Collecting – initial thoughts

For the second assignment, I have decided to work on a collection of crowd pictures. The majority of my pictures contain a human element, but it is usually an individual or a small number of persons. I normally do not shoot crowds, so this is both a challenge to my shooting approach and an opportunity to develop my visual palette.

If you Google the definition of crowds, it gives you the first entry from the Oxford dictionary: “a large number of people gathered together in a disorganised or unruly way”(1).

Crowds and their behaviour have long been the subject of theoretical study by psychologists and sociologists. Early theories in the late 19th century tended to de-contextualize crowd behaviour and assumed that individuals, when being part of a crowd,”…lose all sense of self and all sense of responsibility. Yet, at the same time, they gain a sentiment of invincible power due to their number”(2). In the context of these theories, crowds are seen as irrational, uncontrollable and violent. This conceptualization of crowds seems to be somewhat aligned with the definition of crowds as “unruly” from the Oxford dictionary. Yet in casual observation, one sees many cases of crowds acting in a rational and controlled way.

Latter approaches to model crowd behaviour tended to be built around the concept of “social identity”, which refers to “…an individual’s self understanding as a member of a social category”(3). The behaviour of crowds in these theories was more a function of the self-classification of individuals in social identity groups, where actions in context were determined by either norms and routines known to all class members, or derived from observing the actions of those considered typical group members.

Living and working in London, I have experienced crowds on a daily basis, from commuters to pub-goers. These crowds can seem unruly, but often times they have their own rhythm and find a way to peacefully coexist with the city. In many cases, they exhibit the behaviour and inferred norms of the “social identity” models for crowd behaviour. It is this group identity concept that I would like to explore with this collection of images.

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(1) Crowd (no date) Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=crowd&rlz=1C9BKJA_enGB708GB708&oq=crowd&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i61j69i65j0j69i59l2.2333j0j9&hl=en-GB&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8 (Accessed: 11 September 2016).

(2) From The Psychology of Crowd Dynamics, by Stephen Reicher, as published in: Hewstine, M. and Brewer, M.B. (2001) Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Group processes. Edited by Michael A. Hogg and Scott Tindale. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. pp 186.

(3) Stephen Reicher, op.cit. pp 194.

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