Although this has been a difficult aspect of the course for me to hone, it is clear now that the project would need to meet the course requirement but specifically enable me to work week by week adding more work to the portfolio, shooting, editing and generally developing the work whilst creating engaging work to a very good standard.
I say this given my first selection of project which initially was deemed to imply multiple location visits, many more than would be practical to conduct within economic and other constraints. Being prepared to explore and research a wider range of possibilities, yes something much more local and accessible had to have a great deal of practical appeal yet maybe the possibilities lacked the initial motivation and engagement and may be produce lower levels of viewer interest.
So far then, I relate to a very personal family story, 100 years on from the loss of two brothers from southern Scotland who died on the battlefields along the Belgian and French border in 1914 and in 1918. I felt this had such deep-seated and personal impact at first that this had to be the wrong choice for a project that required wider acceptance. But going back over it there is a genuine level of engagement and a sense of authenticity, that I would hope other families remembering their lost ones may perhaps relate to. I’ll return to this further on after a look at the reserve option. Yes two projects, each in competition with the other whilst I determine the true feasibility of them.
My more local option of contrasting a town in Metro land with its Old Town, compared with another town close by that also has an Old Town. These are not to be confused with areas that implement government strategy for new town development. These are towns that have old towns. An experimental shoot seemed quickly to draw out comparison so potentially not a large enough body of work here. Originality was a challenge because further research showed the work of a professional freelance journalist had already taken place nearby and so the kind of template design I wish to work to I saw had already been used.
When looking at this as a potential cluster project, a series of smaller projects taken together, another option emerged relating to a UK wide charity with workshops and a shop in the area and for which I was predisposed to engage with having loosely researched the topic over a two-year timeframe. I’d once made contact and would need to re-establish this to determine if I could be embedded as a photographer at their location, whilst also trying to assess the value of the work that could be made and whether this would be strong enough. As smoothly as I would wish this to go, there is a challenge already apparent. Within the area I had stumbled across one of their meetings with a thriving audience and professional presentation setup, whilst I also noted promotional aspects displayed locally, and saw their presence again, this time on the web where they employed a storytelling approach. Finally, they turned up in a feature within a local village publication. Summing these observations indicates a strong publicity element is already present and indeed this is essential to their continued operation. So perhaps less scope existed than I originally thought to make a valued contribution through image making and narrative. Also, the work would involve a documentary or photojournalistic approach and for me these might end the project with less creative work than I’d wish and that would be needed to satisfy our postgraduate degree level requirement.
What I’ve resolved to do is as indicated, hedge my bets and take both the centenary and the charity options forward into a feasibility assessment and decide on a more focused and singular direction based on further interaction with the subjects including trialling the image making at a practical level.
As noted, here is some further evolution of the centenary project. The first intention is to create art from photographic practice, through image manipulation, and handpainting on layers. This from practice efforts had already and quite obviously proven to be time-consuming and I regularly find myself quoting a success or hit rate of let’s say one in 20 photographs which prove to be amenable to such processing given that a good result is needed. I now take this as part of the centenary project and liken the proposed art to chapter divider pages although at one stage mistakenly I compared the introduction of these images to be somehow equivalent to illuminated texts where the initial page character is in fact a drawing, but this was going a stretch too far. However, another likening occurred to me from the filmmaking world and film shorts that led me to a photographic theme that could run parallel within the centenary project. No nothing to do with actually making a film, but just a lesson learned from watching shorts. Stay with this and I’ll explain. There are common visual constraints shared. If I were to photograph artefacts representing pieces from a century ago I’m likely to be scuppered by the background present whether that be a museum environment or even studio. The film I’m thinking of not unlike others I’d seen chose a post-apocalyptic theme. Well of course this handily masks the background as trees and shadows and an element of mist quite obviously save the student filmmaker the cost of implementing a more extensive backdrop. In my case I decided on working close-up. The effect is similar, it’s just that here I’m eliminating distracting backgrounds. This can be done by hard cropping although I plan to use a high quality macro lens for close-ups.
Whilst this is all very convenient and actually quite practical, there has to be more to it and this is what I envisaged and seems to fit. When we’re placed in a wide-open environment whether it be the fields of France or the fields of Galloway my take is that our minds cut out those wonderful landscapes and our attention is drawn to the detail. In the context of an army fighting in WW I these details would be many, so many as to provide almost endless material. It could be the rifling of a barrel from an artillery piece, spokes from its wheels, even the eyelets and laces of a soldier’s boots. This is more than a mere convenience it is how we focus, that thumbnail sized area at arms length. That’s how much we really see and what we see and what they saw on this scale are the things that really matter, visual images that define their world. I’ve taken some initial photographs as proof of concept and hope this supplementary work will in fact become additive to any art produced and hopefully I can exhibit my own style of picture taking and create interest for the image viewer or indeed book reader.
Getting to this point has not been easy at all. Having received a jolt from shortened timescales and clashing priorities of a location shoot in Scotland and the re-planning that has been necessary, I feel now that I have a plan even if I have hedged, and the next challenge is the oral assessment. More of that elsewhere. I know the project element is perhaps only a one third part of the assessment but for me there was a conflict in priorities which first had to be resolved. I now believe I can explain with a certain coherence my development in digital photography, its influences and now an onward progression into the project discussion.