Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Time and old/found imagery

I've been musing on some points raised by my tutor for assignment 3. It has taken me a while to get around to posting about it as they have been intriguing and I knew I needed to do further research. This all relates to the images in the latter part of my assignment. I'd used an old photograph in the images at the site of my childhood home to help portray a sense of identity and shared history between myself and my sister. One of them can be seen below:

I'd seen a number of photographers use this approach in their work and I felt that the simple compositions in this set needed more visual clues to what I was trying to say - in this way the use of an old photograph helped to enrich the images.

My tutor comment below spelt out the process of found or old imagery and when I read it I instinctively knew that this process and the manipulation of it to form other ideas was something I want to pursue further: 

[The idea to use ‘old’ or ‘found’ imagery is not a modern concept, but has been very usefully applied by many throughout the history of the discipline. It worked very well for you here and really played a significant part, during the latter stages of the project. The process you are considering can be summarised as follows:

  1. Time elapses.
  2. Significant events occur.
  3. Specific details / people are recorded.
  4. Artifacts are created. [images]
  5. Variety of different histories are formulated [from different perspectives]
  6. These histories are recalled and embellished. [See Dawkins - Meme’s]
  7. Some histories are eventually forgotten or disappear.
  8. The ‘Artifact’ remains.
  9. Some artifacts are lost and some are collected. [The Archive]
  10. More time elapses.
  11. The archive or collection is interrogated.
  12. Histories are recalled or created.
  13. The event once more becomes significant.]
It is fascinating to read the process laid out like this and particularly the mention of alternate, embellished or created histories. I'm sure that we have all had the experience of a family story that has been told by an elderly relative and taken to be true only to turn out for it not to be the case at all. There is also the problem of mistaken identity when long forgotten family photographs are discovered and someone thinks the person might be some great aunt so and so but nobody really knows.

The image/artifact that I have created above has a particular meaning to me when I look back at it. I left this place at 13 years old, my sister having moved away to get married a number of years earlier. When we returned to the site of our former home to make the images it was the first time that we had both been back here together. Even though I was trying to direct my sister and concentrate on making my images I could see in her demeanour a profound sense of what had taken place here when we were growing up. I wasn't immune to these feelings myself and this shared moment is what I see now when I look at the image. It is a memory shared between both of us that will not necessarily translate if the artifact is to remain and be discovered and read by new viewers at a later time. Will they be able to recall the history of this artifact or will they create a new history for themselves? In fact the whole sequence of images could be read by an outside observer entirely differently already - as a journey of social mobility from poor working class origins to a more comfortable and affluent existence in the late 20th century.

These ideas helped me connect with the work of a photographer that I saw at the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2011. The image,"Glamis Castle, Angus, UK," by photographer Hui Yao from the series, "Mirage," was a portrait of the photographer taken outside the castle in the snapshot aesthetic style. This was an exploration by the photographer who had grown up in China to re-create a new, alternate, boyhood experience from the perspective of the West. The image can be seen here on his website, Yaohuier.com.

I can see now that these ideas feed into the process that my tutor is describing and that there is a lot more background information behind some of the most simple of images that is at first realised. Dawkins Meme's is also a theory that I had not come across before and I was intrigued by the concept of ideas and behaviours that spread from person to person within a culture as if they were self replicating.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Genius of Photography

This book from the P&P reading list is a bit of a monster in size. It has good quality reproductions of the images and the colour ones are actually in colour!

The Genius of Photography: How photography has changed our lives - Gerry Badger
ISBN 978-1-84400-363-1

I've read it twice now. Once to just enjoy the subject matter and a second time to take notes. This is a bit of a time consuming thing to do and I don't do it for every book - but sometimes I get so engrossed I don't want to interrupt the flow to make notes. Also by doing a second reading I will have had time to digest the subject matter and any areas that seem a bit fuzzy to me can be re-read and re-interpreted. This was the case for the sections on Modernism. There were so many different ideas to take in under that one umbrella term. For instance, Structuralism, Formalism, how Surrealism grew out of Dadaism - a massive note taking session was required in the end.

I feel that I have a grasp of the concepts now and that when particular photographers or styles are referred to I can place them in context and not get my "isms" mixed up. I also bought the DVD version of the BBC series back when I was doing TAOP. I would say that the book covers the subject in more depth and is much more useful to photography students.

I enjoyed reading the book - although I did note the authors bias towards Straight photography came through at times. My copy came from the library but as it is only around £10 on Amazon I have added it to my (ever growing) wish list of books on photography.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Behind the Image: research in photography - Anna Fox, Natasha Caruana

Behind the Image: research in photography

This book discusses the importance of planning when it comes to photography projects. The authors explain that keeping a workbook and the use of mind maps and lists to keep track of ideas and explore them further is fundamental to the process of photography. The book explains how ideas can be traced to their origins and expanded outwards into new areas that may not have occurred at the time of the original thought.

