Week 14 of FMP: Back to study (28th Jan. - 3rd Feb. 2019)

The week started more positively with a discussion with several of my peers about where we currently are in our projects. Some radically differing positions, but I wasn’t alone in considering changing project stream at a late stage. This sharing of difficult positions helped. I resolved to go forward with the Croydon Shopkeepers project as suggested by my FMP tutor and finally give up on thoughts regarding the reflective self-portraiture.

So after great procrastination, I’ve decided to go back to my earlier Croydon shopkeepers project. This was discussed with my FMP tutor at the scheduled 1-2-1 a couple of days later. I agreed that I needed to work to a much more defined project plan and get things rolling. I want to add greater narrative to my project through audio or audio-video interview. To do this i need a suitable questionnaire. I’m also considering increasing the audio-visual component by recording inside the shop for a period.

Later in the week i spent a number of hours at London College of Communications well equipped library. Unlike Central Saint Martin’s I didn’t need to book a slot several days in advance to gain access as a SCONUL registered student..

Library study area, London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle (31st January, 2019)

There were a number of pertinent books. I was able to borrow two; ‘Psychoanalysis and Ethics' in Documentary Film’ by Agnieska Piotrowaska and ‘Video Documentary making’ by Mark Patterson. I picked the former as it was covering ground I’d not considered before, and was a text that wan’t easy to identify relevant pages to make photo-copies of. The latter is a 1993 BBC Television Training book that seems now to be long out of print, but nonetheless full of extremely sensible points and suggestions.

One book that initially seemed useful for my purposes; ‘Doing Interviews’ by Steinar Kvale wasn’t. Similar conclusion with ‘Cognitive Interviewing’ by Gordon Willis. ‘Interviewing Techniques for Writers & Researchers’ by Susan Dunne did seem relevant and I photocopied a number of the pages, as I also did with ‘Research Interviewing’ by Bill Gillham. Whilst ‘Documentary; Witness and self-revelation’ by John Ellis had some interesting observations, they weren’t particularly relevant to the needs of the moment.

I also followed up on my FMP tutor’s suggestion and spent a couple of hurs looking through various photobooks of Gillian Wearing’s work. I was easy to see why she had been recommended. Inventive and very direct. The description of her approach by Dominic Molon for the book on her ‘Mass Observation’ project was particularly illuminating. Sadly I was already at my borrowing limit so I contented myself with a few more photocopies inexpensively captured by my mobile phone.

Towards the end of the week I received by e-mail low resolution scanned positives of the developed negatives from the Photofusion large format portraiture workshop I’d attended at the end of last week. They were on the whole a bit stronger than I’d remembered. Probably because it’s difficult to take the image in well looking through the slightly diffuse screen o the 5 x 4 studio cameras we’d been using. Here are the images that were captured. The first three were taken on a Sinar P with LED lighting, the latter group on a Sinar F with a stronger fluorescent light.

Only the first image was taken with the film back and the lens board in a vertical format. Initially varying degrees of tilt had been tried, resulting in some interesting out of focus effects. Quite different to what you get simply by using a narrow depth of field like my earlier portraiture project with a f/8 500mm full frame reflex lens close-up or my more recent foray into the studio with an 85mm full frame f1.8 lens opened wide. The last two seemed the most satisfying, maybe we were getting better at it.

This make me re-consider just how I should approach the taking of 5 x 4 images of my collaborators in the next phase of my environmental portraiture shots. The temptation is to leave well alone however, as their background should be an integral part of the image, assuming I don’t change course and shoot that separately.

Aily Nash

The final part of the week was a two day workshop called ‘The operative image’ led by a New-York based curator, Aily Nash. This had been organised by LUX, a charitable Arts group supporting and promoting artists working with the moving image. The first day was in a very cold screening room at the institute of contemporary arts on the Mall. The second day in a smaller but much warmer screening room at LUX’s building near Highgate.

My fellow attendees were largely videographic fine arts MA students with a couple of photographers, a several graduates and two studying for a PhD with Goldsmiths’ Centre for Research Architecture.

This was my first experience of this type of workshop, quite different to any photographic workshop I’ve attended to date. A process of watching a number of short films chosen by Aily and then dissected afterwards by ourselves with aily’s guidance and background comment. A slow but effective process it forced my to recognize the importance of a number of aspects in moving image work that I’d not really appreciated, as well as a few tricks in adding mood and tension.

Most of the Operative Image workshop group in the screening room of the ICA during a break (Graham Land, 2nd February, 2018)

We’d been asked to critically assess two supplied texts before the workshop, using extracts from these texts in our comments on the film material we’d been shown. The oldest text was by Hayden White entitled' ‘The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality’. On the face the article was comparing a chronological/histiographic approach to describing past events to one termed annalist. More of a listing of certain events with odd inclusions and exclusions. I didn’t think the basis of the thesis put forward was that substantial, but had to agree with a number of the points made, particularly with Haydens White’s concusions on the last page.

The newer article was chapter 5 of a book entitled ‘Precarious Life; The Powers of mourning and violence’ by Judith Butler. A heavy but quite interesting discussion on the notion of ‘face’, as put forward by Emmanuel Levinas, applies to media coverage of the Iraq war.

Entrance to LUX, Waterlow Park Centre, Dartmouth Park Hill (3rd February, 2019)

It was a lot to take in but it did promote some interesting ideas on my own proposed moving image work. More about these in my next blog.

REFERENCES QUOTED

Dunne, S. 1995 ‘Interviewing Techniques for Writers & Researchers’, London, A & C Black (Publishers)

Ellis, B (2012) “Witness and self-revelation”, London, Routledge

Gillham, B (2005) “Research Interviewing; the range of techniques, London, Open University Press’

Kvale, S. 2007 “Doing Interviews”, London, Sage

Patterson, M. 1993 “A Quick Crib to Video Documentary making”, London, BBC Television Training

Piotrowaska, A. 2014 “Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film”, London, Routledge

Willis, G 2004 “Cognitive Interviewing”, London, Sage