Chris Riley: Whose Work Is It Anyway?

Tension is the elemental force of creativity. Creativity is about making something new, pulling it out of the universe and presenting it to us so that we see differently and feel new feelings. A power of photography is that it plays with our sense of reality.

Photo: Taslima Akhter

Tension is the elemental force of creativity. Creativity is about making something new, pulling it out of the universe and presenting it to us so that we see differently and feel new feelings. A power of photography is that it plays with our sense of reality. The image made by one person is not the same as the image made by another of the same person, thing or place. “There  is the image he made and the image I made a few minutes later”, so spoke Morten Krogvold at Chobi Mela VI yesterday. In todays exploration of the image and the reality it constructs we ran the gamut of feelings. From the tragic loss of a parent without a clear and present narrative, to the competing stories of garment workers and the owners of the factories. The tension between alternative narratives was palpable as Taslima Akhter took us on a deep dive into the lives of factory workers in contrast to the fantasy lives of staged photographs and memento mori. In the audience was a garment factory owner, he wanted an additional narrative. And why not? Do we not all want stories that validate our sense of place in the world?

An issue raised by Majority World is that the stories we are steeped in are bought and paid for by a minority of people. The stories they want in the world validate their place in the world, a place of power and influence enabled by factory workers and marketplace fundamentalism. So why not change that and bring to the world the stories of its majority? This is another question raised at Chobi Mela VI today. Of course the minority own the media so finding acceptance will be hard and the tension between photographer and editor will continue. Whose story is it anyway? Artists can define the terms of acceptance, they earn it the hard way by a staying their course and not being beaten, risking financial success for personal vision. It was interesting to me that the definition of the photographer was itself up for grabs as the artist argued with the editor. An artist passionately avoids compromise. A photojournalist is reporting for a magazine. Both are sacred tasks within which the soul of the photographer is laid bare and the question remains thankfully unanswered: whose work is it anyway?

Originally published on the The Studioriley blog. Republished with kind permission.

Chris Riley is one of the leading strategic thinkers in advertising and marketing world wide. He led the worldwide strategic planning function of advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy from 1991 to 2002. Between 2005 and 2010 he was head of Strategic Planning in Apple Inc’s Graphic Design and Marketing Communication Group in Cupertino, California. He now runs Studioriley from Portland, Oregon.

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