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.
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series of images is of people from my life, some of which are overlayed with texts from my past; letters, my father’s unpublished book, and reports.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
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: