PART 3: PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE

Project 3 Self-absented portraiture

Nigel Shafran (b1964) is young British photographer who worked for fashion and architecture magazines in the nineties. He began making series of images that focused on different rituals of his domestic life, or as he puts it a deep interest in the common place (Anon, nd). Apart from photographing his girlfriend Ruth and aspects of their everyday life, his work often seems to include collections of things, goods in charity shops, trees, His series “Washing up” (2000) concentrated on various arrangements of washing up on draining boards.

washing_up_2000_01 (Obsessive Collectors Archive, 2017).

Exercise

You may have noticed that Washing-up is the only piece of work in Part Three created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

  • Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

No I wasn’t at all surprised that the work was by a man I don’t think the subject matter is gender specific at all in these times.

  • In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

I guess that gender must contribute to an image and certainly there are many photographers that explore and make statements about gender such as Claude Cahun. However it may be no more contributory to an image than the other myriad personal characteristics that each photographer has.

  • What does this series achieve by not including people?

By not including people in these photographs you are forced to look closer at the objects and the way they are presented to fathom their meaning. An atmosphere is also added by the knowledge that people were there but have now gone. At my first viewing I didn’t see the explanatory text that accompanied the images and struggled to find the information contained in them without the artists signposting. They also appear more factual, I think fiction rather than non-fiction, akin to cataloguing without humans in the images

  • Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

I can appreciate that some might find these interesting “still life” compositions however without the text and the back story they would not appeal to me. I do find the clinical colours and the limited colour that he places me each composition pleasing though.

Reference

 Anon (n,d) “Texts: Nigel Shafran”. Nigelshafran.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. http://nigelshafran.com/texts/ accessed 11.4.17

Obsessive Collectors Archive. (2017). Washing-up 2000. [online] Available at: http://obsessivecollectors.com/washing-up-2000 [Accessed 17 Apr. 2017].

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.

PART 3: PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE

Project 2 Masquerades

Exercise

Recreate a childhood memory in a photograph. Think carefully about the memory you choose and how you’ll recreate it. You’re free to approach this task in any way you wish.

A strong childhood memory

When I was young I shared many hours talking to my Father whilst he was working underneath the car fixing it. So I chose to recreate the roles a generation on; this time I’m under the car whilst my son is trying to have a conversation with me. I have recreated the scenario literally, excepting that the car and our clothing are modern rather than from the 70s.

The image would definitely need some accompanying text were it not for my explanation above, as it would be meaningless to viewers.

The photograph triggers my memory and it amuses me to have my son in my former role, he does not have my patience and I doubt that I would have the patience to talk to him whilst simultaneously working on the car. It triggers my memory rather than recreates it as in my childhood, I was sat on a concrete drive, my Father was always all but his feet under the middle of the car, but my low profile car wouldn’t allow me to do this.

Hopefully it communicates to the viewer through our body language a close relationship between two people, some degree of empathy and patience, which is what my memory is  all about.

IMG_5957 ps 1500

PART 3: PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE

Project 2 Masquerades

Exercise: Is there any sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even exploitative? Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the people she photographs, or both?

Nikki S Lee (b 1970) transforms herself through clothing, make up, and gestures into a look alike for a specific american subculture and then mingles with a similar group of people. She then asks them to photograph her. Through this she is exploring “issues of identity and social behaviour” (International Center of Photography, 2017). Her groups include, Hispanics, Yuppies, seniors, Hip hops, Tourists, and skateboarders:

seniors (Tonkonow.com 2, 2017).

skateboarders6 (Tonkonow.com 1 2017).

Apparently “Lee believes that individual identity is fluid and that her Projects were extensions of herself” (Anon, 2017). As she assumes various identities through photography she becomes recognisable only by her own ethnicity.

This work causes you to question: What is the essence of an identity? How do you identify someone and the group that they belong to? How fluid actually is identity?

I don’t find her work voyeuristic or exploitative as in her images the sub groups all look as if they are enjoying sharing her experience with her and are happy to be photographed with her. I think she is commenting both on her identity, it’s fluidity as well as the identities of others.

