Assignment 1 Square Mile – assessment

This blog post is a summary for assessment. Please see the original blog posts under the Assignment menu if you need more information.

This assignment was something of a problem child. I had already made and reworked a version of this assignment for my Foundations course so was hesitant about what I could bring to another iteration. I remembered that many photographers remake the same work over and over for years, so decided to persevere.

I chose to photograph my 8 year old daughter in her square mile. Apart from school, I am wherever she is, her mile is my mile. I reviewed the practitioners recommended in both the Foundation and EYV courses as well as those I had encountered independently. The ones that influenced me the most were Penny Watson, Charlie Murrell, Mimi Mollica, Sian Davey and Evgenia Arbugaeva. I was interested in images that showed the character of the children, and that showed a balance or a tension between the child and their surroundings. I didn’t want a “background” so much as a context that added information.

My tutor generously commented that I had made “a good start with lots of potential for development”. To summarise further comments:

  • the edit isn’t right
  • “the work could be enhanced through further conceptual enquiry”
  • I needed to bring myself, or something of myself into the work
  • I could add more layers by “gesturing towards historical characters” eg Alice.

She went on to explain which images worked and why, and suggesting other images from my contacts that might work. It was great feedback, which makes me sad that I have done so little with it (see below). I did follow up on all the reading suggestions. including Girls! Girls! Girls! Ed Catherine Grant and Lori Waxman. This blew me away. It was clearly written and gave me a broad perspective on photography and arts about female adolesence, by women.

I decided to make an Alice-themed reshoot. My model, now nine, thought not.  The photographs we made together didn’t work, the magic wasn’t there. I discussed the problems with my tutor, she agreed with my suggestion that I make a refreshed edit from my archive and accept that my daughter has moved on.

So I made a refreshed edit…. but it concerned me that abandoning this work wasn’t representative of how I work. I scrapped the new edit, went out and photographed something that had been on my mind – the couple of dozen blue ribbons for Charlie Gard that had appeared in the town centre earlier this summer. I was intrigued by the impact that a London family had on my Wiltshire home town, via the tendrils of social media. As the campaign reached and passed its tragic end, the ribbons too began to enter a new phase of their existence – still there, but worn, dirty, fallen – acting as a memorial to Charlie rather than as a call to build support for his parents cause. I sought feedback on the OCA critique board and made the decision to submit this work without my tutor’s input. Influences were Kim Kirkpatrick and Gianluca Cosci, from the second part of the course.

 

Assignment 3 The Decisive Moment Summary

The pregnancy test – a truly metaphorical decisive moment. The first tangible proof of pregnancy that most of us see, an object that’s well-recognised but rarely seen outside the bathroom. A test, a trigger, a wait, a result. For many of us the used positive test is kept, whatever the outcome of the pregnancy. Like a Polaroid, this physical record of the moment is initiated by a chemical trigger, changes and degrades over time but remains treasured. Here are eight tests from four women, from the last fifteen years. Sadly, not all the pregnancies went successfully to term.

The decisive moment shown in these images is the moment when the results area of each test was the sole focus of someone’s attention, a visible indicator of new life that developed as the test was watched. Each test is a decisive moment that has been kept for weeks, months, years. It’s a decisive moment constructed from a chemical reaction that now bears physical and chemical traces of the intervening time, taking in different homes and places. It’s intriguing to wonder if this indicator of life could sustain life itself. It stops being sterile at the point of opening, could bacteria colonise it once used?

Henri Cartier Bresson described photography as “the simultaneous recognition… of the significance of an event as well as the precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression”. I think these images do show the “significance of the event”, each test becomes a talisman, a proof that the pregnancy existed,  however briefly. Long after the child is born, or the miscarriage memories soften slightly, we retain this tangible memento of the moment when we knew. In keeping them, they age, and we get this perspective of the decisive moment and how it has changed.

My research strands were Elina Brotheras’ Annunciation series and Nigel Haworth’s Counting Seeds. Both include physical tests, but in a different way to how I chose to photograph them. Presentation was influenced by Taryn Simon’s Contraband and Mary Kelly’s Post Partum Document.

