing a true and honest confusion around what it actually means to exist, hence the title “Being is Existing”. With the aim to experiment with exposure lengths and lighting styles, the photographer has attempted to recreate a true, authentic, lucid, emptiness in the photography.
Mayers also looked further into existential ideologies, asking, “What is it like to be a human in the world?”, “How can we understand human freedom?” and “What does it really mean to be free?”.
Through placing his subjects within an empty environment, free from the control of society, he attempts to answer such questions. By using empty space in the image, Mayers intends to put the subjects in a hostile and isolated environment, lacking in colour, meaning or symbols, as if being detached from the symbolic order. This reveals the human being in their true form; naked and vulnerable. The blurring of the faces removes the subject’s identity, preventing the viewer from stereotyping or associating themselves with the photograph’s subject. This creates a thought-provoking image filled with a mysterious ambiguity. The photographer has produced images which show a simple honesty, and achieve a purity through rigorous refinement. The images show the ordinary person subjected to a constant bombardment of expectations, resulting in a state of conscious and unconscious confusion.
Mayers pulled major inspiration from the works of Fine Art photographer Laurence De Memaison, who focuses mainly on using herself as the subject matter. She creates disorientating, distorted, blurred images which are full of emotion and movement, capturing a ghostly and eerie aesthetic. De Memaison draws on the technical possibilities of film, experimenting with exposure times, the focus and the contrast to create extremely thought provoking imagery. Mayers has taken elements of her work and made these his own by using a similar aesthetic, depicting emotion and mood, and through tying this to his own very personal thoughts and concept. His approach in the studio is both refined and rigorous; creating a body of work which is consistent in style, aesthetic and technique, representing the human form in an honest and open state.
“Art’s power is a psychological power… In a rational society the artist should play the role of a virus, like a computer virus. A very small design is capable of effecting change throughout the entire world, and this change brings about chaos, so it’s actually a process of eliciting vigilance of the rational world… This consciousness of cultural and psychological subversion is where the power of a work of art lies.” (Ai Weiwei,1995)
Although Mayers would not be so bold to make claims that his work could change the world, he does hope to create works that draws the viewers into a contemplative state, in order to make them take a step back and reflect upon themselves and their place in the world for a few minutes.
Mayers states, “I see myself more of an artist, using the medium of photography to project the paintings of my own conscious thought”.
The work could be expressed through different artistic and photographic genres, ranging from fine art expressionism to documentary typologies, with the intent to communicate the nature of existence and truth. The project should attract a wide audience ranging from the fine art and photographic communities, who are interested in its intent and concept development.
The personal nature of this project means that it is not going to be finished at any point, and will only be completed when the artist feels there is no longer room for development.