Flogging a dead Horse by Paul Reas

My tutor recommended this book to me in connection with my own interest in the heritage and culture industry around tourism.  Originally while working on the piece I looked up the images online but eventually I had to buy the book.  Paul Reas has a knack for taking what is right in front of us all day, everyday and examining it under the microscope.  Where many of us might believe that things are what they seem his work suggests the deeper meanings in the everyday.  This book dismantles the tourism and heritage industry with precision and exposes the way it takes the image of  past industries such as coal mining and scrubs them of all the nasty, brutish, industrial horror, sanitizing them for modern consumption by people looking for diversion and amusement while on day trips and holidays.  It describes how british industrial history has been white washed and reinvented to be peddled on as plastic souvenirs, T-shirts and beer mats.  

What I have taken away from the book to incorporate into my own practice is that I can expand my exploration of the exploitation of Irish culture to look at it in its many forms.  This is a subject that I have only scratched the surface of.  A couple of days ago I visited a heritage park in Wales and I found the people who were in the park more interesting than the museum itself.  I viewed it completely different after seeing Flogging a dead horse and the entire time I was there I tried to see it the way Paul Reas would, I questioned everything.  There seemed to be a procession of older people on coach tours who looked like they were in purgatory, sometimes it felt like God’s waiting room, they looked like they were there under sufferance really, like heritage is something you must do, like an obligation.  As well as them there was the obligatory camera man (besides me) who busily photographed everything.


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Charlotte Tanguy

Another photographer I came across in the BJP.  In the article it mentions that her aesthetic has developed or revolved around walking over the past 3 years and the pictures in the article remind me a little of an odyssey or a dream.  There was a quotation here that I really thought was outstanding.  ” I wanted to explore how I perceive things when I am free from familiar frames of reference that restrict my gaze”.  I understand completely what she means by this, I have found myself very often either being unable to unlearn how I perceive the world or sometimes slipping into a parallel universe and suddenly things familiar are seen in a completely different way.  This sentence I love so much “photographs are everywhere, all the time – it’s just a question of being open to seeing them”.

Also she talks in the interview with how narratives are assembled.  She says’ I am not trying to tell a story:  I have an issue with images who’s narrative is obvious”  I was thinking the other day how one’s approach can become formulaic and I was thinking particularly in my own case how when I started this module assembling a series felt strange and difficult.  The I discovered the work of Mark Power – particularly Mass and also read about Walker Evans and Robert Frank’s approach.  When I approach my own series now I thing in terms of the bookends first – an opener and a closing image and then fill in the gaps so that one image runs into the next or appears to but I now finds this challenged by work like this and also by the work of Wolfgang Tilsman.  Their pieces seem freer, looser and perhaps this allows the viewer more room for imagination?