Signs of Our Times Artist Statement

“To see something spectacular and recognize it as a
photographic possibility is not making a very big leap. But to see something
ordinary, something you’d see every day, and recognize it as a photographic
possibility – that is what I am interested in.”
– Stephen Shore

I was born, raised and am still living in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Johannesburg is itself a city born from the need for money, wealth and dreams fulfilled. The photographs of this series
have been made in and around Johannesburg during my journeys as a sales engineer, working for an industrial cooling company.

The work is the first volume of what is intended to be a continual photographic exploration of signage, public
proclamations and semiotics.

In this first series, I’ve set out to frame elements in the urban landscape to present a story that is slightly different
from the one intended by those who erected the signs that anchor the images. I have found myself marvelling at the scale of effort given to such a subliminal part of our culture and built environment.

These photographs have been made with a large format 8”x10” camera, using colour film, during the course of 2010 –
2011. The wonderful nature of large format photography is that it produces extremely fine detail that allows the viewer into the frame to further explore the image, as well as subtexts found alongside and within the primary subjects.

These stories are aesthetic, ironic, absurd, critical or even just about nothing. Irony is a key element that runs through the series. Sometimes it’s subtle and other times more prominent, which make these images multi-layered in their narrative.  Particular elements are always the anchors in these images and the primary reason for creating the photograph. Irony is produced via the context of the sign, it is also the story within the sign in tandem with the sign’s real-time place in the world.

©Tristan McLaren 2022
Using Format