A1: Redone

Create a short series (6-10) of environmental portraits of people in places that provide the context for us to understand them. Pose and details are important.

Wendy’s feedback for the original A1 assignment I did was that the work was overly convoluted. In my feedback notes I summarised:

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself
  • Keep it simple
  • Be clear
  • Be economical

Wendy suggests interests that emerge from the work are shifting identity and multiple personalities (My clarification for my own understanding – not in the sense of ‘madness’ e.g. Sybil but rather how we all have various masks in different situations and in particular how social media and technology impacts on that).

Survey – the data set was very broad (because I didn’t really know what I was looking for)

Narrow the frame of inquiry – what is it you are trying to say?

I experimented with other ways of presenting the data – i.e. I would be the people whose data I had collated. I was asked at the beginning of the process if I would ‘do a Cindy Sherman?’ I absolutely don’t want to do a Cindy Sherman or anyone else for that matter. While I am, of course, aware I should be influenced by others I am also very eager to make work that only I could make. (Even though it is impossible to avoid seeming like others who have come before us – I know full well that I have been heavily influenced by Julie Cockburn’s work in some instances for some aspects of A5, for instance, perhaps without realising it, to begin with.) Earlier experiment…


In the end, I decided to simply start again with another idea I had contemplated for A5 but ditched in favour of the route I actually took. Notes here:


What I have ultimately produced seems, like A5, a work-in-progress which I think has the potential to be something more than it is now (perhaps…) As such here is a dummy PDF showing potential ideas for presentation using the material below.

sample with presentation ideas



This series of images is of people from my life, some of which are overlayed with texts from my past; letters, my father’s unpublished book, and reports. Collectively, they are part of me and make me who I am, along with many others and much more besides. We are nothing without our relationships. Our relationships to eachother and to the world are all we are.

“There is no such thing as a single human being, pure and simple unmixed with other human beings … [the self] is a composite structure … formed out of countless never-ending influences and exchanges… we are members of one another.”

Joan Rivière, Psychotherapist

“We are complex nodes in a rich web of reciprocal information.”

Carlo Rovelli, Physicist

A1(c)SJFIeld 2018-6034Enlight61Alf(c)SJFIeld 2018-6049Enlight42Alf(c)SJFIeld 2018-Enlight41A1(c)SJFIeld 2018-7331Enlight58


Discussing this new route with fellow students* I introduced it with the following sentence:

“…the lines we place around ourselves are illusory. There is too much emphasis in our culture on difference and othering – when in fact we are nothing without our relationships – the relationships we have with other people, with our history, and with the world are everything that we are. I have lots and lots of quotes I could use to demonstrate this but have chosen two to begin the sequence …”

Responses to the work indicated that my central theme had come across and included:

  • “What came to mind immediately – in respect of the text – was the notion of binaries. That increasingly we are artificially segmented into polar extremes, that idea of digital. Whereas that notion is, as you point out is an illusion, sold to us by the narrators, either you are or you’re not, with us or without, Brexit or Remoan. However we live in an analogue world, where even the digital state is a confluence of analogue signals and can be broken down under intense scrutiny. And so the photograph, which is popularly resident in either digital or analogue, is in fact always analogue. It breaks apart at the margins, unable to hold onto a steady state”. (John U)
  • “I note that it seems to be titled ‘Self Portrait’. I assume that your approach has been to present your own ‘portrait’ through the making of portraits of those with whom you have some of the relationships that are key to making you who you believe yourself to be. How’s that for a convoluted sentence! Emoji Of course, it is inevitable in our image-making that we present ourselves … so they are all ‘portraits’ of you. I can’t really comment beyond that – it is, as I’m sure you already realise, a very interesting and highly competent little body of work that will be more than adequate to present for a modified Assignment One.” (Stan D)
  • These images work for me every time I look at them. I think I’ve written before that they’re tender without being sentimental, so avoid your concern re the  ‘advertising image aspect’.   You’ve stripped the layers down as well in line with Wendy’s comments.   I checked the brief and it fits it pretty well – environmental portraits of people in places providing the context to understand them; close to you or distinctly ‘other’. Obviously close to you and you give an excellent rationale and context re ‘otherness’.  If you’re thinking about a book then how about a simple hand-made one. The project as it stands is a good lead into DiAC and the first two parts, particularly Archive, writings of Freud and Derrida, palimpsest etc – there’s a whole load of research there to get your teeth into.  On that basis I would suggest not doing too much more so that you can continue with the underlying concept in some form, if you wish.” (Catherine B)
  • “I also like that you refuse to show full segments of text so we are left with impressions about what it all could mean, that said, I think the work could mean many things and be read by individuals in multiple ways – I am sure that was your intention though? Personally, I am not sure what I think about it all yet – I will need allow some time to let it sink in. Using archive images seems so prevalent at the minute and you have found a way to take the benefits of this approach through the use of text without being drawn into the cliched aspects. The last image (with the black background) is shocking and haunting and the x’s on the torso image are almost like an incision in the chest.” (Micheal M)

