Another weekend, another canteen shoot. This time it took me into a Dublin department store, courtesy of another one of my lovely friends in photography, J___. After shooting my main 4×5 shots, I preceded with my usual digital exploration of the places in question. And one shoot in J___ commented: “Oh, you are like me, you do just go and shoot.”
What you see below is a typical example of my policy of non-intervention. When I go on shoots for my canteen project or any other documentary-style shoot, I never touch my environment. I do not change anything around me. Just as my friends get me warts and all, I also shoot warts and all: I believe that reality can only be reproduced adequately if we do not intervene with its shape and form. Mind you, I am aware that me making a picture is already a form of intervention. Just the act of pressing the shutter release will result in only an interpretation of reality but not representation of reality.
The truth of the matter is, of course, that I am a lazy slob. I just don’t like getting my fingers dirty and as a rule I do as little cleaning and tidying as I can get away with. Especially in places that I am not responsible for. Just kidding! I am of course a textbook German Hausfrau (although I wouldn’t really recommend anyone to eat from my kitchen floor… my standards have slipped after 13 years of life in Ireland…)! But when I am shooting documentary, prettying the environment up would alter its essence, would mean that I am interfering with its message.
Yes, I could have made this shot more symmetrical. I could have moved the two stools that are half visible at the left and right of the image. I could have taken the salt cellar from the left table and moved the table from the foreground. But messiness is a sign of life, of a place being lived in and used. This is a working canteen and not a showroom for canteen furniture.
I like messy. It’s real. And so am I. (On both accounts.)