Phonar: Unphotographable Phiction


“This is a picture I did not take of a train conductor who approached me and asked, “are you a terrorist?” and then explained (while keeping his distance) that a few passengers were scared because they’d seen me taking a photograph of the train, and that he “had to check and see” what I was up to. It probably didn’t help that my Rolleiflex looks exactly like a dirty bomb and that my Boston Red Sox hat clearly shows that I am depraved enough to waste my time rigging said Rolleiflex with depleted uranium and an explosive disperser.

While this may not be a picture of a train conductor who was just doing his job, or of the scared Americans who believe that a man on a train platform with an antique camera and a cable release is a terrorist, it is a picture of the sad, desperate, hate-filled state of my country’s paranoia, which, with each televisable missive from that little house on the prarie of Pennsylvania Avenue, is turning its citizens into fear-based automatons that only respond to what’s on cable, (as long as it’s a station owned by Rupert Murdoch).

All hail the message when the message keeps you incurious, complacent, and scared straight out of your little, stupefied minds.”



For this task I went through numerous posts on the unphotographable phiction website but as I went through them I knew I didn’t want to make a literal translation and photograph what he is describing as a scene. I found with this post ‘Are You A Terrorist’ that he is referring more to a concept than an actual scene. Although he describes the scene similarly to the other posts on the blog, the concept I take away from this extract is that a message can alter a perception. In this example the message of fear is delivered probably from numerous media outlets and this message has led to this misreading of an innocent act of a photographer taking a photograph. The message has altered the perception of the general public in this case.

For my response to this task I wanted to experiment with this idea by using old material of my own. I decided to explore the sounds that have potentially influenced the images I have created in the past. For this piece I have recorded sounds from several Portishead songs as well as natural sounds of rain falling on a woodland floor. I feel like some of the music on my playlist has influenced my work because it has a similar feeling to them, the Portishead sounds have a subdued and meloncholic feeling that I personally get from the work I have selected. The rain sounds are more personal to me in that they remind me of certain memories from my past, and this is what this piece is about, looking back and seeing what messages have been delivered to me that feed into my perception of the world.


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