Sam Cotter’s “Reciprocity – a failure to communicate.”


Sam Cotter, Reciprocity - a failure to communicate, 2015

Sam Cotter, Reciprocity – a failure to communicate, 2015

“Sam Cotter’s pocket-sized publication “Reciprocity – a failure to communicate” investigates photographic reciprocity failure, a technical term in photography for the instances in which photographic materials stops behaving in a linear way. In these situations the medium has a kind of autonomy and requires more from a scene than is precisely measurable Under these conditions the photographer can only make an educated guess about how best to capture the scene.

For Cotter reciprocity failure is a parable for the relationships between the subject, the photographer and the photograph itself. There seems to be a sort of “reciprocity failure” in each these relationships: the photographer and subject obviously have an asymmetrical exchange, but the photograph exists beyond both of them drifting loose in the world with has a visual power of its own that can be harnessed by other people across time and space.”

C Magazine, email subscription, January 30, 2015.
I love this idea of reciprocity failure, and think it is a really elegant way to convey the “why” of moving across to a socially engaged practice. Reciprocity, and the idea of privileging the primary, or creating audience, before meeting the needs of the viewing or secondary audience is a fascinating jumble of ideas that I am in the process of unpicking in my PhD. More on reciprocity (and Sam Cotter) soon!

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