Trish Morrissey (b ) travelled to beaches in Melbourne and the UK, found family groups and asked if she could assume the identity of one of them (usually) the mother figure, by wearing their clothes and being photographed In their place with the group. The image was then named after the person she replaced in the group.

morrisy Trishmorrissey.com. (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-front/workpg-01.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trish-Morrissey-Photographs-Katy-McDonnell Mutantspace. (2017). Trish Morrissey Photographs: Front On The Beach | mutantspace. [online] Available at: http://www.mutantspace.com/trish-morrissey-photographs-front-on-the-beach/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trish-Morrisseys-photograph-from-Kingsgate-Bay-2006WideWalls. (2017). A Story of the Proto-Selfie: Self Portrait Photography and Photographers. [online] Available at: http://www.widewalls.ch/self-portrait-photography-photographers/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

These photographs are probably about family conventions, relationships with strangers, boundaries, trust and to an extent privacy, “Ideas around the mythological creature the ‘shape shifter’ and the cuckoo are evoked” (Morrissey, 2017).  She fits in perfectly and it is only when you view a number the images you notice her as the replacement. I find the concept and the enactment disturbing and most definitely would not agree to her request to replace me within a family photograph.

Morrissey uses self-portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven and The Failed Realist. Look at these projects online and make some notes in your learning log.

 In her “Seven Years” project (2001-2004) she and her sister recreated family photos, impersonating others and changing gender and generations “blurring the line between fact and fiction”( (Morrissey cited in Lens Culture, 2017). The seven years refers to their age difference. She seems fascinated by the idealised version of family life presented in family photos, their awkwardness and the faces that people use for the camera. I find them unsettling but amusing. Unlike her “Front” series I feel they are not exploitative or “cuckoo” like.

morrissey seven.jpg September 20th 1985 (2004). © Trish Morrissey. (LensCulture, 2017)

morrissey 2.jpg  January 25th 1979 (2003). © Trish Morrissey. (LensCulture, 2017)

In her “Failed realist” series she worked collaboratively with her four year old daughter exploring what the psychologist Georges-Henri Luquet (1927/2001) described as The Failed Realist stage, where children’s expression of the world is hampered by their physical skills. In her artist statement she explains:

Once my daughter’s “motor skills evolved sufficiently well for her to control a paintbrush, she wanted to paint me rather than be painted.  Instead of the usual motifs of butterfly, or flower, she would decide to paint something from her immediate experience – a movie she had just watched, a social event, a right of passage, or a vivid dream.” (Trishmorrissey.com. 2017).

Tooth-Fairy The tooth Fairy 2011. Trish Morrissey (Trishmorrissey.com. 2017)

This is of course another example of self-portraiture being an exploration of others rather than yourself, rather like “Front” and “Seven “ by Morrissey. The worl of Morrissey and  Lee are great explorations of the fluidity of identity.

References

Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: https://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/nikki-s-lee [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

International Center of Photography. (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/nikki-s-lee?all/all/all/all/0 [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

LensCulture, T. (2017). Seven Years – Photographs and text by Trish Morrissey | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/trish-morrissey-seven-years [Accessed 5 Apr. 2017].

Morrissey, T. (2017). Front – ZoneZero: photographic convergence. [online] Zonezero.com. Available at: http://zonezero.com/en/liquid-identity/205-front [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trishmorrissey.com. (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-tfr/workpg-11.html [Accessed 5 Apr. 2017].

Mutantspace. (2017). Trish Morrissey Photographs: Front On The Beach | mutantspace. [online] Available at: http://www.mutantspace.com/trish-morrissey-photographs-front-on-the-beach/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Tonkonow.com. (1) (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: http://www.tonkonow.com/lee_projects_8.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Tonkonow.com. (2) (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: http://www.tonkonow.com/lee_projects_2.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trishmorrissey.com. (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-front/workpg-01.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

WideWalls. (2017). A Story of the Proto-Selfie: Self Portrait Photography and Photographers. [online] Available at: http://www.widewalls.ch/self-portrait-photography-photographers/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.

 

PART THREE: PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE

Project 1

Autobiographical self-portraiture

Exercise: Reflect on the pieces of work discussed in this project in your learning log and do some further research of your own. Here are a few questions you might ask yourself:

  • How do these images make you feel?
  • Do you think there’s an element of narcissism or self-indulgence in focusing on your own identity in this way?
  • What’s the significance of Brotherus’s nakedness?
  • Can such images ‘work’ for an outsider without accompanying text?
  • Do you think any of these artists are also addressing wider issues beyond the purely personal?

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) shot mainly black and white photographs, which may at first seem impromptu were actually carefully constructed. She told her friend Sloan Rankin why she was so often the subject of her own photographs, Woodman replied: ‘It’s a matter of convenience, I’m always available’ (quoted in Rankin 1998, p.35).

