Operated by John-Riley Harper. Dedicated to archiving photography from Utah's underground scenes, as well as other personal projects.

Bassnectar in Utah!
Bassnectar blew away all my expectations. Thank you: Chis Sick and all the others, for getting this organized and bringing an amazing party to the local area. Click the image above to get to the page of images. What follows is little more than my own thoughts on the photographic progress. It's probably boring to most and so it can certainly be ignored; writing is simply a way to articulate and reduce ambiguities in thought, and so I need it.

Bias is a complex issue in photography due to contradictions in the way people ingest and understand photographs. On one hand, the objective factuality behind a given image has been popularly dethroned; most people take for granted that photographs are only small slices in time aimed at a narrow field from a single perspective and mind frame. Although internalized, it seems that even deeper within the collective gut still lives the weird little feeling that - still - there is an objective truth being represented in an image. People don't seem to mind if a photograph makes them more beautiful than they really might be, but cringe when faced with the opposite. People don't tend to object if a photograph skews a memory into one that is preferred. And as we know, photos can become stronger than memories, coloring and shaping them. The picture becomes an unchanging reference point as our recollections slowly dim. If we gain much of our own identity through our own memories, that means that photographs - to at least some degree - have the power to alter who we think we are and were.

I am often amazed at how easy it is for a bias, a world view, to be spread by the process of selection. For example, although just about every club has a vastly disproportionate male/female ratio, photographs produced from these events would lead one to believe otherwise. It's the "chicks equal rockin' party" bias. Look at any photo set and count how many times a female is the focalpoint. These sets distort reality in a way that is obvious, but what about the biases that aren't so?

I don't post every photo I take. (Some people do, but I mostly put that down to laziness rather than a desire to be more objective.) It's been a matter of personal discipline to pay a lot of attention to editing down, especially to ease the suffering of viewers who might otherwise be met with blurry swarms of photographs and hordes of repetitions. However, as a goal, I attempt to represent - through 50-odd photographic perspectives - a kind of summary or approximation for what I felt encompassed the "vibe" of the night. By doing so, I may be removing images that actually did represent the night but did not represent what I wanted the night to have meant. Take the following two pixel puddles:

The first images was selected for the set. The other was eliminated and would never have made it to the glow of lcd screens if not for this particular digression. The photos are similar in composition and only a split-second apart, but the meanings are radically different. In the selected image, the focus is on camaraderie; the other takes on a sexual tinge (by freezing time, there is no way to know how long this hug lasted; it may have only been a moment, but the impression is that it could be lasting forever). If I was a club owner who wanted to portray a place as sexual dynamite or a pheremonal paradise (as many do), my selection would probably have been inverted. By examining both, the case could probably be made easily for my selection being the "truer" in representing the actual relationship of the two females, that they are indeed good friends and not overtly into one another. But does the trueness of their relationship reflect the truness of the party?

The image was selected because it captures a rare, semi-intimate moment of joy between two people. Was the night completely filled with these kinds of moments as a viewer might be led to believe? I've heard people say that my photo sets made a dismal party appear "off the hook". So where is the truth? My desire to make impressive looking photo might bias the actuality of the party. If photographs aim to be some sort of documentary record (or even anthropological), these questions must constantly be asked. My set could have easily been shaped to give another impression. Any photo set anywhere is produced from the biases of the photographer and a reality - or a desire for a reality - that existed in their head.

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