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29.11.16 113 miles
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29.11.16 113 miles
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4.12.16 1 mile
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4.12.16 1 mile
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4.12.16 2 miles
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30.11.16 16 miles
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30.11.16 16 miles
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30.11.16 16 miles

My tutor’s feedback was very positive, her main suggestion was that the work could be improved by better composition and lighting, by cleaning my sensor and by having a larger selection to choose from. I agreed entirely. She also suggested removing the text.  I have reshot some images (this wasn’t possible for all the tests). I wanted a more engaging presentation, and decided to present the work in a pregnancy test box, with unused tests and instructions. The idea being that the viewer can experience the decisive moments as s/he handles the photographs. This required a non-standard crop due to the size of pregnancy test boxes.

 

 

http://www.elinabrotherus.com/photography/#/annonciation/

http://www.nigeljhaworth.com/counting-seeds.html

http://www.tarynsimon.com/works/contraband/#1

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kelly-post-partum-document-analysed-markings-and-diary-perspective-schema-experimentum-t03925

Cartier-Bresson, H. (2014) Henri Cartier-Bresson: The decisive moment. Germany: Steidl Verlag.

 

 

Assignment 2 – Collecting Heads

I wanted to rediscover some of the joy and freedom of the Foundations course. My A1 feedback encouraged me to explore a feminist perspective with A2. I chose to collect “heads” via photobooth portraits. The subjects were women and girls holding fake smile props, as I wanted to explore the way that we’re asked to smile, often by strangers, and to do so within a context that actively discourages smiles ie passport photographs.

There was no problem finding willing participants, everyone was familiar with the scenario. I used the same booth for all but one of the models. Participants were asked to wear a black, grey or white top and to hold the smile prop, they could do whatever they wanted except smile. I used a photobooth for a number of reasons. I wanted consistency, I wanted that idea of official documentation, but I also wanted the feel of privacy and freedom, the absence of the “photographer”.  Photobooths were the selfie-machines of my childhood; for some of the children shown here it was their first, spell-binding time inside one. I surrendered technical control to a camera that could not have its settings changed, but which also removed me from the photographic process meaning that all the participants had the same interaction process. The children had completely autonomous control of how they appeared in the images once their parent was on the other side of the curtain. It also meant that theoretically all images had identical framing, light and background.

I presented the work in a small black album that I’d had custom printed. The album itself was reworked but you can see a video of the original here, password smileplease

 

My tutor feedback was very positive, commending my critical thinking, my playfulness and my “engaging with, and questioning Western cultures attitudes towards gender“. She was also positive about my ideas for developing the work further. Reading suggestions included Dawn Woolley’s 2D work,  Angela McRobbie’s The Aftermath of Feminism (reviewed elsewhere on this blog), and Anne Burns’ eye-opening blog on selfies. I followed her clear suggestions for improving the work (removing the information cards and the handwritten inserts). I changed the edit from one of women and girls to one of just girls. This was striking – not only did it change the reading of the album, but it gave a completely different meaning to the remaining images of the women. Although I had my rework in the form of the album, I followed a hunch and tested presenting these images within dolls house frames on a miniature wall-paper. I discussed the result with my tutor and agreed with her view that this next step has much potential and is best saved for my next course.  I had also played with cutting the prints into oval miniatures, and following reading Elizabeth Grosz, I started thinking about constructing Mobius loops out of strips of photobooth portraits. This too has been parked for future development, possibly Two Sides of the Story. For this assessment, I am submitting just the reworked album. Below is a video (for those who don’t have access to the album), and shots of possible future development ideas.

VIDEO HERE

Thoughts for future development (not part of this submission):

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Bibliography

A human life (2005) Available at: http://sabinedelafon.com/ (Accessed: 13 October 2016).

Dirk (2008) Japan exposures. Available at: http://www.japanexposures.com/2008/11/28/tomoko-sawada-school-days/ (Accessed: 18 October 2016).

A Man of Many Divas – Juan Pablo Echeverri (2007) Available at: http://www.culturebase.net/artist.php?3821 (Accessed: 18 October 2016).

Fearon, E. (1999) Photobooth works. Available at: http://elizabethfearon.com/photobooth/index.html (Accessed: 13 October 2016).

Goranin, N. (2008) The history of the photobooth. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/donotmigrate/3671736/The-history-of-the-photobooth.html (Accessed: 13 October 2016).

Amélie (2001) Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet [Film]. Germany: .

