Speak to strangers, not your smartphone


Technology has become a prominent part of our lives, whether it’s using a smartphone, a DSLR camera or a VR headset, we all engage with it and use it on a daily basis. It was therefore intriguing when we came across Naomi, a 23 year old artist based in South-East London who centred her graduation piece around the barriers of communication technologies.

For Naomi devices such a smartphone have become a problematic social barrier and guilty of having altered interpersonal communication. She is not entirely a critic of communication technologies but the choice not to own a smartphone-influenced Naomi’s project ‘A walk directed by strangers over the course of six months’, where she put these devices aside and encouraged communication with strangers.


Tell us about your artist background

I remember the excitement of my first camera. My best friend and I were at peak of our young teens. Bored in a small town where being different is somewhat discriminated, we found expression through art, the DIY punk scene, and an obsession for subcultures. Photography kind of saved us; we had something more productive to do other than going to noisy punk gigs and drinking too much. We had something we were excited about, and kind of good at! Photography became a creative outlet. It was a way of documenting our lives and making them look a lot more interesting than what they actually were. That was my first experience with storytelling.



What is your most recent project?

Although right now I am excited about future plans, which include working on an independent photography magazine, but my graduation project took up this last whole year.

A walk directed by strangers over the course of six months is a dual-carousel projector and sound piece installation. The title itself is suggestive. I set up a tripod in the street waiting for a stranger to approach me. We exchanged words, I took their portrait and asked them to point me in the next direction, ‘anywhere they wanted’ being the only guidelines. I was interested in what the word ‘stranger’ means for society, how technology has affected contemporary communication — in particular interpersonal communication — and our relationship with our surroundings. Six months later, each person pinpointed a section of the walk: a trail based on chance, interaction and communication with strangers — a walk I continuously retraced. I abandoned navigation tools for the purpose of this work: a rejection of our dependence on new technologies.



Where did you find kit for your project?

I came to hear about KitMapper while I was installing our pre-degree/work in progress show. Having always worked with old technologies, sourcing them has often been problematic. I often want to get my hands on really old, dated equipment and therefore pretty rare and expensive stuff. Sourcing the carousel slide-projectors wasn’t that simple.

For my final graduation show, the photography technicians at Uni had kindly allowed me to borrow two of theirs, but outside the University building, sourcing them was a bit of a nightmare. I tried to look into hiring options; the fees were outstanding! I came to hear of KitMapper by word in mouth: a friend of a friend had borrowed equipment previously (also a carousel projector) and highly recommended them. Communication was efficient, the team was extremely helpful and I got to hire the carousel for a very reasonable price.

Lastly, what do you do when you’re not working on a project?

I am a full time cat lady. Besides that, I enjoy cooking a lot of weird, experimental vegan dishes, music of course, and travel. When I can save enough cash I want to go back to New York or maybe Copenhagen. Follow my work and journey at www.naomiblairgould.com.

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