I came across this website recently, called London’s Overthrow. It’s created by novelist China Mieville, here writing and photographing something which I suppose is a sort of photo-essay, though it relies a good deal on the luminescence of a computer screen for its full effect I think – a web-photo-essay, then.
The writing is a Sinclair-inspired mix of novelistic description and journalism. Photographs are scattered throughout. They are striking, a cameraphone used, as he says, to “freeze the halo from streetlamps, the occluded moon, night buses”. London’s ordinary spaces and streets seem to be dissolving in the glare of lights, rain and digital blur.
Each page of the web-photo-essay has some images and text, the text playing with the light that makes the images, framing it differently. So sometimes the lights are power and privilege in glowing display; sometimes surveillance; sometimes they’re about visibility, the city as preening spectacle and the diversity of spectators; sometimes it’s about blur, deadness, filtered unclarity; others are coloured grotesques. All are “a lit-up memory of now” and like, all memories, an uncertain mix of filtered perceptions.
This web-photo-essay thing, then, plays with the relation between text and photograph quite precisely, putting the digitality of the webpage to work as both page and light. The text and image play off one another, the former emphasising the exact quality of the latter that matters: the light. Not the description of an urban landscape but the light the camera requires to show it. Light becomes the problematic rather than the solution. Clever.