This is something I’ve been meaning to Blog about for a while now, not sure why I’m doing it now, but well, why not? I say a while, since September would be the more accurate way of putting it, because that’s when I went to Banksy’s Dismaland, in Weston-super-Mare. It took me and my friend just over an hour to drive there and after queuing for a few hours, in the wind and sometimes rain coming in off the sea, we finally made it to the bit where you pay and duly paid the £3 entry fee.
As we walked from the bit where you paid for Dismaland and to the actual entrance of the former Tropicana site, I got stopped for a bag search, which is what we’ve come to expect in recent years wherever you go. As well as the things you’d normally expect them to be looking for, they were also looking for pens and anything you might be able to use to deface the art works with. They were also interested in the size of the lens on my camera. The lens I had on was my 28 – 300mm zoom lens, which is a chunky bit of kit. The security person conducting the search (I say search, he never once touched my possessions as I was willingly showing him the contents of my bag) looked at it and said something along the lines of, ‘Hmmm, I think that might be too big. They don’t like it if you’ve got too big a lens.’
I was a little taken aback as I had checked the website before going to make sure I would be allowed to take my camera, and I didn’t see any mention about restrictions. I looked at the man in question in a slightly puzzled way and he sort of shrugged his shoulders. ‘I don’t really know about these things, but they might ask you to leave.’ I wasn’t going to argue with him, as he was just doing his job (and he was also a lot bigger than me). ‘I’ve got a smaller lens, will that be OK?’ I asked, more concerned about avoiding having to traipse back to my car if I couldn’t take it in, than I was with not being able to take my camera in with me. ‘They’ll probably be OK with that,’ He said. So I changed my lens outside, in the wind blowing off the sand (mud) of the beach – with a few spots of rain thrown in for good measure – before carrying on into Dismaland.
I spent some time thinking through the reasoning behind me having to change my lens, and to an extent I can understand it; they don’t want people taking photos of artwork and making prints to sell, meaning the artists miss out on income. But my ability to do that, should I have wanted to do that, would not have been hampered by putting on the different lens. Also, most camera phones are capable of producing images of high enough quality to reproduce prints theses days, so the whole thing seemed very odd. I guess they couldn’t stop people using their phones, people suffer some kind of anxiety attack if they have have their phones off for five minutes these days.
I went there as both a person interested in the art work and as a photographer. As a member of the public who likes art, I took photos of the artwork on display. These images I won’t be sharing, other than with close friends and family, as they act as a record of things I have seen; most people taking photos do so for the memories.
As a photographer (artist) I took photos of what I observed in that particular environment, at that moment in time. You may well be asking yourself what the difference is. Taking photos of other people’s artwork isn’t artistic. Other people’s artwork can constitute a part of your photograph, but only if you’re adding a different context to it or making it a small part of something much larger. Here is a selection of photos from that day spent in Dismaland.