This is a condensed blog post for assessment. Please refer to the original posts for more information if needed.
Photography is Simple is about curiosity, following up all those I wonders and what ifs. It’s about the origins of photography in the UK, via Fox Talbot, Lacock Abbey, and experimentation. It’s about the technical simplicity of the Polaroid. It’s about inside-out and back-to-front, about the bits that we ignore – the backs, the guts, the negatives. It’s about exploring a single object and multiple possibilities, like Masterchef and coriander. It’s about tampering with prints and memories. It’s about windows – seeing from the inside out and the outside in; like how Barthes talked about how we don’t see the photograph, but only what it’s of (2000, p5-6), like how we see through/into a photo rather than looking at the object itself. It’s about looking through the same windows as Fox Talbot, working with the same light, and the photographic window on the world that he gave us all. It’s about frames – both for windows and for images, and that Polaroid frame on every print. It’s about my creative journey – taking ideas from FiP, tending them and testing them. It’s about taking inspiration from the Revelations study visit two years ago and putting it, via Polaroid – onto watercolour paper bought at the Wolfgang Tillmans study visit, or magnetic acrylic blocks as helpfully identified by an OCA Fine Arts student (Stefan Schaffeld). It’s about trusting that Walter Benjamin was right when he said “In artwork, subject matter is a ballast, jettisoned during contemplation” (Benjamin, 1979 p66-67 cited Campion in (Berg and Gronert, 2011)), and still wondering about aura. It’s about risk, each Polaroid is a one-off, if the emulsion sticks or processing sucks, there’s no way of just running off another one. It’s about my friend Clare, who said there’s no point altering something that isn’t precious, that doesn’t carry a risk. It’s about chemicals, it’s about instability, it’s about change, it’s about time and it’s about me, my creative foundations and my creative future.
A video of the original book is below. I had also submitted some prints and some objects (emulsion lifts in acrylic) as I was unsure which direction to develop for assessment.
My tutor was very positive about the work, stressing that all it really needed was consolidation from its current foundation across three form. She provided me with a raft of references to help me with providing a visual context for the work and stronger presentation. She suggested exploring the work with other outdated technology, which led me to some terrific explorations of scanning the image backs and inserting the scans onto a Nokia 3310. Engaging and productive as these were, they helped me to see that what mattered for assessment was an improved book and a single acrylic block.
The video and photographs below show some of the explorations I made. Please note that the video works best with sound on.
The final improvement came when I took the book back to Lacock Abbey and discussed it with OCA peer Holly Woodward who provided a fresh perspective on sequencing and the best images to start and finish with. I punched new holes in pages, lifted glue dots where needed, resequenced and the new book went together like it was meant to be. Finally I understood what my tutor meant when she talked of how work can be resolved enough for assessment without necessarily being creatively “finished”. I would also dispute Barthes’ comments:
“The Photograph belongs to that class of laminated objects whose two leaves cannot be separated without destroying them both: the windowpane and the landscape, ….” (2000, p6) and “Polaroid? Fun, but disappointing, except when a great photographer is involved.” (2000, p9). I’ve found separating these Polaroids to be exactly the opposite.
Barthes, R. and Howard, R. (2000). Camera Lucida. 1st ed. London: Vintage Books.
Benjamin, W. and Underwood, J. (2008). The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Berg, S. and Gronert, S. (2011). Through the looking brain. 1st ed. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.
Cotton, C. (2015). Photography is magic. New York: Aperture.
The Impossible Project, Kelnreiter, M (2012) . 101 ways to do something impossible. Germany: The Impossible Project.