Note to self on visual side: return and add photographs selected as time permits – it has been a surprisingly busy period.
I had established a way forward in my first module on a Commemorative Historical project based on ancestors and common land of upbringing and livelihood. I had lived here as a child and shared in the culture. The project with its visits created renewed cultural connection. A deep sense of emotional tie resulted that now at times borders on being overwhelming.
As my work moved towards the end of my first module it changed form from Close-up photography mixed with Conceptual work.
Why did the project change?
It was clear that by the Final Major Project FMP stage there would be difficulty in sustaining the work. That’s not to say the work cannot complete satisfactorily in its original form – an illustrated book narrative had been the plan.
A challenge related to the Conceptual work. I transformed the cultural home location colour and texture, into attempts at atmospheric scenes from a far location in the theatre of war: scenes from the trenches and memories of home.
I’d practiced a method of abstraction that gave horizontal and vertical treatment to photographs of place, of being or of artefact. Edges might be added back in, for form.
I quite enjoyed the work insofar as my own needs were concerned. It seemed quite inspired and especially creative.
I was using ideas from filmmaking that were not felt to hold true to photographic work. In filmmaking you might stage a scene near London that represents Norway. Whilst this fits in with the storyline the equivalent in photography can be challenged in terms of authenticity. Perhaps now I understand in terms of Barthes, “a photograph is a record of something that has been” or words to that effect.
Both Close-up and Conceptual work had been carefully devised to overcome constraints of resource of time, cost, travel. Originally the work being made as a way of supporting an historical text narrative.
So how did the project change?
A style evolved of colour or saturation processing to create highly colourful and vivid work and sits alongside other more muted but glowing images.
The change occurred around assignment hand-in time, as these fresh ideas were sparked. This took the work to a different level. This had the purpose of connecting living individuals to specific others and narratives from the past. Given records of wounding and repeated return to action, connections are made across 100 years or more by abstracting starting photographs of minor everyday trauma.
The viewer is presented with sets of strikingly colourful images. A subset follows a red theme from my earlier Poppies are Red … project.
There is a process of identification with the past that helps to sort of bring it back to life. As descendants including the author have different degrees of connection to the particular ancestors, then we identify with specific individuals and narratives of their lives in a way that we can contrast and compare with.
This led to a Project “Poppies are Red …” and the limited trials I did on my photographs led in the direction of red themes which tied in with the theme and the project name.
The project for a while took on the title Life’s Glow.
With areas of minor trauma there is obtained a degree of visual structure to the work. The camera sensor is capable of detecting IR. In my work I bring down the colour before bringing it back in and in doing so appear to raise the level of glow within a photograph.
This uncovers visual aspects not seen by the eye alone and lead to a fascination surrounding the effects
Two methods of abstraction had resulted during the unfolding of the work. Now these can be combined where it makes visual sense. In one example this contains otherwise wildly saturated colours.
The effect of shadow:
When drawing colour back into an image, having deliberately drained it, I noticed an effect due to shadow. Shadow seems to alter the direction of the colour as it is brought back, perhaps having altered the low level hue which then goes off in its own direction.
I’m now in a position of continuing with refinement. This becomes necessary for reasons of visual consistency across the portfolio. In drawing comparisons with a painter and an abstract practitioners my work needs to to gain a level of improvement. Or at least that is what I seek.
Refinement is necessary to enable any move from a book context to a gallery context. What is acceptable in one medium may not be scalable to the other.
In retrospect it occurred to the author that a magical connection was being made that helped fill gaps in communication from those early years as a child.
Stories of deep personal sadness and loss had been held back by surviving relatives. Individuals who were missing amongst them as contemporaries did not gain mention. Now those gaps are being filled and so their lives are not forgotten.
Where my Practice is Now
At the start of my third module I consider where my practice is now and that is in the genre of Abstract Impressionism. As new photographic work recently evolved, that remains within my chosen subject area, for me it is down to a process of refinement. I work to enhance scale, control colour and finish. I am on a trajectory of developing a personal style and I continue to match the standards of other practitioners I connect with be they painters or photographers.
In terms of successful images and not so successful images, the early images were the most creative and tidy. Some images were made after the previous Module submission and so were new work made in the last break. However, a ruling that work had to be made from the first day of the new Module, meant some of my most creative work was out of scope, sadly. With these images my Portfolio edit may have strengthened. It would have strengthened as the reshooting and digital darkroom work did not result in the same level of creative images.
