The Unseen of Contemporary Society

strollers II

strollers II

There’s comes a point in the life of most people where you realise you are quite invisible to a certain generation. You may well have experienced this invisibility. Perhaps wandering in the vicinity of an institute of higher education, seeing a student handing out fliers, and it’s not just that they look at you and assess that you are unlikely to be interested in the union lock-in sleep-in, but that they don’t even see you walking by.

A while back, I was looking for images of ordinary old people for some work I wanted to do. I scanned through magazines. Nothing. Even general magazines for 40+ women were full of images of high-gloss adverts for high-maintenance living. There were no magazines aimed at old people at all (at least that I could find), so I gave up and realised I would just have to rely on my surreptitious sketchbook work.

Strollers III

Strollers III

I suppose now that my antennae have been twanged on this great omission in the media presentation of ‘society’, I am ever more conscious of the ever-increasing gap between the images we are bombarded with, and the actual reality of how how people really are in daily life. I was particularly aware of this trundling up and down the high street yesterday of a small market town on market day. I took a whole load of photos to try and capture a fragment of this ‘reality’.

I think it is an interesting contrast with the pervasive images usually published of celebrities stepping out to shop.

seated couple

seated couple

shopper IV

shopper IV

shopping I
shopping I

My lingering concern is that it is now so unusual to see everyday street shots of ordinary people that there is a danger of appearing patronising in publishing them.  Ordinary people: only worth photographing in the name of art? Well, there is undeniably an artist at work here. All I can say with certainty is that I am driven by a concern to depict a ‘reality’, whatever that may be.

These ‘ordinary people’ do not sport designer jeans or carry must-have totes. They drag shopping trolleys behind them, and use polythene bags.

I have experienced the invisibility of middle age, but I suspect it has nothing on the invisibility of old age.

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