The main theme of this week is writing tp my 2,500 word research proposal for submission by Monday, 15th October.
Given I was only the second person in my cohort to have my 1 to 1 with my course tutor I really should have advanced this already, but I never seem to find it so easy to do until the deadline is looming. It’s a motivational trait that has been with me since school.
One of my first completed activities supporting the proposal was mapping out my timescale as follows:
Oct 16th-Nov 7th – Film & Digital experimentation, decide/secure exhib. space.
Nov 9-11th - Paris Face to Face
Nov 12th-Jan 29th Follow-up development.
Nov 25th & Dec 2nd - PhotoFusion darkroom workshops
Jan (or Feb) – Present portfolio at a Photographer Gallery’s ‘Folio Friday’ workshop
Jan 30th – Key 1 to 1 discussion with Tutor to decide final approach
(BACK-UP DECISION MILESTONE; Stay with project?)
Feb – Final shoots and portfolio preparation and initial publicity feeds.
March 4-10th – Falmouth Face/face portfolio review
and developing/scanning/enlargement work
March 11-31st – Last-minute shooting/edit
and finalisation of plans, printing, publicity etc.
April 1st - Exhibition set-up (Sunday)
April 3-7th - Exhibition + Launch (Wed-Sun)
April 7th - Exhibition take-down
April 8t – 2nd May – Follow-up activities and general write-up completion
April 14th- 28th – Easter break (Limits any opportunity for final feedback?)
May 3rd, 2019 – Assignment Deadline
I was in truth a little surprised to recognize just how tight the schedule becomes once the next academic period kicks off in late January next year. So whilst in some ways I seem to a have plenty of time at present to try different approaches and experiment. I feel I need to have to aim to have a suitable portfolio for assessment by early January latest. At the same time the project that is not described above, my Croydon Shopkeepers work, needs to be reasonably progressed within the same period. Just in case it is needed as a back-up at the milestone decision point. That is my scheduled 30th January 1 to 1 30 minute meeting with my Tutor.
This may of course change.There is the old adage that ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’, attributed to the Prussian Field Marshall Helmuth von Mokte the Elder and paraphrased in this form by my old favourite war historian, Correlli Barnett.
However, the design of this FMP stage is that I have to document the results of the public exposure of my work by the 3rd May. This means the exhibition, and any other publicity, needs to be in hand well before this date.
So best to be busy.
The week began with my participation in the monthly meeting of a group of Photofusion members, where no more than four or five present ongoing work for discussion and feedback. Organised by Kim Shaw and supported, at least critique-wise, by Anthony Luvera, Principal Lecturer and Course Director of MA Photography and Collaboration at Coventry University. I understand Anthony was part of the team that validated my own Flexible MA course.
Foolishly I volunteered to be scribe for most of the meeting, the note to be given to the relevant speaker, so this write-up may appear a little excessive. The presenters full names I will leave out as it is a very informal event with about thirty participants and the material shown was generally at quite an early stage.
The first presentation was almost too early for comment. A selection of images from travel that whilst some had quite a timeless quality, others were far too close to the standard tourist/holidaymaker snapshot to be easily commented on.
The second was much more advanced. Presented by a gentleman who’s ‘day-job' is has a fashion photographer he presented a number of outstanding large black and white prints of the nude torsos of a number of older woman, who apparently model regularly for life-class portraiture. In all cases the head or face was not shown. Tim’s project is to create a larger body of work that could lead to an eventual book publication.
One reviewer did point out that whilst the quality was excellent one image didn’t fit as in that case the neck could be clearly seen. The prints had been made with a platinum process, which everyone seemed to admire.
The main discussion wasn’t so much on the photography but on why they’d been done and whether there was a risk they could be seen as objectifying women. He was asked ‘Is it male gaze?’. The presenter didn’t think so. It was suggested that he picked images that supported that position to avoid criticism of those that several females in the audience thought did In particular the droopy nature of some of the folds of skin portrayed was felt to reinforce the view of older women and perhaps exaggerated their aging. The choice of black and white in this case may not be helpful as too close to historic portrayals.
The presenter’s response was that he was trying to portray that women have a tougher journey than men. It was suggested that he involves the women models in the choice of final image. He said that these are all shot in a studio with a tethered digital camera and that he does always let the model see their captured image.
There was quite a lot of comments, mainly from female members of the audience. The presence of relaxed hands in a number of the images was felt to help avoid objectification but a number felt there were too many assumptions. It was also felt by some that the women portrayed all came across as mothers, which not all are of course.
His closing comments were that he felt he needed to stress that he allowed the model to do their own direction. He views the male body as having a different journey. It started as a Masters project but he now wants the work to be a more personal project. So far he has about 40 images in this project portfolio and appreciated the feedback.
I found it both an interesting and alarming discussion. As a male who often takes portraits and fashion images of women it was clear that one could easily be perceived of communicating a secondary narrative that was negative in some way to womanhood. Whilst this doesn’t impact on my current project work, it’s certainly something to be aware of. The other observation was the visual impact of those platinum process black and whlte prints, definitely something to be considered as a potential means of illustrating my self-portraiture work.
The next project presentation was by Fran on a very different theme, images taken of the course of the River Esk from the coast to the source in the North Yorkshire moors. It was at quite an early stage, using colour images captured during two long walks, conducted at different times of the year. She was still learning about the area and enjoyed associated map ephemera..