As I rely on everyday minor trauma, it would be unethical to deliberately cause damage. If there is no subject material for a while then there is no material. In these times I concentrate on portraying Life’s Force and the glow that we emit as means of identifying with those in the past.
My work is such that the steps in the digital darkroom cannot be repeated (without recording every step on video) so each image is unique. When I reshot, the out of scope photographs, this not only led to a loss of time, the results were not quite as strong. It is entirely natural to follow the flow of image creation in post but a challenge to set up a pre defined target image and try and craft it. There is a skill and learning process and it is intuitive and is made possible by knowing how to read the start image. In my very early work only one in 5 images say would yield results. Current work is more focussed in intent and more reliably creates results. But again the work is not repeatable as the techniques require destructive editing.
I’ve firmly believed the bespoke nature of this photographic work increases its ‘value’. Each edit of an image is unique. Whilst reprints can be made, the ability to process identically from the start is largely impossible.
Support to Visual Narrative
As my work moved away from illustrating a test narrative towards a stand alone work, it became important to find a way of supporting the visual narrative. Initially and for many weeks all means were open for consideration as I experimented with different approaches. I tried sound effects; thought of taking some research on a poet with cultural link and select lines of poetry as titles. In the end I decided on a Call and Response technique in titles and implemented these in my portfolio.
Contextualisation of Practice – three reviews or interviews for three visual references.
The sources I’d contextualise are painter Rachel Howard, the work of photographer Ellen Carey and the photography phase of David Hockney. My work is original and here I seek to contextualise as best I can ahead of the Module providing the scope for this research
Rachel Howard painter
Art Review (Januszczak Waldemar, 2018)
Rachel Howard in conversation with Anna Moszynska (Howard Rachel, 2018)
Ellen Carey photographer
Interview series (Carey Ellen and Lyle, 2009)
Interview for Aesthetica magazine (Barry Tim, 2016)
David Hockney as photographer
Television interviews (Hockney David, 1998)
Financial Times arts review (Hodgson Francis, 2015)
Artists website with bibliography (Hockney David, 2019)
Barry Tim (2016) Aesthetica Magazine – Interview with Ellen Carey, Poet With A Lens, Les années 1980, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Aesthetica. Available at: http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/interview-ellen-carey-poet-lens/ (Accessed: 21 January 2019).
Carey Ellen and Lyle, R. (2009) Ellen Carey: The Edge of Vision Interview Series on Vimeo, Aperture Foundation. Available at: https://vimeo.com/5376493 (Accessed: 21 January 2019).
Hockney David (1998) David Hockney on Photography & Other Matters (Secret Knowledge) – YouTube, Sky Arts. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coGPeckNQZw (Accessed: 21 January 2019).
Hockney David (2019) Photographic Collages : Photos : Works | David Hockney. Available at: http://www.davidhockney.co/index.php/works/photos/photographic-collages (Accessed: 21 January 2019).
Hodgson Francis (2015) ‘David Hockney: Painting and Photography’ | Financial Times, The Financial; Times. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/dc372546-fe3c-11e4-8efb-00144feabdc0 (Accessed: 21 January 2019).
Howard Rachel (2018) Repetition is truth via Dolorosa. Edited by A. C. Beard Jason. London: Other Criteria Books. Available at: newportstreetgallery.com.
Januszczak Waldemar (2018) Art review: John Copeland and Rachel Howard at Newport Street Gallery | Culture | The Sunday Times. Available at: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/art-review-john-copeland-and-rachel-howard-at-newport-street-gallery-damien-hirst-kq532dbws (Accessed: 21 January 2019).
Excuse any repetition during this edit. My work never lost continuity from its beginnings, starting at Falmouth as Poppies are Red … a Commemorative Historical piece with both close-up work and early abstract practice. The work was becoming Conceptual for reasons of practical constraint and resource. Practice is now closer to Surreal and has been throughout my second Module Sustainable Prospects. Behind the scenes I steer my work through “rules of genetic connection” which leads to specific narratives unspoken. In effect I link abstracted minor traumas to repeated woundings of my ancestors closing a gap of over a century to the Great War.