I am very grateful to fellow students for their time and comments.

At the end of this process, I think A1 as it originally was, shows where I started S&O and has a strong sense of my voice, despite the introduction of other voices – which were there to try and convey the central concept I have been exploring to a greater or lesser extent for some time – fluidity of boundaries around self and other. And despite being overly convoluted. I believe my work developed significantly from A3 onwards when I started playing with selfies and filters. There are questions in my mind about the sort of work I wish to be doing and how that fits with the word ‘photography’ but which I will discuss further when I begin Digital Image & Culture.

*I shared this work with a very small group since I did not want to spend too much further time on it  – I have finished this module and need to move forward but wanted to experiment with some of the threads which had come out of Wendy’s feedback.

I might very well have presented Exercise 1.1 & 1.3 (which I did together as one series) for this assignment as it also conveys the same idea – we are not separate entities in a contained universe. We are all a part of each other. What I have presented in the end focuses on people I know intimately but could also have included strangers.

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills

I think the work is more economical than the first effort but says a similar thing, perhaps more personally, as Wendy suggested; a clear idea, expressed visually and creatively but it has some small issues as it stands – for instance, the image with my mother at the end overlayed with text from my father’s ‘book’ is difficult to get the right exposure right once it’s been merged with the text. Also, I have used my dad’s text a lot in this particular selection but wanted to expand and use other texts. Here I have included the Eistedford report which stands out as different – and should ideally be added to with texts from friends, my childhood diaries, my mother’s letters, an aunt’s. Including the Eisteddfod one is justifiable in this small selection because of my dad’s need for me to be an actor but it would better if other texts were included too. There should also be other people, more recognisable such as my 6-year-old son for instance who only appears as an arm here. My older two appear more frequently. The photo of my friend should really be shot with more light and a higher aperture so the texture of her hair is clearer, I think. But I am aware of this and it is why I think this work could be developed further and is a little sketchy for now, unfinished – it may also be it’s not in the right format yet. However, the concept  – orientating the images differently and layering my own history is what counts for now. The idea, some of the images and editing shows a good level for this stage.

Quality of Outcome

As mentioned, I feel I’ve not yet found the right format for this work and have had to reject strong single images because they don’t work with this selection – par for the course perhaps. As suggested by an OCA colleague, a simple handmade book might be the way forward (as this is an assignment I am redoing before moving on to the next module, and have a few months before the deadline for assessment, I am going to see if it is possible to use the material I have so far to make something). I wonder if the images look better together here than they do on my website (which is where I showed them to peers). And I have provided a sample PDF which is another possibility but I will no doubt do things differently if making something handmade.

Demonstration of Creativity

It is creative work and shows a willingness to go down different paths, and try new things.


Nearly all my S&O blog explores the concept I am trying to communicate –  a criticism of western, Logo-centric individualism.

Other variations which I’ve not included for now:


This is a letter from my mother which may be good to include

Enlight51Enlight54Alf(c)SJFIeld 2018-6164Snapseed

Attachment-1A1(c)SJFIeld 2018-7313A1(c)SJFIeld 2018-7235

Untitled-1alf floweri


A1: Reshoot, further notes

I have been experimenting with an idea for the first project as discussed last week. The brief says “Create a short series (6 – 10) of environmental portraits of people in places that provide the context for us to understand them. Pose and details are important, look again at examples from the history of photography as well as the contemporary practitioners listed below. Think carefully about whether you want to photograph people close to you or subjects who are distinctly ‘other’ to you.”

