Amy Romer: The Dark Figure


British documentary photographer Amy Romer's latest body of work is a project that explores modern slavery in the UK. I took a real interest in this series after she gave a guest lecture to us a month or so ago. As like the photographs I have been taking an interest in by other photographers in my research, she does not show her subject matter for this series in a literal way and instead photographs the places where these events occur. 

Her series is called The Dark Figure which refers to the estimation that there are 13,000 slaves in the UK today by the Home Office. In this series Romer has visited and photographed locations where cases of modern slavery have been reported. These square landscape photographs with their haunting captions detailing cases of modern slavery creates an incredibly powerful series that makes you realise that these horrible crimes are happening a lot closer to home then you think. 

What is particularly stirring about these photographs for a person who is from the UK to view is that all these places either are or look so familiar to us. The architecture and landscape in the UK does not vary that much so there is a real sense of emotional conflict for a viewer in viewing something so stirring that aesthetically presents us with the suburbs and landscapes we see all the time and yet these horrible things are happening or have happened within them. 

These photographs like some of the other documentary images I have looked at so far feel very quiet, almost to suggest the lack of witnesses or how we ignore and don't focus on these sinister things happening under our noses. The silence created by the lack of people in these photographs makes you question how safe we actually are and it really makes you consider how we view these seemingly ordinary places. 

This project isn't as quiet as it seems however and once you begin to read the captions whist looking at the photographs the series grows more insistent in making you aware that human trafficking isn't limited to a type of person or industry and that this problem exists everywhere. It makes you question why individually we are ignorant of this problem, which makes for an incredibly evocative series and really makes you confront and except that this problem exists. 

In terms of how looking this series can influence my own work it has really shown me just how powerful captioning can be and looking at the ways the photographers I have looked at have captioned their images is something I have been taking a lot of note of. In Romer's work I really like that the date of the event is put first which I think is something that makes these images really impactful because it makes you realise just how much of a contemporary issue modern slavery is.

I am now almost certain that I will shoot colour film for my SDA project and focus on landscapes as I love the effect of the inexplicit images I have been looking at, where the subject matter is left to be discovered fully in the captioning of the photograph. I also love the richness of colour and texture of colour film which I have never used before so I think this project will be a great chance to try it out over a longer period of time. Which I think will allow me to link well the different stories of hauntings I would like to capture. 

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