You’d expect one of Liverpool’s hardest working snappers to do something a little different for the current Look 11 exhibition celebrating photography around the city; and you’d be right.
For Pete Carr, Look 11 was the chance he’d been, er, looking for to give us all a sense of a life lived behind the lens, and a rare opportunity for us to see the intrusive glare of the SLR not as a precursor for snooping and super-injunctions, but a catalyst for social interactions.
There are some who think this city is awash with camera-ready wannabees just dying for their close up. There are others who know us for who we are – a complex bundle of confidence and cockiness, sociability and insecurities.
With Carr sitting somewhere uneasily between the two, he developed Rezz: part location aware app, part exhibition investigating the nature of privacy in a society of camera phone owners. Of physical interaction in a world of virtual followers.
“I suppose I set up Rezz to answer a puzzle that’s been playing on my mind for some time,” Carr tells SevenStreets. “I’m a gamer and I’m forever hearing criticism about gamers sitting in their bedrooms playing games alone. But how alone is a gamer when they’re involved in a multiplayer game?”
It’s a phenomenon that, Carr believes, extends far beyond the bruised battlefields of Call of Duty.
“Sure, gamers might be physically alone in their room, but they’re still engaging with others, chatting on forums or interacting on Facebook,” he says.
“In my professional life I’m fearless. I’ve got no problem talking to strangers if I want to take their picture. But without my camera…” Carr pauses, and shifts his gaze.
“Well, I am shy,” he admits. “I do find the online world a little easier than the offline some days.”
We’re surprised. Carr’s striking, iconic images have become the poster kids for our resurgent, centre-stage city. But we’re amused, too: we share his curious traits. SevenStreets nods knowingly when Carr admits to finding it easier, alone at conferences, to socially engage with people via Twitter than over coffee in those deathly break-out sessions.
“I find it much easier doing that than actually go up and saying hello. But am I really being sociable?”
“I’m forcing myself to push past the easy way out, following interesting people on Twitter, and going up to interesting people on the street instead. I ask if I can take their photo. If they say yes, I’ll do it with my phone. No big fancy camera. The photo is GPS tagged and uploaded to the location based social media app Gowalla,” he explains.
And that’s where the social media society can intersect with Carr’s brave excursions in the real world.
“Other people are invited to find these photos left around the city,” he explains. “When they find one they can either leave a comment in Gowalla, taking the easy option, or maybe face the their fears and ask a stranger if they can take their photo too, then upload that photo to the Rezz spot on Gowalla.”
That way, Carr says, it’s a chance for the rest of us to step into his shoes. Think it’s easy being a snapper? Think Carr’s as rhino-skinned as a seasoned Pap? Think again.
“This is a very personal project about my own shyness and of how technology can either help or hinder that,” he says.
“It’s also a whole new way of exhibiting portrait photos. Anyone with a smartphone can go to the locations the photos were taken, look at them, in that place, on their phones. No £1,000 camera required.”
Look them foursquare in the face, you could say. Or maybe not.
“I hope Rezz will help people to see technology as something more than just saying ‘I’m at this coffee shop’. For me photography has always helped to break down barriers. It’d be great if this helps break them down for others too.”
GET INVOLVED: Pete Carr’s Guide to Rezz
The simplest way to get involved is via this page:
Download the free Gowalla app for iPhone or Android. Search for Rezz and it’ll give you a map to your nearest spot. Go there and check-in to see the portrait photo. If you just want to look at it that’s OK, but if you want to then you can either leave a comment or your own photo of a stranger. Feel free to leave your thoughts about taking the photo too if you do.
Pete Carr: Encounters With Strangers, to June 14
The Bluecoat, School Lane