Returning to the idea that traditional definitions of self and other are limiting and worth questioning I have been playing with creating portraits which I will call self-portraits but they are of other people and places. I will layer various image together, making the layering obvious to suggest construction. I will likely include text and have been working with my father’s attempt at a manuscript.

The main ‘message’ is one wants to pinpoint one, is “There is no such thing as a single human being, pure and simple unmixed with other human beings. …[The self] is a composite structure… formed out of countless never-ending influences and exchanges… we are members of one another” Joan Rivière, Psychotherapist.

I have played with various ways of doing this, using different blending options. I was a little loath to lose some of the text in the writing but after playing, I think I prefer the fragmented nature of overlaying. We are a little bit of all sorts and rational order is an illusion and as much a construct as anything.

I think I will go with something along the following lines, but I have linked to some earlier experiments. I will make these into a book with no photograph on the cover just the title, seLf-porTraits. The following are not finals, just examples of what I might do.


I like the image but not the writing over it here plus I think if I use this it needs another ‘something’ over the face.

Further tests for Self Portrait #a1 #weareoca #portrait #selfandother

A post shared by SJ Field (@_sjf_1) on

Too busy  – I don’t think we need all the writing

Other than the somewhat cliched image with the balloon, I liked the idea of simply putting two images which work well together and had thought about having a book with alternate plates. One with text, one without… I will see once I’ve taken some more pictures.

One thing I will say, this way of working feels a little like advertising but I need to get it done and my lack of planning was something Wendy picked up on in the feedback for A1.

A1 Reshoot

I have taken an idea (self-portrait) I had for A5 which never got used, (also discussed here) but which I mentioned here before and putting together as a collection of images which I hope will convey a very clear and simple message as advised in the feedback I received for that assignment. It says what I was attempting to say throughout the module, we are not discrete objects, we should question our fetishisation of other and our privilege of self over any other; we are our relationships. I can’t complete the work until my mother returns at the end of May but then I’ll be able to put that to one side and perhaps will feel ready to put the entire module aside.

Not sure how I will present the images but here is one idea for a series I will call


Self Portrait



“We are complex nodes in a rich web of reciprocal information” Carlo Rovelli, Reality is Not What it Seems




alf floweri

“There is no such thing as a single human being, pure and simple unmixed with other human beings. Each personality is a world in himself, a company of many. That self … is a composite structure … formed out of countless never-ending influences and exchanges between ourselves and others. These other persons are in fact, therefore, part of ourselves … we are members of one another.” Riviere, 1927: Holmes, 1993; 137





Assignment 1: Further development

I have been thinking about developing Assignment 1 further over the summer weeks – sort of letting it percolate at the back of everything else that has been going on (thinking about Oxford House, reading and enjoying the summer with my kids). As well, I have been influenced by OCA tutor and artist, Bryan Eccelshall’s Digital Rain images which I have been watching emerge on Twitter for a few months. After he posted a video of how he puts these together I started experimenting with some of his methods using my own images. These are a couple of results from that experimentation.


This evening I looked at one of the images I’d chosen from the A1 booklet I made – #82. Trudi who had modelled for me had access to the description devised from the survey I’d created and this was her ‘early rehearsal’ improvised rendition of the person she was ‘playing’, which I used in the book. It contains a sketch by OCA student Stefan Schaffeld, one of the artists I’d asked to collaborate on this journey.


I took the mood she’d absorbed from the description and did a quick selfie on my phone and then combined it with another collaborator’s work, Lottie Ellis, who’s drawings I think I will probably stick with if I go this route because of the abstract nature of how she works and what she presented to me. Recall, I asked artists to take the descriptions I’d created using the surveys and make some ‘marks’ that they felt were their own representations of the descriptions. I then combined the selfie and Lottie’s image and played around using the same sort of process I’d been exploring with the experiments above, influenced by Bryan Eccleshall.