 Space?, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 1975-8 by Francesca Woodman 1958-1981 (Tate 1, 2017)

This is one of a series of seven from Woodman’s Space2 series where she blurred and distorted her body. It has been suggested that Woodman’s movement was to “show you what you do not see – the body’s inner force’ (Woodman quoted in Jui-Ch’i Liu 2004, p.28), refusing to “to allow her body to be defined by the viewer’ (Jui-Ch’i Liu 2004, p.28).

Untitled 1975-80 by Francesca Woodman 1958-1981 (Tate 2, 2017)

In this image her foot is blurred, does she do this to avoid completely exposing herself in a portrait?

Untitled 1975-80 by Francesca Woodman 1958-1981 (Tate 3, 2017)

In this image Woodman’s arms are blurred as they move and her face is obscured as it looks down.

Francesca-Woodman-From-Space2-.jpg (British Journal of Photography, 2017).

As you can see her images were often blurred by long exposures and slow shutter speeds. She rarely reveals her whole self, and usually if she does not disguise herself by blurring she uses props to mask parts of her body, such as the peeling wallpaper above.  In her images the viewer is “ drawn to the emptiness around her, pushed to consider not just shape of the girl, but also her performance, her position in the portrait, her process of capturing her image, the act of photography itself” (British Journal of Photography, 2017).

Some compare her photography to Surrealist photographers, whilst others “insist she was a feminist, exploring the ways women are forced to conceal and disguise their true selves” (Salter, 2017). Reflecting on what I have seen of her work it does seem to me that her photographs are about are about showing herself but only partially, whether this is to disguise or intrigue I’m not certain.

Elina Brotherus (b1972) is a contemporary photographer who in her work “Annunciation” uses photography as an investigative tool. In the series she shows through her images her journey through IVF treatment. The title Annunciation provides an association with her difficult process becoming pregnant with the Virgin Mary’s, and certainly her images shout sorrow and loss. In fact in conversation she tells how she enjoys looking back and comparing things (The Finnish Institute in London, 2017). Brotherus says that she looks for reflections or mirror images, hiding and showing, or horizons. She believes her work is often defined by her old slow 4”by 5” viewfinder camera which needs a tripod and takes time to set up encouraging her to look carefully.

Brotherus (Boothroyd, 2016)

Gillian Wearing (b 1963) in her series Album uses masks to recreate family photos, using the original image with her behind a facial mask. She had silicone prosthetics made of her mother, father, sister, grandmother and her 17-year-old self-created (see below), and then made self-portraits while wearing them.

wearing 2 (Skidmore, 2017)

haunted_l4_z (Guggenheim, 2017).

In this Self-Portrait at Three Years Old (2004) her adult stare gazes through the eyeholes of the toddler’s mask “Wearing plays on the rift between interior and exterior and raises a multitude of provocative questions about identity, memory, and the truthfulness of the photographic medium” (Guggenheim, 2017). Wearing said “What I love about photographs is that they give you a lot and also they withhold a lot.” (Anon, 2017).

Conclusions

The work of Francesca Woodman may have become more interesting as her early death means that she is unable to answer questions about her work and her purpose remains a real enigma. I do find her images ascetically pleasing, the blurring, the shaping of her body and the variety of props and backdrops that she uses. There is obviously an element of self-indulgence in her images but I sense that this is caused by a preoccupied troubled mind rather than narcissism. I am not sure whether she is addressing issues wider than her own.

 Elina Brotherus appears self-indulgent but again for a reason and this time one that I can understand having just completed my C and N assignment 2, photographing the unseen, which was self-documentary. She is candid about her purpose in the series. Her nakedness in many of the shots I’m guessing is to symbolise the baring of her soul and possibly to intensify the vulnerability that she feels, hoping desperately to conceive. Though this work is personal I believe she is reaching out to share with the many others going through the same emotional and physical experience.

 I was able to view some of Wearing’s work at the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition “Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun : Behind the mask another mask”. It seems to me from her early polaroid “selfies” that there is an element of self-indulgence in her work. However it she has since developed this early self-consciousness into experimentation with the passage of time, identities and in particular her identity in relation to others. Wearing has said “you always feel that you are in a mask to some degree” (National Portrait Gallery wall, 2017). I found her images interesting, question provoking although not aesthetically pleasing to me. Certainly none of these photographers are afraid to use self-portraiture as a means of self-exploration which is thought provoking to their viewers, and can work at different levels without any accompanying texts.

References

Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: http://“Gillian Wearing,” interview by Leo Edelstein, Journal of Contemporary Art [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Boothroyd, S (2016) Context and Narrative. Bridgeman Art Library. Barnsley.