Jewell, D. (2012) Katherine Griffiths 1973 –. Available at: http://dickjewell.com/found%20photos.html (Accessed: 13 October 2016).

Rankin (2013) Want your picture taken by Rankin? Visit the Rankomat. Available at: http://www.hungertv.com/feature/want-your-picture-taken-by-rankin-visit-the-rankomat/ (Accessed: 13 October 2016).

Rideal, L. (no date) Liz Rideal. Available at: http://lizrideal.com/index.php?page=works (Accessed: 13 October 2016).

Walker, I. (2010) ‘Dick Jewell’s Found Photos’, Image & Narrative, 11(4), pp. 20–34.

 

 

 

Assignment 4 – Languages of light

This is a summary post for assessment. Original posts can be referenced via the Assignment menu.

“The light emanating from a red phone box in the evening was once a symbol of refuge, a beacon and a place of connection to the world.” (Heathcote, 2016).

The phone box light is part of its identity. For many of us the boxes are landmarks in our personal landscapes as well as our environments. They act as mini-landscapes, often colonised by mosses, insects, plants. They’ve seen us join Europe and now witness our departure, they survived the de-nationalisation of British Telecom and the massive proliferation of mobile phones, yet they live on, albeit in dwindling number.

Nick Turpin was my over-arching influence; I was entranced by his candid, bus-lit passenger portraits  (BBC London Radio, 2017). I loved the glow of people behind the windows, and the way the glass was often fogged by condensation and/or rain drops. I wanted to try to capture those same qualities, but without the people. I wanted to show the experience of being inside and outside a red phone box at night in the same way that Turpin captures that night bus reality, both inside and out. Here are my original images.

My tutor was very positive about the work. She felt that my photograph first research later approach, combined with my use of peer feedback via my blog and the OCA discussion worked well for me. She extracted more from the work – referring me to Barthes Punctum and Proust’s Involuntary Memory, both of which I have read into a little. She recommended visiting Wolfgang Tillmans at the Tate and Deutsche Borse at The Photographers’ Gallery, both of which I subsequently visited. We discussed Catherine Yass and Stephen Gill, and how if I wished I could follow a similar approach by returning my prints to phone boxes.

Actual rework has been minimal. I chose to remove one image – 6199 – as I wasn’t as happy with the focus and alignment. One of the phone boxes has now been removed by BT, I wondered about removing those images from the set. I do quite like the idea of pinning a photo where the box used to be..

In reflection, an assignment that I was quite nervous about turned out very well. I am pleased with this work. It feels delicate, understated, original and effective, and it starts conversations.  It took me out of my comfort zone – it felt odd to be dealing with fixed structures in the landscape and a whole new set of environmental constraints, plus photographing only at night and finding and interviewing phone box experts. I learned to have confidence in my creative hunches, and I now think that maybe the Landscape L2 course isn’t entirely out of my reach.

References and external links

Heathcote, E. (2016). British by design: the red phone box. The Financial Times. [online] Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/e3d4de62-3f6b-11e6-9f2c-36b487ebd80a [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

Turpin, N. (2016). On the night bus. 1st ed. United Kingdom: Hoxton Mini Press.

http://nickturpin.com/winter-bus

https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/experiments-towards-the-beauty-of-artificial-light/4205/63

http://www.avoncroft.org.uk/collections/special-collections/

Thoughts on assignment 1 rework

It’s been quiet on the blog of late. I’ve been reworking assignments 2-5 and writing summary posts for assessment. They are still tucked up in Drafts at the moment. I also need to write reflective posts on Assignment 5, Part 5 and the entire course, and all of this is coinciding with the school summer holiday.

Assignments 2 through 5 were straightforward to rework. I agreed with my tutor’s comments and it is simply a case of implementing them. Assignment 1 was harder. It was the square mile one, featuring my daughter in her square mile, which because she was 8, was my square mile too. Except a year on, she has more of an opinion in how and where she’s photographed, and what she wears when I’m photographing her. Bang went my tutor’s suggestion of an Alice themed wardrobe. Bang went pretty much everything really. We gave the rework a go, and it didn’t work. No magic, just a scowling child. I discussed this with my tutor who suggested simply refreshing the edit from my archive. The archive isn’t that good though. I know that this is the “calibration” assignment, the one that doesn’t count, but the more I looked at it the more I felt that as it was it didn’t really say much about my approach to work, my willingness to rework to make it better, and how I like to work and what I like to photograph. I started to think about completely redoing the work with a different subject.