And here is a series of images which led to the final result below. I have not included the text here other than the sequential number of the respondent as the input is less important I think than the output. Perhaps it is enough to know I created an image based on a personal description given to me by a stranger about their life, and that at each stage that description is used by the collaborators – in this image, Lottie, Trudi and me as well as the original person who gave me the story. In the feedback I was asked about the type of information I requested, and it was suggested it was quite substantial and may have been better if I’d asked for less. However, the working process of creating a character requires me to gather as much info as possible and then to allow it to be absorbed and transform me in some way. It is perhaps enough to know at the end that the final result is a character created using a variety of forms and through a collaboration to create a representation. I’m going to think about these some more and will return to them perhaps at the end of the holiday period.


#82 (c)Sarah-Jane Field & Lottie Ellis 2017


Eccleshall, B. 2017 Video describing Digital Rain Process, YouTube, Accessed 30 August 2017

Ecclelshall, B. 201, Twitter, Digital Rain Images, Accessed 30 August 2017

Feedback: A1

A week ago Wendy and I had a chat via Skype about A1. She confirmed my concerns that the assignment was overly convoluted but said there were lots of very strong ideas and my picture-making skills good (reassuring!) Her advice was to simplify it either by re-editing or even reshooting using myself as the model acting out each of the 6 people. I totally agree with simplifying but I am having a think about whether to use me in this work or return to one of the models I used and and getting them to ‘perform’ all of the characters. I favour using Lottie and her masks if possible if I go down that route but will need to revisit as I only photographed her with three of the people/masks in her garden – a conversation I need to have with Lottie. Wendy also said she really liked the surreal quality of the cover photo with the chicken and the cat which pleased me as that is the direction I hope to head in – somewhat odd, ‘oneiric’ images.

Here are my notes from our meeting:

A1 Tutorial Feedback 4/8/2017 

Main take-home message

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself
  • Keep it simple
  • Be clear
  • Be economical

Interests that emerge from the work are shifting identity and multiple personality (My clarification for my own understanding – not in the sense of ‘madness’ e.g. Sybil but rather how we all have various masks in different situations and in particular how social media and technology impacts on that).

Survey – the data set was very broad (because I didn’t really know what I was looking for)

Narrow the frame of inquiry – what is it you are trying to say?

Look at Natasha Caruna’s ‘Coup de Foudre’: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/natasha-caruana-coup-de-foudre-love-at-first-sight

Also Claude Cahun and Gillian Wearing again

Gillian Wearing’s ‘Confess All on Video’: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/wearing-confess-all-on-video-dont-worry-you-will-be-in-disguise-intrigued-call-gillian-t07447

Return to Sophie Calle’s Suite Vénitienne: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/7349/sophie-calle-suite-venitienne

We discussed using my self in the work and I recalled thinking about it, indeed being asked by a fellow student from my UVC group if I would ‘do a Cindy Sherman”. Although I thought about it I was concerned I’d already done so much of this in TAOP and felt I should avoid going down that route immediately again. Wendy suggested I should in fact go for it and perhaps reshoot the series with this in mind. S

There was another work Wendy suggested I look at reshooting for the 21st century for A2 using myself (I think some early work bHans Eijkelboom was mentioned but I am not sure exactly which work it was)

Gideon Mendal’s DZHANGAL was also suggested.

http://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/dzhangal (Brief. initial look at this is so exciting to see as I did not know it before.)

Key points extracted from feedback document: 

“You mention in your ‘thoughts at the end of the process’ that you feel frustrated by the limits of traditional documentary and portraiture photography. Good! This questioning is all very useful and it is this aspect of photography and portraiture that indeed you are exploring in this assignment.”

“I think the key thing to ask yourself is ‘what and why’. What do you want to say? How are you going to go about this and Why are you using your chosen methods or medium? If you ask your self honestly these three simple questions, things may become clearer. It does seem to me that the role of technology (ie. the internet) plays a rather large part in your ideas, as that is the vehicle that often allows us to assume multiple identities at the click of a button.” It seems odd to still be influenced by my acting training as it was so long ago now but the way I learned to work creatively seems so different from this. The most influential director whose methods I truly loved encouraged us to discover what, who , why over time rather than start with it. In a rehearsal process we would not try to be ‘good’ at the beginning of it. In fact, some super ‘bad’ (whatever that means) broad brush strokes to help get you going are useful early on and over the course of the exploratory period we would begin to find what I thought of as flags which we could put in key places to guide us. Perhaps the director had to consider ‘what and why’ at the beginning and in the sort of photography work I am aiming for I am both the director and the performer (even when I am using others, who let’s face it very often represent me in some way). In my current work outside of the OCA (although I may use it to save myself some precious time and, more importantly, my sanity for A2) I have taken Wendy’s advice and tried hard to think of one sentence that sums up what I am trying to say with the work. I have also made a short list of words that communicate what the work is aiming to encapsulate. 


