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  • Jon Longworth

Always Left. Never Right - The Lefts Constant Association With Art and Photography

A joke, I would always make with my friends and other people on my course is that if you're a photography student, you're always going to be either left leaning, in the LGBT or depressed. I made that in first year purely as comedic criticism on the course. I myself am all three, my friends are LGBT and left leaning or depressed and left leaning. It seems funny to make commentary on it, but eventually there became a realisation that everywhere you looked within this subject, someone always fit into this criteria. Even if you weren't gay, bisexual, transgender, depressed, you were always going to be left leaning to some extent. Obviously there's a flux in the left, as some people simply associate with the left, not tied to any party or ideal, but then you have people who have fully been converted over to Anarchism, Socialism, Communism among a long list of other political ideals. So the question is why there a unspoken bond between the left and art?

My first assumption is that when you look at art, you have to look at where its artists come from. People as a whole, are born as a result of social, political and cultural influences, and they live their lives off that raising.

People tend to get into these subjects of art and photography purely because they like them, in this day and age anyway. I photographed because it was an accessible interest, I liked the idea of constructing visuals. But as you get into the late educational stage of photography, such as A Levels or University level, you're suddenly exposed to all these artistic researchers, these explorers of critical theory, and the moment you start breaking down what they talk about, there is a sense of enlightenment, as well as a great loathing for the world. You examine documentary photography, lets say of the great depression, and you start to see people who have been negatively influenced by this capitalist market that we reside in. When society experiences these events, we always seem to put up with it as they happen, we'll make comments on how it is but there isn't an outcry for change. That state of presence leaves us thinking that what we are experiencing will end at some point, that we are purely existing in a state of time towards the end of something, that this economic downturn will end eventually, that inflation will stop rising. But then you look at documentary photography and realise: this has been happening for hundreds of years.

I always believe that documentary photography should remain neutral in what is trying to say, that you should leave the images to do the talking, rather than trying to speak for it. Once you accept the neutrality of it, and see how the world actually is through these photos, you start to realise that we are the victims of capital exploitation. Living in a state of debt slavery and financial suicide.

I think many photographers come to this realisation. I don't know if I can speak for every photographer ever but I can speak for the ones I know: the moment you lift the lid and experience first hand something that has happened as a result of this, then the lean towards the left begins. Photographers are exposed to it, and they have the physical proof to document it. And as photographers, that desire to photograph something truly honest is reached. You found the truth. And it is an ugly warped horror. To turn away from that means you're either incredibly ignorant or incredibly stupid. Like we learned with art students, we're often more than one thing, so maybe the people who turn away from it can be both.

I think I want to look at writing about this more in the future, but I think this is a good first foot in the door. The awareness that comes from photography is like a magnet. If you truly accept the things that you see, read about and photograph, then you're always going to be pulled to the side of the left.

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