Reflections and Suggestions

Week six: A Sea of Images

Following a presentation this week, I considered the following questions:

  • Are there any ideological issues to consider in my work?
  • How do I choose to represent and re-present?
  • Do I reproduce?

My work portrays the ordinary way ordinary people lived, and live their lives, in an ideal way. Family holidays, outings, work, events, and sometimes just the mundaneness of everyday average life themes are common. However, by the nature of using old found photographs, I am only representing people who could afford to either own a camera, or have their photograph taken. The same people who could afford to go on holiday to the seaside.  The under-privileged individuals or families of those times have not (as yet) been represented in my work, solely because I do not have any photographs of them.  It would be interesting and hopefully worthwhile to consider this in the future though.

The finished images I make are a juxtaposition of old and new;  the intention is to make this combination simultaneously seamless and obvious. Character portraits from the past are introduced into modern settings, thereby bringing them to life where otherwise they may have been lost or forgotten. I know nothing about the characters I re-present, apart from what may be written on the back of the photo. Sometimes there is a date, or place, but rarely a name. My images surround these characters with a narrative which viewers hopefully find interesting and curious, and can choose to interpret how they wish.  The methods that I use involve printing, re-printing, scanning, blending and erasing – so almost all of my current work has a reproduction of some kind within it.

Week five: Gazing at Photographs

Following on from the webinar in week four, I spent time this week working on my new theme, and spoke about my ideas in the webinar.  However, it still did not feel quite right, a thought that was echoed by my tutor.  It was also helpful to hear feedback from my peers, with the links between old and new photographs getting the thumbs up, as well as the use of text (torn from a book) in one of them. Less positive was the feedback regarding the aesthetics of my work, with the suggestion that I should veer away from the more aesthetically pleasing details (such as use of colour and pattern), and concentrate more on what the images are actually saying.

I realised that my theme of women is not the one that I will pursue.  Although a majority (not entirely) of the old photographs I use are of women, and my project could end up being restricted if I don’t include men or children. Also, my aim is not to make any kind of social or political statement, which last week’s plan was in danger of becoming.  My intent was always about the narrative, untold stories, make believe…and so I am returning to this – and just need a better way to express my intentions verbally.

Week three and four: Constructed Realities / Into the Image World

The Falmouth face to face event at the end of week three was inspiring. I had deliberately chosen a couple of workshops that challenged my methodologies. Being primarily interested in small scale, intense practices set up at home in my work-room, it was refreshing and challenging to be working in a studio as well as outside with lighting set ups.  (My lighting tends to be delicate in its installation, although not necessary in its result). However, my current project does rely on photographs that I have shot outside in daylight, and the outdoors workshop (in the dark) has made me consider how I might achieve night – time shots of the sorts of close-up images I am likely to use in my work.

The other workshop which I particularly enjoyed was called ‘Here and Now’. We explored the philosophy surrounding the themes of what it means to be here, and now; the latter being much more difficult to define. (Is the now the same for us all? Is time even the same for us all?  Is the now in a photograph the instant the shutter was released, or the moment it was viewed by its audience?  Can a moment in time be repeated? Contemplating and debating these issues was thought provoking, especially as these themes can certainly be identified within my own current practice.

Coming back from the weekend in Falmouth it was back to the day job, with evenings catching up on the new week’s topic and forums. By Thursday I was in a position on my day off to  carry on with some of my practical work – although it seemed that I was not producing anything useful. I am creative in my work, and constantly look for new ways to ‘make’ the image that I’m looking for.  Unfortunately I was still feeling stuck and unsure of what my final output  for this project was going to be.

During our webinar later in the day, my tutor asked me where the narrative was in my pictures, and again what connected them all.  I’ve now realised that the dominant theme is women. At last, I have a theme to work with.  Actually I think it was always there, it just took a while for me to find it!

As yet there is no title, but it will perhaps be something along the lines of ‘Where we once were’.  Using the vintage photographs that I have acquired with my own contemporary photographs of place, ordinary women will be placed in ordinary locations, displaced by time and place. My tools will be collage / montage (digital and hands-on), simple home – lighting (torch / fairy lights), light box (old Brownie camera with lens and shutter removed), scanner and other various materials.

The presentation of my work will be via a photograph album. The album will hold my manufactured photographs with time, place and characters all displaced.  I anticipate each photograph having its own title, which will be the titles written on the back of the vintage photographs or old photo albums.  Naturally, the titles will not ‘belong’ (whatever that means) to its original image.

Why am I doing this, and why women?  This year marks the centenary of women aged thirty and above being entitled to vote. Women are still fighting to receive equal pay to men.  There are also abundances of news stories regarding sexual conflict – the abuse of power by celebrity males onto women. Through my photographs ordinary people – wives, mothers, daughters, girlfriends, professionals, home-keepers – whatever they are or have been –  will be shown as the women they once were and the women we still are. All the photographs of women have been ‘let go of’, for whatever reason – to me they are nameless, unidentified. My work will bring them back to life in the 21st Century, in this important time for women of our world.

Week two: The Index and the Icon

The week has been a strange one work wise, with my week being topsy turvy. This has meant that I am completing the reading and CRJ update a little later than normal, and after the third week’s material has been released.  This is an uncomfortable position to be in, especially as I have a lot more that I need to / would like to read!

However, I did get through it all, and very pleasingly I have made headway on my project.  When I showed our tutor one of my vintage photographs and talked about others, she asked me the question “What connects them all?” This seems like an obvious question but until that point I had been so busy experimenting with different creative ideas that I had not properly considered this. This was a tremendous help and as a result I have a (working) title for my project which will be The Great British Seaside. Naturally, it’s not going to be as straight forward as the title suggests, and will lean towards the symbolic rather than the iconic or indexical.

Week one: The Shape Shifter

Having read some of the work by Szarkowski I found my views on direct opposition to some of his.  His 1966 work suggested that the photographer is ‘tied to the truth’ and has never been successful in narrative. This appeared to me to be a dated view, more relevant to the pre-digital and smart phone age.  My own work is all about the narrative, and I like to tell stories both literally and metaphorically.

I found myself more in tune with Soth, who thought that the photograph should inspire (rather than satisfy) curiosity; and with the work of Bianca Brunner, where the unseen takes precedence over the seen.

I found the discussion around ‘framing’ relevant as I’m researching new ways to frame my work, for example the use of physical objects to place my images on, or in. Vantage will be important as my resultant images may be taken from different view points.

During this week’s webinar, my tutor suggested that I look at the work of Deborah Baker. My post on the forums this week brought forth the following suggestions:; Mari Mahr; Exit Media Magazine No 35; Thomas Ruff ‘Press++’ series.  Comments from fellow students centred around traceable family history, authorship, and emotional response (to the destruction of old images).