See main body of the text


Excellent research and reflection

Learning Log

Very well laid out log

Suggested reading/viewing

See main body of the text

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

Don’t over work things – keep it simple and build from each assignment.”


The feedback was very encouraging and useful, constructive but without being patronising, for which I was grateful.



Self & Other Assignment 1

Create a short series (6-10) of environmental portraits of people in places that provide the context for us to understand them. Pose and details are important.

PDF of the assignment in book format- Others (Otherscompletecover)

Please note: The cover on this version is different to the one I sent via email to WM, due to crop I noticed after emailing it.

It will be helpful to look at the book before reading further.


Two months ago I created a survey which can be found here. I was not sure if I would use the results for the exercises or the assignment or both. In the end they influenced all the work but perhaps it is only obviously visible in the assignment.

I received 86 replies to the survey. I chose 6 to work with. I condensed their words into short descriptions of people.


  1. #34 Female, English, lives in Kent, dress style – “sticks to monochrome”. High thin-heeled stilettoes, feels an affinity with industrial chrome and steel. Home is a modern 3-bed, built to look like a barn, decorated in industrial style, sleek modern furniture. Grew up in France. Has experienced devastating grief.
  2. #83 Female, Welsh, lives in Saudi Arabia. Wears full-length black abaya, with shorts, vest and flip-flops underneath. Home is considered a ‘beautiful bay in Pembrokeshire’ – misses it very much and compares where she is now unfavourably. Was a highly qualified professional when lived in the UK, no longer allowed to work. Signified by a pair of designer sunglasses.
  3. #82 Female, Arab, French but lives in London. Favourite colour red, signified by cigarettes, high-waisted everything, red lipstick, and big smile. Lives with 2 flatmates in Hoxton and although rented, the flat feels like home.
  4. #27 Describes gender as Other, Nordic, and lives on a hill in the woods between the sea and suburb. Struggling and fat. Lives in an old fashioned home that looks like a museum, which feels good. Signified by a tall walking stick. Wishes could tolerate ordinary people more.
  5. #61 Male, British, lives in Nottingham. Feels he is signified best by work trousers. Was changed deeply by death of best friend when he was 18 and grandmother within a few days of each other. Adult but wears superhero PJs. Ideal self is an international playboy, garden designer.
  6. #50 Male, British and lives in London; owns a large comfortable Victorian home, which he loves. Wears a cardigan, which he fiddles with as he did when he was a child with his comfort blanket. Knows he’s very lucky and tries hard not ‘to be a dick’.

I asked people whose work is about representing others to work with me creating a response to these descriptions. The result is the short photography book, Others.

Thoughts at the end the process

I have been quite surprised by the way the course is set out. To me, it feels extremely prescriptive and I had imagined that it would be less so than landscape or documentary, which despite knowing that both those terms can be interpreted in many ways, I avoided, because I wanted to look at things within a wider context. The terms self and other might be fairly broad, interpreted in several ways but the module feels as if it is extremely focused in the documentary tradition, for now at any rate. (Perhaps I am completely wrong, it would not be the first time and I don’t doubt that writing such a course presents many challenges – I can’t even begin to imagine where one would begin.) I wanted to avoid documentary. As a result of feeling potentially pushed into a corner I didn’t want to be in, from the start of the module I have felt compelled to question the trustworthiness of portraits – why am I being asked to do this, I wondered, it won’t tell anyone anything at all? As well, each time we were asked to make work I felt frustrated by the fact that I was being asked to inspect my prejudices and hang them out in public. We are all riddled with preconceptions and assumptions about others. It’s how we operate. Rather than head down that path I felt compelled to explore the fact that we do project and come up against counter-transference too. I conceived the idea of the survey, which was really a reaction against the photographic object. Once I had done that I then felt trapped into making work with it and wished I’d been less prescriptive myself. I also wanted to work collaboratively to suggest my belief that the terms self and other are not as clear-cut as we might imagine.

