The powerful temporary coalitions of corporations and government institutions that sieze the times and places wherein are enacted the moments which materialise as mega-event spectacles, like the London Olympic Games, and the periods within which they interact are difficult to describe. Photography is well suited to recording places and periods undergoing significant change. I am familiar with the photo essay from the 20th Century as printed in magazines and also with photo compilations published in books.
When I began work on this project I realised that the still camera work which I most value was generally initiated by me and that I have taken most of my own pictures in urban settings. I have been interested in urban development issues for almost as long as I have been taking pictures. I worked in the Town Planning Department of an Inner London Borough in the 1960’s. Three books which I still own from that time, which informed my understanding are, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, London the Unique City, Steen Eiler Rasmussen, and The Government of Housing, David Donnison.
My research into the role which the Olympics performs for growth coalitions within urban development settled, apart from talking and listening to people and taking photos, into following thinkers about urbanisation and agents of change via the internet then following these through by reading reports and books of their work.
“Knowledge is a mode of conduct, a passion. At bottom, an impermissible mode of conduct: like dipsomania, sex mania, homicidal mania, the compulsion to know forms its own character that is off-balance. It is simply not so that the researcher pursues the truth; it pursues him. He suffers it. What is true is true, and a fact is real, without concerning itself about him: he’s the one who has a passion for it, a dipsomania for the factual, which marks his character, and he doesn’t give a damn whether his finding will lead to something human, perfect, or anything at all. Such a man is full of contradictions and misery. And yet he is a monster of energy!”
“And-?” Walter asked
“What do you mean, ‘And-?'”
“Surely you are not suggesting we can leave it at that?”
“I would like to leave it at that,” Ulrich said calmly. “Our conception of our environment, and also of ourselves, changes every day. We live in a time of passage. It may go on like this until the end of the planet if we don’t learn to tackle our deepest problems better than we have so far. Even so, when one is placed in the dark, one should not begin to sing out of fear, like a child. And it is mere singing in the dark to act as though we knew how we are supposed to conduct ourselves down here; you can shout your head off, it’s still nothing but terror. All I know for sure is: we are galloping! We’re still a long way from our goals, they’re not getting any closer, we can’t even see them, we’re likely to go on taking wrong turns, and we will have to change horses; but one day–the day after tomorrow, or two thousand years from now–the horizon will begin to flow and come roaring towards us!”
Dusk had fallen. “No one can see my face now,” Ulrich thought. “I don’t even know myself whether I’m lying.”He spoke as one does when making an uncertain snap judgement about the result of decades of uncertainty. It occurred to him that this youthful dream he had just unfurled for Walter had long since turned hollow. He didn’t want to go on talking.”
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities, (1930 – 43), In Conversation with Walter and Clarisse, Ulrich Turns Out to be a Reactionary, p231
“Ultimately we have to become our practice” Pema Chodron