When photography blurs the lines between reality and fiction - Annachiara Biondi
Digital photographer Dominic Hawgood has centred his artistic career on a problematic, yet poignant question: is it possible to attain the real through staged images? His focus is not on the answer, which is often elusive, but on the quest itself, which has led him to explore different aspects of reality, its perception and its resulting representation via the photographic medium. As a consequence, Hawgood never conceals the staging of his shoots, but enhances it through an accurate and perfectly orchestrated use of lights, backdrops and composition, making it an inherent component of the final image. For example, in The Beginning of the End a series of common and familiar items – a wooden chair, a tyre, a box of PG Tips – are removed from their everyday setting to be shot against a pitch-black backdrop, producing an unsettling and un-contextualised representation of the usually domestic objects.
More recently, Hawgood has explored the possibility of capturing a profoundly private and intimate experience as Glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, which, according to the Christian Pentecostal Church, is the ability of speaking a sacred, biblical language. The series, titled The Conversation, depicts a number of women in the moment of bliss, mind and body lost into the holy and miraculous exchange with God. Yet, the photographs are once again openly staged, the shoots taken against cold urban backgrounds and featuring artificially arranged lights, blurring the lines between reality and cinematic artificiality. Presenting this intense combination of authenticity and fiction, the artist wants us to question the limits of photography in representing reality and, at the same time, he challenges our common understanding of clearly staged images as fictional. Ultimately in fact, the experience lived by the women of The Conversation it is not any less authentic because of its artificial photographic representation.
The London-based artist, whose work is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection, has also explored the conflict between reality, fiction and photography from a theoretical point of view during his studies in MA Photography at the Royal College of Arts. In The Therapeutic Real, his final thesis, Hawgood presents a new approach to realism in photography, which represents a useful support for better understanding his work and a stimulating starting point for further research on the matter.
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, DOMINIC HAWGOOD, 2016