Because of the concerns addressed above, I have spent a lot of my time lately wondering if I have chosen the right module and/or am on the right course for me.

About the work

In a sense the project is a failure as I was not able to work as I initially wanted to. I could not gather enough people on the same day or days, although I am extremely grateful to Melanie Ingram who so generously offered her time and commitment should we have been able to. Instead, I had to either abandon that idea or work with people individually. At the same time I suddenly became exceptionally busy with work and life which I had not expected. So each shoot felt done under pressure.

Did I work collaboratively? (It might be useful to read my reflection about the term collaboration) With some people I did and with others less so. Melanie Teall (dancer and choreographer) and I were able to sit and talk one evening and share ideas. The rest of the time, although we only were able to grab a few minutes here and there at pick up time at school, we threw ideas around and decided for or against certain things; hence, the image I have used from our shoot is a genuine collaboration between the two of us. Melanie took my intial ideas and came to me with hers in response. She really brought herself into the work (and was very brave too). She understood precisely what I was hoping to explore and felt strongly it connected with work she’d been thinking about for a time. This is a result of those conversations


Note that this image still contains the light coming through the windows behind Melanie unlike the image in the book, which has had it removed.  (c) SJField & MTeall 2017

I asked artists to get involved because I was interested in the process of using drawing marks (good or bad drawing, writing, automatic writing) to illicit unconscious connections. Had I been able to go with the group work we’d have certainly used drawing in the preparation process.  I feel that the images of Lottie are also a genuine collaboration. Perhaps I played a ‘producer’s’ role but, even though our conversations were brief, the images of Lottie required her to trust me, which she generously did as she gave me her work and self to incorporate. I could have chosen a number of images from the shoot with Lottie and went with the one that fitted in relation to the others.


I didn’t use this image but there were a number from this shoot that might have worked. In the end I went for an image that contained an element of chance.

I work often with Trudi Jackson as you can see here.

We have an on ongoing unspoken collaboration that comes from being very long standing and close friends; her career fits well with this project and the fact we have worked and lived together in the past helps. I would work with Trudi again and again and read that Giacometti preferred to work with the same people repeatedly too, as I think many artists do. These others that we know well are perhaps the most interesting ones often. In a film I watched at the Tate exhibition on him, Giacometti talks about recognition getting further and further away the more he works and the closer to someone’s inner life he gets. I think it would be useful to really look at his work in-depth.

The person I felt most bad about is Stefan Schaffeld who put so much into the collaboration but I was not able to do as much with his contribution as he may have deserved. You can read his excellent notes here. I could not work out how to incorporate his work effectively. I did not want to layer our work together because I’d not done that with anyone else. But he was too far away to appear in the images. I thought about photographing him on a Skype call talking to me about his work, which is perhaps the way I should have gone but finding the time to talk at all was impossible as both he and I are so stretched for time. In the end I don’t think it was only about location, but perhaps this shows that collaboration is not a simply matter of sharing ideas but of being able to work with and accept them. Stefan has in fact made some interesting work with images I sent him which you can see on his blog.

Finally this work looks at the issue of copyright too, which is being questioned by some now – do we need it especially in the new digital reality where everything is downloadable and people make ‘collabs’ all the time (my sons are always talking about Youtubers who do ‘collabs’. How does this old world view of ownership fit in with a changing cultural landscape where sampling and sharing online are so prevalent? So in essence it explores issues surrounding the fixed sign and the changing relationship we have with those signs as language and social structures transform.

I see this as exploratory work rather than a final series, perhaps like a proposal.


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skill

I was trying new things and working in ways I don’t usually so all the little niggles in my skill set loomed large. I don’t like using a zoom for non-commercial work but I wasn’t sure what I wanted so did but it’s less controlled and too easy to zoom in or out and not think about why. I could have used images that had slanty lines etc and justified it with the mention of creating an oneiric atmosphere but this is something to consider more in future. The final six images I’ve used are technically sound, if not a little dark in places – which is perhaps down to my enjoyment of working with deep shadows. The Blurb online book making software may not be good enough for future books and maybe I will need to try out their downloadable package or something else.