Again excuse any repetition during this blog edit. There is an act of completing communication I had as a child with close others in those lands of my ancestors. Sadnesses and losses unmentioned were characterised only as gaps as is how these adults chose to communicate with me as a young child. Modern research tools show those gaps and factual narratives were derived from records. Now as an adult I identify with those I might otherwise have met or at least have heard mention of or connected to and whose losses went unmentioned. And now, I remember them. I remember them all. I have a growing sense of identity which those around me seem to also share in.
Variations in Ongoing Practice
I established above my strong intent in my endeavour to develop further and refine the finish of a work that has deep emotional significance and meaning to the author.
I also follow advice to continue shooting intuitively to see where this takes me. Developments are very interesting and yet do not engage at the emotional level I experience from the current practice.
An aspect of abstraction and in this practice, the recording of minor trauma, there develops an unease, a sense of wanting to change and take more conventional representational perspective photographs. In a sense I gain some refuge from the emotional wear and tear of the practice.
Return to Nature – Competition
And so I have done this. I have turned to several directions. I photographed nature and gained recent successes with a Highly commended print and two Advanced competition winning projected images. This tweaks the competitive side lost in studying photography. That may not be an appropriate direction for now but it was refreshing to go back to.
Return to Nature – Instagram Takeover
In photographing nature I also focussed towards the MA Photography. In a faltered attempt I started reshooting and nailing work for an Instagram Takeover. I reshot a theme of the juncture between large cultivated shrubs and the vital mechanical support introduced by park gardeners. To me there was a metaphor here of supporting the weak (in human society). These were big thoughts if not a step too far. As the body of work progressed the creative compass moved the images back towards digitally processed work. I re-entered the abstract world once more. I’ve not submitted the work to my Module Leader as regardless of how much I like the effect and overall consistency across photographs, I did not consider that using a filter created by someone else unknown to be a very good way to proceed. I prefer that I make my own effects and exercise a level of practice and skill.
I’m not done with this completely as I started yet another reshoot of the same cultivated gardens. Last time out I was confronted by a dog before being befriended by the owner. We teamed up and walked a lesser route to an early show of Witch Hazel flowers before parting company. As is so often is the case, my photographic intention was distracted. On that day light conditions which had been important began to pass then I was in danger of being locked in. I still have to return if I’m going to nail some conventional photography to my chosen narrative.
Street Photography – and a surprise
Now this is an area of practice I could be said to specialise in. At least I’m published and have exhibited in this genre and support teaching out on the streets of London. I let go of my Street endeavours a bit while studying the MA Photography. In the break. I went back but found I’d lost a bit of my mojo. Instead of piling in with energy and nailing lots of shots I had slowed down, wanting to make more considered work.
As my abstract work was becoming increasingly insular, it was really refreshing on a social front to reconnect with some street buddies over the Christmas “break”. The MA does seem to be changing me. During the street shoot a full reset of the camera ditched the less conventional settings after which I started to get into my Street photography again.
Street work as a backstop has the advantage of being sustainable. Whether or not remarkable enough work would result is open to conjecture.
Shadows Within – a return to a favourite project
As described above, my main abstract practice, turns out to be sustainable. This is true also of Shadows Within an ongoing recording of a variety of shadows I have photographed around the home over a period of time. This is a regular one I go back to often. I’m always amazed how a characteristic layout leads to the walls, floors and ceilings acting as if the inside of a camera (maybe mostly without the lens).
I happily record darker images alongside ends of rainbows and moving dots and patterns. It feels so kaleidoscopic, so alive. There is joy is in the making.
The light changes progressively throughout the day as well as with the seasons. The work goes straight back to my abstract preference.
Would I continue with this in the MA Photography, maybe not? No matter how much creative fun it is, there is nowhere near the beginnings of the engagement my main practice has. Shadows Within (so far) lacks a level of social comment such as I’d expect to need to engage in. This judgement is based on personal discussions with MA graduate and also in judging the very high quality of work I see by fellow postgraduates students at Falmouth. I’ve decided I’m not here just to have fun with photography.
What I do take from this is minor digital darkroom practice and recognition that whatever I do in photography, my imagination, my eye is constantly drawn back to abstract work. This reinforces something about my style. I ought to recognise and develop further in abstract to become accomplished.
A Gathering of Some Resources and Ideas
The following was under construction ahead of the 16 week Informing Contexts Module starting on 25th/28th January 2019.