The first idea was photographing tins of peaches in different shops in the square mile. We’ll never know how well that would work (well we might I suppose if I ever have to do Square mile again). Then I looked again at the blue ribbons tied on street furniture in Devizes, for Charlie Gard. They met my preference for photographing multiple instances of the same thing, the same but different. They showed how a social media campaign can manifest itself physical in a small town many miles from the issue that it highlights.  They represent transience – the ribbons won’t be there for good – and show how the symbolism has changed from a sign of awareness and hope to a memorial. The ribbons, shiny and new not so long ago are being ripped, tampered with, worn and dirty. Yet they are still there, as much a part of my daily landscape as the shops, the streetlights, the bollards, the phone boxes and the post boxes.  They reminded me of the pregnancy tests that I photographed for A3 with the pale blue lines denoting life. They reminded me of the miscarriages that I documented on my Foundation course – and the Foundling hospital brass tokens set into the pavement near by, making loss tangible.

So I went into town last Friday evening, on an evening that had that stormy light, with my 50mm prime lens and a fresh battery. I walked around the car parks, the roads, the pedestrian alleys, and I photographed all the ribbons I saw. There are too many to include in their entirety but the contact sheets are below. I photographed close in and far out. I wondered about context versus detail. I put a selection onto the OCA critique board and considered the responses that people were kind enough to post.

Here’s my first draft set. This set will be edited slightly before submission, but not by much.

A1 rework-7586A1 rework-7596A1 rework-7613A1 rework-7632A1 rework-7647A1 rework-7678A1 rework-7684A1 rework-7665

A1 blue ribbon-1A1 blue ribbon-2A1 blue ribbon-3A1 blue ribbon-4A1 blue ribbon-5A1 blue ribbon-6A1 blue ribbon-7A1 blue ribbon-8

Assignment 5 rework

It kept on growing. Then I had a conversation with my tutor, and it got smaller, back down to one concept with a supporting cast of thousands. Then I met Holly Woodward, who’s studying Identity and Place (blog here) at Lacock and she diagnosed the problem in about three lines and half a cup of coffee. Now, the book is tighter, more logical and just feels like it’s right. It needs a fine black cord through the holes as my ribbon is too wide.

What did I change? I took the front cover off, along with the transparency inside it (it wasn’t as good as the other transparency). I removed one of the negatives from its home on watercolour paper. Again, it wasn’t as good as the other one, which remains in place. I took the film’s protective cover and made that the cover (“It’s the title! There’s your title!” as Holly said.)  I reordered, so there’s a rhythm to the pages now and a logic to each double page spread. To me, there’s a feeling of balance between the backs and the fronts, each is as important as the other. The transparent Mylar sheet, painstakingly lifted from an embossed Polaroid and generally ignored from that point on as it kept being flicked over in favour of whatever was visible through it, became the first page after the front cover. It’s in between two plain black back pages so now has to be looked at. I punched a couple of extra holes to allow pages to be flipped over and re-ordered. That last lovely transparent image can be turned in its own right, and viewed either from the front with a silver background or from the back with a cream paper background.

So next up is a condensed blog post for assessment. In the meantime, here’s a rough video of the book, minus its ribbon.

 

A5 scanning Polaroids

One of my tutor’s suggestions for reworking A5 was to look at alternate camera technologies such as scanners and old digital cameras. As my old digital camera seems to have been thrown out, I investigated scanning on our basic HP inkjet.

It’s definitely a promising approach in that it gives me something in between the sheer physicality of the Polaroid and the modernity of the macro shots taken with my DSLR . Unlike the Polaroid, it’s digital so I can use it in other ways. I’m thinking more about a photobook, with a modern photo on one half of the spread and a scan on the other, probably offset, possibly with the two images both relating to the same original Polaroid. I could attach an actual Polaroid inside the front or back covers, using either Velcro dots or transparent cd wallets, to allow the photographs to be removed and handled.

On the scanned Polaroids I like the inverted images – it ties in with Fox Talbot’s invention of the negative. More to follow…