Quality of Outcome, Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment. Conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

The idea and execution aren’t quite where I was aiming but it nevertheless communicates the ideas incorporated into the work and images . Some images are stronger than others. I think the edit is probably decent enough considering the images I ended up with and how I had to fit them together. The book is better than the video because of importance of text, so I was right to go with that, although a video could have those words spoken over images.  Some of the images don’t work as well as others with the full bleed and the compromise is not ideal in those, but I’ve stick with full bleed across the book for now. Something to consider when framing a series of shots that are aimed at a book format – not that I was certain here how I’d present them.  I also hope I got the balance right in the book with context – enough but not too much. I think there are probably too many quotes in the lead up to the images especially considering there are only 6 images – you must be thinking, get on with it. And should I have provided a page here with the images alone outside of a book format too for evaluating? Perhaps….

Demonstration of Creativity, Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

This work may not be to everybody’s taste and in fact I can see it quite irritating some people but it is creative. I deliberately didn’t want to make the same images and present them in the same way as we are used to seeing. I took risks. I don’t know if those risks always worked but at this juncture I think that is a good thing to be doing. I would hope to be encouraged to take risks and to take even more going forward. I wasn’t sure while working I would end up with anything at all and if any of it would have any of ‘me’, my voice, in it – but in the end, the final draft does seem to have a strong sense of my developing voice, despite contributions from a variety of people.

Context, Reflection, research (evidenced in learning logs). Critical thinking (evidenced in critical review).

Doing UVC was such a useful course. It has helped me to look at everything more analytically and better yet, to be able to write it down. As always I have written reams and reams in preparation. I do it more for me and working out how I feel and think about things, but I appreciate it’s hard to wade through it all so I do hope I’ve laid out the blog well enough. I find non-photogprahy but relevant aspects deeply interesting and compelling, and since starting with the OCA I have read widely, albeit not always quite what has been prescribed. I have referenced many, many books and articles throughout this section. I must admit I only just noticed the reading list (although it is not in the folder and online only). I will get on to it but it is safe to say I have been reading plenty of useful and relevant material.







Reflection: The word ‘collaboration’

It seems appropriate to discuss the word ‘collaboration’ here’ to question and unpick its meaning in light of the process I have explored in A1. It seems it is a ‘trendy’ word that many artists and photographers use nowadays, and there are times when it almost feels as if it’s being used simply because it’s what’s ‘in’.

(It is interesting to note the word collaboration has not always had positive connotations and, for example, has been used to refer to people and groups who colluded with the Nazi’s for instance. For example, the Vichy government are referred to in history books as collaborators. As such, each time I use the word I am reminded of those negative ideas surrounding the word and one can’t help but notice that appropriation too is a word that was used by marauding powers who travelled the world ravaging people and land during Empire building years. It is perhaps worth noting how art picks up on these words and then co-opts them into its own language.)

In particular with portrait photography, but also with other forms of portraiture, one cannot make portraits without some form of collaboration, or what might have simply been referred to in the past as ‘working with someone’. (Even if you’re photographing a baby, one who is awake at any rate, you do your best to interact with her and entice her into an interaction between the two of you, thereby collaborating albeit, perhaps, non-verbally). And in fact, artists and subjects have always collaborated. As have theatre practitioners and film makers and many other art makers who don’t work solely on their own. Those that do still often require others to be involved in the selling, exhibiting, critiquing of their work. You could play a game of semantics and say street photographers collaborate with the public, but in the public’s case they are unwitting participants. Perhaps though, here, you could say photographers are appropriating others’ images, and that collaboration by definition has at its essence a pre-agreed decision by both parties to work together in some capacity.

What underlies the current trend, other than it is a contemporary word to use, is to do with the desire to see shifts of power, as discussed in the interview with Ellen Mara de Watcher when asked about why collaborative work is undervalued still, and why we are still very much attached to lone artist figures, “Some are sociological, or have to do with the way power is distributed and the way that artists have historically been commissioned by people in power.” (Abrahms, 2017) Collabration is a challenge to the idea of master narrators and fixed authors; it undermines the pivotal ego figure we have been used to.

