Cutting corners

Welding, Philip (2019) Cutting corners. FORMAT International Photography Festival.

Abstract

The output is a creative project, Cutting Corners, comprising a collection of photography. Research process: This project takes as it’s starting point photographs from the British Safety Council (BSC) archive and the continual stream of vernacular photographs on Instagram to critique the performative, humorous and absurd nature of these scenarios. Mobile phone technology has enabled depictions of unsafe practices to be widely documented, distributed and accessed. The proliferation of these photographic warnings has increased dramatically. The photographs in ‘Cutting Corners’ show fictional health and safety problems, produced specifically for the project. Once photographed, the scenarios were swiftly dismantled and only the photographs remain as evidence. Research insights: People will do anything to cut corners. Or so it seems when browsing Instagram, where many photographs depict health and safety ‘fails’ that seem to celebrate others’ misfortune. A builder balances a ladder on a couple of buckets for that extra reach; a painter straps a house lamp to his head to illuminate the ceiling. There is a desire to see the mistakes of others because it makes us laugh and feel superior. Their methods may be lazy, but they are creative and surprisingly inventive. Photographs of hazards began life in earnest in the pamphlets of the BSC, and are now perpetuated and exaggerated through Instagram. The production of the work for and in response to the festival is an innovative approach, and sets it apart from the majority of the projects shown at the festival. The photographs are humorous, but they also highlight specific changes in the representation of hazards through vernacular imagery. Warnings of potential hazards were once controlled by the British Safety Council. Now, everyday users of photography take on this role and through exaggerated and absurd imagery the message is being effectively proliferated. Dissemination: The project was disseminated at the FORMAT International Photography Festival, Derby, 14 April – 11 May 2019.

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