Psychogeography and Drift Photography

Not to find one’s way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal. It requires ignorance — nothing more. But to lose oneself in a city — as one loses oneself in a forest — that calls for a quite different schooling. Then, signboard and street names, passers-by, roofs, kiosks, or bars must speak to the wanderer like a cracking twig under his feet in the forest.

-Walter Benjamin, A Berlin Chronicle 1

  • One easily slips into a comfortable yet perfunctory existence, unaware that the potential imprisonment of consumer culture in addition to the modern city’s enslavement to capitalism
  • slowness, an idleness in which methods for realizing a personal, artistic and spatial reclamation can be found
  • camera as an investigative tool
  • Author Merlin Coverley describes one of the principal qualities of psychogeography as walking as an “act of subversion.”3He explains that by leisurely exploring “marginal and forgotten areas,” one is able to “challenge the official representations”4 of the city.
  • In an age of acceleration, deliberately slow exploration contains a degree of political radicalism, as an “affront to the time equals money equation”5and by refusing to conform to society’s capitalist rhythms.
  • By walking for its own sake, instead of from point A to point B (or from car to boutique), one discovers an alternate mode of movement and opens up to new experiences, human interactions and a revolutionary use of public space.6
  • “casual eye of the stroller with the purposeful gaze of the detective.”9
  • exploring “new ways of apprehending our urban environment
  • “the photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno.”
  • the flâneur is not so much interested in the city’s official realities but in its neglected and forgotten streets, aiming to expose some kind of unseen reality or to capture a hidden truth, “as a detective apprehends a criminal.
  • for a practice that seeks to bypass such social subjectification through the appreciation of details and traces, clues that exist in the present but suggest a degree of loss.
  • should seek not to make “generalizations about the condition of man”19
  • aim to expose the tension wrought by gentrification through the establishment of work that looks backward towards a disappearing past and forward to an emerging future, a prospect that seems marred by the erosion of public space and an increased lack of diversity.
  • With drift photography, importance is placed more on process and experience than final output, acting as an alternative to mass-produced, photojournalistic “good photography”20which, as a practice, is merged with productivist values, dominated by aesthetics and largely influenced by capitalism.
  • As an alternate to certain forms of documentary practices that seek to cleanse the senses or reveal to others hidden details of a world around them, the work of drift photographers seeks only to say, “This was here,” and in turn, “I was here,” stubbornly pointing to the trace of what once was but no longer is.
  • suggest some sort of previous physical presence from a real event
  • methodologies of the flâneur embody this loss as a wander who is physically present but temporally removed.

The process of seeking out traces and excavating clues that embody a past, present and future attempts to affirm the physical and psychological condition of Cincinnati, a city ripe with history, texture and mystery.

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