British Journal of Photography. (2017). On Being an Angel: finding Francesca Woodman in the otherness of her self-portraits. [online] Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/01/on-being-an-angel-francesca-woodman-foam-amsterdam/ [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017].

Guggenheim. (2017). Gillian Wearing: Trauma and the Uncanny. [online] Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/gillian-wearing [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Jui-Ch’i Liu, ‘Francesca Woodman’s Self-Images: Transforming Bodies in the Space of Femininity’, Woman’s Art Journal, vol.25, no.1, Spring–Summer 2004, pp.26–31.
Isabella Pedicini, Francesca Woodman: The Roman Years: Between Skin and Film, Rome 2012.

Salter, K. (2017). Blurred genius: the photographs of Francesca Woodman. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/9279676/Blurred-genius-the-photographs-of-Francesca-Woodman.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Sloan Rankin, ‘Peach Mumble – Ideas Cooking’, in Hervé Chandès (ed.), Francesca Woodman, New York 1998, pp.33–7.

Tate 1. (2017). “Space², Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978”, Francesca Woodman 1975–8 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-space-providence-rhode-island-1975-1978-ar00350 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017].

Tate 2. (2017). Untitled, Francesca Woodman 1975–80 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-untitled-ar00357 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017].

Tate 3. (2017). Untitled, Francesca Woodman 1975–80 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-untitled-ar00358 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017].

The Finnish Institute in London. (2017). Elina Brotherus and Home Truths. [online] Available at: http://www.fininst.uk/en/articles/646-elina-brotherus-and-home-truths [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Skidmore, M. (2017). The Many Selves of Gillian Wearing. [online] AnOther. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/7906/the-many-selves-of-gillian-wearing [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.

PART TWO: THE NARRATIVE

Project 3: Photographing the unseen

Exercise Three Case studies:  OCA level 3 students: Peter Mansell, Dewald Botha, Jodie Taylor. All three of these projects are examples of personally driven work but they become universal when we can relate to the feelings they present by visiting our own personal histories. 

Which of these projects resonates most with you, and why?

How do you feel about the loss of authorial control that comes when the viewer projects their own experiences and emotions onto the images you’ve created?

 Peter Mansell – Check up

peter-mansell

I found the commentary given by Peter Mansell about his work, especially his move from photographing for visual spectacle and technical proficiency, “I became attracted to speaking visually about things that were important me” and he was “ drawn to use photography…as a form of expression… while the end product acted as a visual statement about my existence  and that experience””(Peter Mansell OCA C & N p62). It certainly stimulated me to think about what I value and what I might like to explore within the context of this course.

Dewald Botha – Ring Road

DB.png

He used his camera to explore being an outsider in China, and visually searching finding places of beauty or relief in a place of difficulty. It began as a physical exploration but became “more complex personal journey of self-reflection about displacement and survival”.

Jodie Taylor – Memories of childhood

jt

Her work is about nostalgia and she explores this through photographing her childhood area and marrying her memories and family history with her present interactions, the subject drove her photography.

The project that resonates most with me is Ring Road. I can understand and could see myself producing a body of work as a metaphor for something in my life, just as he has in this work for boundaries and limits. I also find this work aesthetically pleasing which is important to me, at this stage I think I could aspire to marry aesthetically pleasing images  with my self- exploration.

References

Boothroyd, S (2015) Photography.1. Context and Narrative.Barnsley. Open College of the Arts.

 

 

PART TWO: THE NARRATIVE

Exercise Interpretation 

Choose a poem that resonates with you then interpret it through photographs. Don’t attempt to describe the poem but instead give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes. Start by reading the poem a few times (perhaps aloud) and making a note of the feelings and ideas it promotes, how you respond to it, what it means to you and the mental images it raises in your mind. Next, think about how you’re going to interpret this visually and note down your ideas in your learning log.

You may choose to develop this idea into creating a short series of images reflecting your personal response to the poem (or another poem). Write some reflective notes about how you would move the above exercise on.

On Joy and Sorrow                   Kahlil Gibran (originally published 1923)

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the self same well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

My Response: I chose this fable/verse from the many I could have within the book “The Prophet” as I have recently been coping with a reasonable amount of sorrow. His words helped me to make some sense of the sadness and problems which have been accumulating around me lately. The words are telling me that it is only because I have felt joy about something that when this pails I then feel sorrow. It is because I am alive, feeling, empathetic, and responsive, that I feel sorrow and sadness as deeply as I do, as I have also previously felt real highs. I should not be concerned that I feel sadness so deeply, as it is an indication that I feel deeply “Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced” (Gibran,1991). It gives me hope that joyful times will return and reminds me of joys in the past.