I did this myself for my last assignment. I found the reflective process to be very useful as problems occurred and new avenues of thought opened up that allowed me to continue and complete my project.

The importance of research is discussed highlighting the use of archives and assessment of the project against current theoretical photography practice to put a project into context. Material that has been collected along the way should also be carefully collated into a personal archive for future use by the photographer as this can also be reflected upon and at a later time lead to new awareness and projects.

I did some research into prefabs for my last assignment and found the process of obtaining books from the library and internet to be invaluable when it came to adding some depth and background to the project.

Constant re-evaluation and reflection is crucial to the success of the project and this can only be done when a written log is kept to help assess where the work has begun and where it may be going.

As well as the need to keep a workbook which of course is just a broader version of our learning logs another useful idea was to use a voice recorder or the option on most mobile phones to keep a record of fleeting ideas that come to us at odd moments.

I checked to see if my mobile had the facility and within ten minutes of stopping at a chapter to make a cup of tea I was recording some thoughts into my phone that had occurred to me. I will transfer these to my workbook in due course.

This is a very useful book that sets out how to organise the mind and keep track.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Assignment 3

My tutor suggested three books to read in preparation for this assignment. I enjoyed all three and managed to find something in each of them that can be applied to my project. My thoughts on the books can be found in my blog here:

Julian Germain - For Every Minute You Are Angry You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness

Wolfgang Muller - Karat: Sky Over St Petersburgh

Stephen King - Lewis's Fifth Floor: A Department Story

In short, I found that the Germain book had a strong and moving narrative. This is an element of photography that I really enjoy and would like to try and emulate in my own work. The Muller book was gritty and hard hitting. The King book had strong elements of design and composition in keeping with photographing the iconic interiors. My reflections on the books has made me aware of the different  approaches that can be used when faced with a project and that some are more suited than others.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on these different elements and felt a bit flummoxed when I came to deciding what to photograph. My tutor had suggested finding some derelict buildings and I did look at this. I also toyed with the idea of photographing the interior of closed retail units. What brought me up short in all of these ideas was the course requirement to photograph between four and five different buildings. I really wanted a strong narrative theme to link my images and I couldn't see a way of doing this that would also be possible within a two month time frame that I had set myself to complete this assignment. The retail units in particular would need time consuming access to be requested and granted. The typological approach could be used like the Bechers but that was an approach that I didn't want to explore at this particular moment.

I finally settled on a concept that is stretching the brief somewhat but does fit within the style and methodology shown in the three photobooks listed above. I wanted to follow my sister around from building to building as she leaves home, goes shopping and finally arrives at my mother's house. I am at the planning stage and have started a notebook of ideas to help me plan a shooting script. I will scan and post pages from this at a later stage. My shoot will take place over the course of one day and is planned for this Friday. Hopefully my planning will allow me to achieve everything that I need to capture for the assignment. In preparation for the shoot I will also be researching the buildings during the course of this week.

Shooting script: Don't laugh at my matchstick men drawing style. Hey, it suits my needs...

Finally, after some bumps along the way and changes to my concept that have been documented in my written assignment I've finished. My new concept involved a change of building but I think it has worked out to be a stronger idea creatively than my original. My only worry is that I may have stretched the brief a bit too far. My final building has been demolished so I'm not sure how well it will be received. This was the hardest one yet and it is posted and I await feedback. The images are listed below along with accompanying text for the sequence:

Tutor Feedback:

My tutor was very positive about this assignment. That was a huge relief as this is the first time that I have ever strayed from the brief and adapted an assignment to suit my own personal interests. This approach was commented on and commended. He also mentioned that it was the first time he had seen this particular assignment use a linking narrative to bring the images together. I was pleased that my ideas worked. I really didn't want to just photograph a different set of buildings to show their uses. On reflection I would say that my liking for the narrative element of photography really helped me here and worked in my favour - In effect it spurred me on to change the brief to suit my own creative needs.

My tutor felt that the last set of images (my former home, now demolished) was inspired. I am glad that he felt this way. I was concerned I had pushed it too far by trying to photograph a building that no longer existed. He said that these images were some of the strongest in the set and the inclusion of text helped to enrich them. The last few were quite simple images and as I mentioned at the planning stage the decision to use a richer text for these was intentional. I was given some interesting leads about the process of memory, meme theory, and how photographs are interpreted through time. I found the ideas intriguing and will follow up on my reading with a view to pursue further. [edit: I have since reflected further on my tutor comments for these particular images and my thoughts have been posted here.]

I've also experimented with layouts with assessment in mind. The accompanying text for these images was presented to my tutor on separate facing sheets between the photographs. I toyed with the idea of incorporating the text onto the same page and underneath the image (as shown above.) In practise, when printed up, the text dominates and the eye is drawn to it over and over. My personal opinion is that the simpler images need time to be absorbed and I will keep all the text on a separate facing page for assessment.