This project, completed as my final work on the MA Photography and Society at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, NL, explores globalisation's physical and visual presence in our lives through its most personal of enablers, the smartphone screen.
Available as a PDF for viewing on your own smartphone, the story blends images of Uganda and The Netherlands, and explores the uncomfortable visual homogeneity of modern labour through two industries - horticulture and last-mile logistics - which link the two nations together in ways that might not seem immediately obvious but which have deep social and economic significance.
This project is now evolving into a new research project of the same title. Follow along with me here!
This project occupies three distinct layers. The core is a photographic project exploring the intertwining of global trade using images from Uganda and The Netherlands. In Uganda I am an employer, and my company buys goods and services from around Kampala. My colleagues, friends and suppliers all feature in these images.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands I am a freelancer, working for myself and for others and exposed to the free market's storms. I worked as a cycle courier, employed via my cellphone, and also visited key parts of the horticultural industry, reliant on places like Uganda for supply and powered by zero-hour contract workers.
These images were then arranged into a PDF designed for circulation on smartphones, to situate the images back within the context of the same machine that makes these industries possible and profitable. Many of the images visible in the backgrounds (and sometimes foregrounds) of the PDF's pages are screenshots from apps used while occupied with my own work as a courier, adverts for employment encountered on social media, or pieces of digital ephemera which form part of capitalist realism's tapestry of reinforcement.
Finally I rephotographed my own screen as I browsed the book during my everyday life, recontextualising the images and the book in new and unexpected ways. This final act specifically draws on a concept I theorised during the course, which I call the circuitum, the layer of meaning an image gains from the sites in which it is seen and the screens on which it is encountered. The circuitum acknowledges the screen as a personalised space formed by its user in collaboration with algorithms, and asks the viewer to consider what that specific sight and sensation of seeing changes about the image itself.
The work ties in to my thesis, The Networked Audience, which argues that photography is failing to adequately respond to the possibilities of digital image distribution. That text can be accessed here. It is a work in progress, and forms the basis of an ongoing research project. You can see the images, as well as various associated texts, visual experiments and other files, here. You can also read my thesis in 30 tweets here.