The presenter had studied ‘A’ level photography at school, but was only just returning to photography after graduating and starting a curatorial job at a major institution in London. She liked analogue/film and had just started working in colour. Re-familiarizing herself with technique etc.
A number of other projects were quoted by the members of the audience: Paul Gaffney, Bobby Mills, Iain Sinclair were given particular attention. Derek Henderson was also mentioned as a good examples of combining portraiture with landscape. Similar Stevan Vaughan and Alec Soth.received praise.
I guess the biggest lesson for here was the extensive knowledge base possessed by other practitioners. It would be a very useful venue for presenting my own project during it’s course, the feedback could be valuable.
The fourth presentation was different again. This was by Tim, a professional Australian ethnographer on a project based on the documentation of an isolated community in Australia, 40 miles East of Alice Springs. The photographic work results from his interaction with this community in the course of his funded research into the meaning and value of sport to such aboriginal communities. He’s been involved in this research for the last eight years, working with football focused younger members of that community,.
Whilst it his fairly easy to obtain funds for his current research he would like to escape the ‘funding envelope’ that prescribes his approach. The photographic imagery of crowds and sport currently is there to support this research, he’d like to move to it being a more personal photography only project. He want to work with the local community th capture the joy that represents sport in this community. Portraying their ‘lived’ experience. He feels at the moment his pictures say more about him than them.
As well as escaping his current ethnographic academic pressure he want to pursue a photography oriented theme, helping raise funds for their local sport in the process. He’s writing a book which will contain about 20 images, he doesn’t want a ‘coffee table type photobook but would happily consider some form of zine. This did generate the comment that as yet no zines have made significant money to speak of.
There was an immediate mention of the very colourful images of Patrick Waterhouse portrayed in the current October issue of the British Journal of Photography, Entitled ‘Restricted Images’ is documents the Australian Northern Territory’s Waliri People, artistic post processing being applied to mix aboriginal art with his photography.
The comment was made that this sounded similar to work done documenting Brazilian Favela communities by Julian Germain. The work of Wendy Ewald was also mentioned, (on a number of projects has ‘worked with’ children, families and teachers in those communities to document themselves using her equipment). Anthony Luvera elt it was a social engagement project waiting to happen.
The last question was that his images seemed to show the isolation of that community well. His repsonse was that he didn’t want to show their isolation, more important to him was the richness of their community. It was that he wanted to portray.
My own view of his project was that whilst there was already a substantial base to build on, in re-framing the purpose of his project perhaps it might in some ways be simpler to start afresh, if this in practice is truly possible.
But he did come across as very capable of making it happen.
A few days later we had another Falmouth photography hub web-based presentation. This was by the Danish photographer Sissel Thastum, hosted by Catarina Foutoura. A Danish Jutlander she described a long-running project ‘I am here when you are here’ that started originally in support of her BA studies. Describing visually her relationship with her Mother. and taking an unusual path for such a documentary project with very few images taken within the home. At the same time it seems an intensely personal project.
Intimately exploring her relationship with her Mother Sissel said that now the act of taking a photograph of her Mother produces feelings of nostalgia. Whilst she said that the project stressed the fragility of life as it made her recognize that her Mother and father won’t always be there. To me it seems strange that in her imagery her father only seems to feature once in a very intimate shot of both her parents together naked.
Not that all of Sissel’s images have her Mother featured either. Some are very moody shots of what I understand is the pinewood environment that surrounds her family’s home.
One of the images that stood out for a number of us in the presentation was one of her Mother on the coastline with a strong wind blowing her hair. Whilst grainy the image seems to exemplify the meaning that she communicates so consistently in this project. Words do not seem necessary.
Sissel than said a little about her current project entitled ‘Thela’. This project stems from a recent residency in Portugal and looks at humans influence of the planet. Collaborating with others she found worries about timing predominated her thinking at the start. She now sees this as part of her artistic development. So whilst she found the freedom provided byher open-ended residency eliminated worry about the end-product, it did make her feel insecure.
Her methodology has evelved and she now simply always carries a camera. Most of her photos involve and entrance of a path, her basic theme is closeness to nature. She has taken may images but hass yet to decide what to do with them. This links with her first project.
But she has felt print is too distant and this prompted her to try video. Sissel described her previous project, a video soundscape created with the musician and sounds artist Alexander Holm, entitled: ‘No you without the Mountains, without Sun, without Sky’. Providing a private link to view the video it is a subtle composition, both by audio and visual presentations are highly subdued. Blending from close-up what my be a sunlit frogspawn coated pool to evening moving clouds and finally a desert mountain panorama. Based on the Native American Wintu people of Northern California it’s very restrained, but extremely mood provoking.
Sissel described it as a means to allow the viewer to meditate and a counter-reaction to what she feels is the anthropocentric worldview driven by capitalistic ideals.
Her current work is research based, but very flexible and she said she’s starting to build bridges from one projet to another. Caternina quoted Stephen Shore’s comment of finding your own voice to communicate.
She added at the end that it was in her experience tricky to get your work curated. In her last project she was both a producer and curator, curating her collaborators work as well as her own. She did encourage anyone who’s work crosses border to look actively into those possible connections. For her photography on it’s own is too limiting.
DRAFT - A little more to be added