Tracy Dyan Edser

Tierney Foundation Project Report 2

Tracy Dyan Edser

2 November 2008


This month has been significantly less productive; I have struggled to contact people and organize to meet with and photograph them. Many of the people I met in treatment have returned to full time jobs and are therefore only available on weekends; others have gone away and several are simply very busy. It has been difficult to structure my time and the project around this, but I have tried to use the time to further research into the drug problem and treatment in Jo’burg. I found a couple of newspaper articles published in the last 2 years that addressed recovery and treatment centres in Jo’burg and took down quotes from the articles that highlighted some of the experiences of addicts and theories on the nature of addiction and recovery.



The thing I have struggled most with is approaching each person I photographed creatively and creating with them a beautiful and powerful image. The compositions I come up with in my head for each person are better there – in my head – and I am struggling to realize them on film. Lester’s feedback on the formality of my images so far was really useful to hear. He also drew my attention to the fact that not every photograph has to be of a person; a lot about their story can be told by other things.  I am going to approach the next month with this in mind, opening up my mind and field of vision a little more to allow for (hopefully) more creative solutions and images. I would also like to spend more time talking to each person before photographing them. I have been doing so, but I created a pretty pressured timetable for myself in the first month and didn’t allow enough time with each person, learning about them.



My shoots will continue this month and my on the side of ethics in photography I’d like to read Susan Sontag’s “On Photography”, which Lester suggested. I read passages from the work during my Fine Arts studies at Wits and I think it could bring a lot to my understanding and approach with this project.



Tierney Foundation Project Report 4

Tracy Dyan Edser

21 January 2009


While shoots continue slowly I have had a great meeting with Mr. Subotzky who introduced me to the work of Jessica Dimmock, Jacob Aue Sobol and Jim Goldberg. I have also collected work by Daido Moriama, Antoine D’Agata and Ryan McGinley, which has broadened my perspective on the kinds of feel and interest that can be brought to my subject. Dimmock’s work “The Ninth Floor” is especially inspirational. She spent around three years documenting the lives of a group of young addicts in New York and my first impression is one of trust and welcome. She has managed to capture intimate moments as if she was not even present. This is something I would love to achieve but I think it would take more time than I have.



Through looking at the work of established and creative photographers, and after chatting with Mr. Subotzky, I am getting a much clearer idea of how to go about creating mood and dynamism, as many of the shots I have been getting seem stagnant and lifeless, posed and self-conscious.  



I have made one simple (but I feel critical) decision which is to get off my tripod and shoot more freely even in low light, as the tripod set up seems to keep me and the person I am photographing stuck in a “photo shoot” feel. I feel inhibited and unable to catch more natural moments if I am in a fixed position, and the person I am photographing seems to feel more like a “model” or subject rather than simply a friend I am visiting with my camera.



As mentioned, shoots are slow and difficult to organize. Many of the people I have met and approached about being part of the project are now living busy lives, and because I don’t see many of them socially, we have to make “appointments” to photograph which feels pressurized and unnatural. I am going to try and get around this by trying to see each person multiple times and photographing much more.



Research-wise I was able to see a film documentary on methamphetamine called “The Most Dangerous Drug in the World”. I have also managed to get hold of a copy of Sontag’s “On Photography” and have started reading it.



Rather than begin editing what I have, Mr. Subotzky and I have decided that I must keep shooting, re-visiting the people whose portraits feel unsuccessful and broadening what I look at. He suggested I include contextual shots of places and scenes in Joburg, to locate and vary the work. I’m quite excited to do this and am trying not to feel inhibited by technical considerations. The work I have looked at by other photographers seems to get a lot of its powerful effect from an atmosphere and mood created by dodgy technique. I’m aware of relying too much on this idea and hopefully will find a balance between a unique visual feel and powerful subjects.