What is the relationship between photography and sound?
In today’s visually-dominated culture, how can we use sound to respond to what we see around us?
Sound Photography is a unique global project uniting sound artists and photographers curated by Cities and Memory.
The largest ever worldwide collaboration between photographers and sound artists, this is a unique collection of stunning images covering 34 countries across six continents – each with a corresponding sonic composition built around it.
More than 160 photographers and sound artists from 32 countries took part in the project, making it the largest global artistic interaction between photographers and sound artists.
Photographs in the project cover everywhere from Djibouti and Botswana to India, Vietnam and Australia, and include:
– Iconic locations such as Tiananmen Square, the Empire State Building and Copacabana Beach;
– Political protests, social commentary and photojournalistic stories;
– Environmental studies and nature photography;
– Some of the world’s most beautiful cities, including Paris, Venice, Kyoto and Chefchaouen (Morocco’s “blue city”).
The sounds created in response demonstrate an extraordinary breadth of creative approaches including:
– Recordings of melting ice, floating driftwood, electromagnetic fields or words translated into 20 languages;
– Using the raw data from a photograph to construct brand new sounds;
– Using elements of the image as musical notation from which to build new melodies;
– Collections of historical sound recordings from the location of the photograph to bring its past to life;
– Sonic fairytales assembled from legendary fictional tales through the ages.
Photograph #38 – Signs Followers by Lauren Pond
Rattlesnake Pastor by Museleon
The description of the photograph is –
“A yellow timber rattlesnake winds around the body of Pastor Mack Wolford, a Pentecostal Signs Follower, during a worship service in southern West Virginia in May 2011. Holding a literal interpretation of the King James Bible’s Mark 16: 17 – 18 which lists the signs of true believers, Signs Followers, also known as serpent handlers, take up venomous snakes during their worship services”
There were several things that attracted me to this photograph and I could ‘hear’ the image from first seeing it. What became clear is the piece I wanted to create would consist of sonic ideas of what you can actually see and the underlying story and meanings you can read into the image.
The photograph is striking firstly because of the colour, which is predominantly green. This sounded in my head like green noise, which can be found in the sounds of nature. I chose two natural sounds, wind and water as they have many associations with faith. I used both to represent not only the overall hue but also, the wind represents ideas of the spirit moving and the snake. The water also has significance to the sweat on Pastor Mack Wolford’s shirt, the heat and also of baptism.
There was obviously, the rattlesnake, draped over his shoulder, somewhat passive but dangerous. Since the snake was called Sheba, I thought of a temptress and also a link to the voice of the snake in the Garden of Eden. I used a whispering sample, also found on Freesound, and processed the sounds to create echoes representing Sheba and the idea of tempting voices in your ear. Her voice becomes clearer at the end, although I’ve left it up to the listener to decide what she means.
On further reading about the community via Lauren Pond’s site I found out that sadly, Pastor Mack Wolford was fatally bitten by a rattlesnake during a service in May 2012. Somehow I wanted to try to covey how powerful his faith must have been in the face of death, especially as he did not wish medical treatment. I researched the traditional music of the Appalachians and since Pastor Mack Wolford was a guitar player, I used a tape head dulcimer sample, courtesy of songsticks on Freesound as a perfect sonic representation of the heat, the Appalachians and the Pastor himself. I also created a dulcimer / guitar based synth sound to add the traditional folk hymn ‘What wondrous love is this?’ representing his faith.
After reading more about the community and Lauren Pond’s photographic project I somehow knew I wanted to try and portray what Lauren Pond had stated when asked by American Photo, ‘How did you make these deeply religious subjects comprehensible to viewers who don’t share their faith?
“ I think with religion, in general, it’s very easy to put people into boxes or categories, but I think once you get to know the people behind that, and their culture and who they are, it really can help shape your understanding of the religious practice a lot more. That’s what I’m trying to convey through my images and I hope that’s what people will pick up on.”
I could have taken many routes with this picture but I have tried to create something in keeping with this ethos.