A package of work was set before the start of the Informing Contexts Module, and just after my work for the Sustainable Prospects modules, Work was to be scheduled over the Christmas period. These work items are progressively blogged in this blog post.
This module will be based on theory and research. Books and referencing move to front on stage.
On discovering a series of FT Art Review podcasts, I was drawn in. Over the Christmas break one managed to go back all the way to the earliest edition. Interest was 99% outside of photographic art, but nevertheless it is interesting to hear groups of critics and reviewers interact.
One exhibition was attended during the break at, the V&A Museum where they now hold the RPS collection. I tried out 10 questions to ask when analysing a photograph. With a bit of effort, the list, or actually the bare list, was committed to memory and review commenced. This analysis proved to be rather mechanical and slow. It must improve with practice. It will be necessary for discernment to weave it way into in one’s work.
Another London exhibition is being lined up.
Harvard Referencing with Mendeley and plug-in for Word
Within some technical constraints the user doesn’t control. Referencing is just about sorted or at least usable, reasonably automated and if nothing else consistent. Personally, it has been a struggle and held me back on my reading whilst bringing this under control.
I’ve practiced this more than once during the break as a recognised area of skills development. To be honest it does drive me to distraction. However, I need to master citations and bibliographies (books, website, photographs and journals mostly) and before too much more reading and researching has taken place.
The software has been set up on computer, and not without challenges (like software debug level intervention). This in part is a repercussion from the failed computer technology and change of system following a disaster during that very hot summer we had in the UK.
What with getting the tools working I still had to manually create a lot of entries putting my time at the service of the software where really it should be helping me work more efficiently.
I’m not at all confident that these tools will serve me well enough yet. It is early days whilst exploring first uses. Let’s see how it goes. Citation and Bibliography creation is now getting easier.
Up till now, I’ve gotten by using manual referencing and to a large extent my creative development has been independent of any other practitioners. No matter how original I aim to be, it is still a requirement of the course to bridge my work to photographic practices and practitioners and more so now with the start of a more highly research intensive Module, Informing contexts.
Learning Outcomes and Assessment Criteria
I did read through these during December (last month) and it is probably time to go over this all again to refresh.
Module Information Form MIF
From the Module Information Form MIF is a recommended reading list. There will be other sources within Talis so the MIF list is not exclusive.:
BARKER C. (2011) Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage
BARTHES, R. (1980) Camera Lucida. London: Flamingo
BATCHEN, G. (2002) Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History. Boston, MA: MIT Press
BURGIN, V. (1986) The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity. London: Palgrave
DURDEN, M. (2013) Fifty Key Writers on Photography. Abingdon: Routledge
ELIKINS, J. (2007) Photography Theory. Abingdon: Routledge
EVANS, J. & HALL, S. (eds.) (1999) The Visual Culture Reader. Milton Keynes: Open University Press
FONTCUBERTA, J. (ed) (2002) Photography: Crisis of History. Barcelona: Actar
GEFTER, P. (2009) Photography after Frank. New York: Aperture
HEIFERMAN, M. (2012) Photography Changes Everything. New York: Aperture
LEVI-STRAUSS, D. (2005) Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics. New York: Aperture
STURKEN, M. & CARTWIGHT, L. (2009) Practices of Looking. Oxford: Oxford University Press
PHO702 Resources List
There is a good deal of referencing and citation involved with the Module so I took an action towards this early and have downloaded the available RIS file for the resources list and I’ve loaded it into the Mendeley database for use with the Word citation plugin as required. The idea is to be organised and save time later on. As deadlines eventually loom, this action should avoid panic setting if trying to retrace vital readings.
This is divided into a list of subheadings each with multiple resources linked.
Fantasy shopping. Podcast outtake from the original radio broadcast
There is more than a tentative connection between advertising photography and this BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour feature. I was captive as it was on the radio in the car – honest.
There is an interaction between two women, both of whom suspend reality when out shopping in upmarket stores and a lady who is an ex-shop assistant. One lady feels guilt about entering a shop and suspecting the shop recognise her immediately as not intending to purchase any good and imagines security following her around. The other lady imagines the security presence as her body guard. What is revealing are the stories they make up in their minds fantasising. One even turns to a sales assistant as the phone rings, “Sorry it’s a call from Victoria Beckham”.
Photography in advertising may be designed to encourage the viewer to imagine their life with the product – reality being suspended.