The Staged Photograph

Instant Nomad #2548, copyright Douglas Stockdale

A recent call for photographs by the SouthEast Center for Photography in which the theme was The Staged Photograph triggered a recall of the photographs I had created for my series Instant Nomad. This is one of those projects that I have thought about on and off for a number of years, slowly acquiring additional images to fill in the blanks. This is while working on another long term project I am connecting with some of my underlying feelings that have been difficult to stick a pin in and that includes the concepts behind Instant Nomad.

In the overview of the call, they state for Staged Photograph that “photographers have long utilized the medium to create a contrived environment, scene, or vignette to communicate something other than the decisive traditionally associated with the medium. Staging gives the artist the opportunity to make very specific and careful choices, in order to control every element and even sometimes to give the appearance of spontaneity.” For me, the classic staged photograph is an advertising photograph, in which the framing, models, props, background are all contrived, e.g. “fake” meant to create an emotional response to sell something. Thus when I created the photograph above, I had not thought of this as being a “Staged Photograph”, but in retrospect, what was I thinking?

Essentially the idea for this image was to create a hollow shell as a potential self-portrait as a representation of an individual who is an Instant Nomad, as most professionals who need to travel seem to be. Momentarily in one place and then off again to another. And I was constantly traveling when I came up with this concept, spending about half my time in California and the other half roaming around various countries in Western Europe for my day-job. A lot of time in transcontinental airlines, airports, hotels, rental cars, restaurants as well a variety of meeting rooms. But only at each place momentarily…

For this particular photograph I was in business coach on an Air France flight I think heading back to Los Angeles. I had a habit that everything I need for a particular trip, regardless of the duration, was packed in a soft carry on, thus my wardrobe ‘props’ were very convenient. After setting this up, I made a few exposures from an adjacent seat, but when I stood up to make a broader composition, the crew in the back of the section came scurrying up to inform that photographs were not permitted. sigh.

After thinking about this photograph for the past few days, I decided not to submit it to SEC4P while I continue to work on the larger project. Nevertheless, while preparing to discuss this photograph today it has been an ideal time to help further crystalize my thoughts on this dormant body of work.



PS; since posting this article, I have updated the photograph’s title to something a little bit more ambiguous.

Next exhibition:

May 7th – 29th, 2021, Southeast Center for Photography (SEC4P), Greenville, South Carolina. A group photographic exhibition on the theme of Flora, juried by Wendi Schneider. Opening concurrent with Greenville’s First Friday events while there will not be a formal artists reception of this exhibition due to the pandemic.


3 thoughts on “The Staged Photograph

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    1. Thanks Rainer!

      I am still evaluating your new Digital Hasselblad equipment decision; a couple of friends made similar decisions, nevertheless a few others went the Fuji the GFX 100 route. Why did you not like about the GFX 100?

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