The desire to move away from systems of ownership, and questioning the way people in power operate and rule has been a key concern for artists –  and from Dada onwards it seems to have been explored expontentially. The work I looked at in UVC or A4, by Isabelle Mège and a number of photographers whom she collaborated with, turns usual power structure on its head as she, the subject rather than the photographer, approaches image makers to create an image of her rather than the other way round as it so usually has been. I end the essay asking the following:

“However, in Mège’s collection the usually passive Other drives the process, and is active alongside her fellow authors. She invites what we previously might have thought of as the Hegelian master into an atypical photographer/subject relationship, deconstructing what was for so long the norm especially in the proliferation of nudes. It might be viewed as an embodiment of Power Within instead of Power-Over-the-Other. On the other hand the language looks the same as it ever did, even though it may have a different authorship style.” (Field, 2016:14)

Does a different authorship style necessarily mean a shift in power structures between the people making an image? I’m not sure it always does and sometimes it may be that it’s simply about the surface, about the vessels (words) into which we pour meaning or a lack of meaning. You can say you’re collaborating all you like, but if the person you’re photographing brings, for whatever reasons, very little to the process other than their face to appear in the photograph, i.e no ideas, thoughts, suggestions, then is it really a collaboration? And if an artist approaches others/potential subjects/participants and says, I’d like you to give me something in a collaborative process but I am likely to benefit from making the work in some way, either with money, reputation or educational status, but you (the subject) on the other hand will simply have benefited from giving me something to work with, then is that really collaboration?

Wachter answers in her interview that the Guerrilla Girls are truly working together, and explains why: “I would cite Guerrilla Girls as the oldest collective in the book that is still practicing. They’re so strident about that and that’s their whole mission. Their agenda is anti-patriarchal. It’s a strong, feminist agenda. It’s anti-hierarchical. It’s really a democratic kind of group in which everybody has a voice. They use anonymity to facilitate that, and they hide behind masks. They paraphrase Oscar Wilde in saying that you’d be surprised by what comes out of people’s mouths when you give them a mask. That’s a liberating tool for them. I think they’re very much anti-systemic in that sense, and also very critical of the dominant trends in the art world, the market values, and so on.” (Abrahms, 2017)

Having come from ensemble based theatre training, it feels a perfectly natural way to work ‘with’ others rather than for or above them.  Nevertheless, real collaborative work, I have learned in my experiment for A1, is hard work and is not always simpler or easier, despite having more ideas to hand. As I said before it can be frustrating and I don’t feel that all or much of the work is very ‘me’ (of course – that’s the point, heh?) This is echoed in the interview. “I’m not sure that every artist in this book would agree with you that more people equals that many times more capacity to make work, because in a lot of cases, more people means you can make less work because it’s more difficult to make work together.”

Educators across a variety of subjects nowadays are keen to get people to work together since the future of work is likely to be more about problem solving than production as technology takes over the grunt work. This is probably as it should be. However, that doesn’t change the fact that some people are simply more suited to working alone (One of my sons is just such a person and thankfully his teacher this year appreciated that fact and allowed him to write at his own desk rather than in a group). People who work better alone may become distracted or begin to feel disconnected when faced with people in numbers, so despite the trend to encourage group learning, we should be wary of fashionable trends and not dismiss lone working, because as mentioned earlier and in the de Watcher interview, co-operation with others is often necessary anyway but in other forms.

Are artists, such as William Kentridge and Roger Ballen collaborating or working in the same vein as producers and directors do in theatre and film? Kentridge says in a short film on the Whitechapel site that if he has talent, then it is to secure good collaborators. (2016) I’m not sure he is really working collaboratively as the The Guerrilla Girls are though, however, nor do I dismiss or undervalue what he does. He is one of my very favourite artists. What he in fact does, is enable a co-operative production, which leads to grand work with his name in the headline.

I have worked with each person in my A1 project separately, so it has not the been the group work I hoped to do at the start (it quickly became clear that would take too long to organise). And I have not worked collaboratively with everyone although I have aimed to. But in the end I am the main driver of the piece and so am still quite far from working as collectively as is possible.