My visual response is fairly succinct, a vibrant healthy bloom and a dead bloom. The flower that I enjoyed for a few weeks is now gone, but had I not enjoyed it I would not feel sadness at its loss.

img_1992-ps-1500

IMG_2030 ps 1500.jpg

I believe I may move this exercise on with assignment two where I will focus on the theme of disappointment or sorrow – how is yet to evolve.

Reference

Gibran, K. 1991, The Prophet, Pan. London.

 

 

RESEARCH POINT: CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHIC PRACTICE

Research point

Examples of relay in contemporary photographic practice include Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself and Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field, where clashes of understanding or interpretation work together to create a perhaps incomplete but nonetheless enriching dialogue between artist and viewer.

Look these pieces up online. Investigate the rationale behind the pieces and see if you can find any critical responses to them. Write down your own responses in your learning log. How do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?

Postmodernist art was a reaction against modernist art which had dominated since the 20th century, it began in the late 1960s and though hard to classify it includes conceptual, neo-expressionism, and feminist art. It “ advocates that individual experience and interpretation of our experience is more concrete than abstract principles…While the modernists championed clarity and simplicity; postmodernism embraces complex and often contradictory layers of meaning” (Koons, 2006). Postmodern photography often recombines elements outside of photography, such as videos or texts, intertextuality. It can be characterised by unusual or controversial combinations of subjects or even the absence of subjects.

Sophie Calle – Take care of yourself

The artist Sophie Calle received the following break up letter from her boyfriend:

6a00d8341c76e453ef00e551f1f63b8834-800wi(Available at Anon, 2010)

Sophie,
I have been meaning to write and reply to your last email for a while. At the same time,
I thought it would be better to talk to you and tell you what I have to say outloud.
Still, at least it will be written.
As you have noticed, I have not been quite right recently. As if I no longer recognized myself
in my own existence. A terrible feeling of anxiety, which I cannot really fight, other than
keeping on going to try and overtake it, as I have always done. When we met, you laid down
one condition: not to become the “fourth”. I stood by that promise: it has been months
now since I have seen the “others, “because I obviously could find no way of seeing them
without makeing you one of them.
I thought that would be enough, I thought that loving you and your love would be enough so that
this anxiety – which constantly drives me to look further afield and which meens that I will never
feel quiet and at rest or probably even just happy or “generous”-would be calmed when I was
with you, with the certainty that the love you have for me was the best for me, the best I have
ever had, you know that. I thought that my writing would be a remedy, that my “disquiet” would
dissolve into it so that I could find you. But no in fact it even became worse, I cannot even
tell you the sort of state I feel I am in. so I started calling the “others” again this week.
And I know what that means to me and the cycle that it will drag me into.
I have never lied to you and I do not intend to start lying now.
There was another rule that you laid down at the beginning of our affair: the day we
stopped being lovers you would no longer be able to envisage seeing me. You know this
constraint can only ever strike me as disastrous, and unjust (when you still see B. and K. …)
and understandable (obviously…); so I can never become your friend.
But now you can gauge how significant my decision is from the fact that I am prepared to bend
to your will, even though there are so many things – not seeing you or talking to you or catching
the way you look at people and things, and your gentleness towards me – that I will miss terribly.
Whatever happens, remember that I will always love you in the same way, my own way, that I have
ever since I first met you; that it will carry on within me and, I am sure, will never die.
But it would be the worst kind of masquerade to prolong a situation now when you know
as well as I do; it has become irreparable by the standards of the very love I have for you and
you have for me a love which is now forcing me to be so frank with you, as final proof of what
happened between us and will always be unique. 

I would have liked things to have turned out differently.
Take care of yourself.
X ”

She subsequently asked 107 women of different professions to analysis and respond to it as a way of taking care of herself.  “It was set to music, re-ordered by a crossword-setter, performed by an actress, and probed by a forensic psychiatrist, amongst others” (Venice Biennle, 2007). This formed her work “Take care of yourself” an exhibition of portraits of the respondents and their interpretations, organised in 5 different media sets: textual, parchment, portraits, small films and large films. I have not seen this exhibition so have trailed the internet for responses from those who have.  Ceci Moss indicates some of the other interpretations in the work as a clairvoyant’s response to a scientific study, and a children’s fairytale, and describes the body of work as “a virtual chorus of women’s interpretations and assessment of a break up letter” (Moss, ND). Another who viewed her work says:

 The ex’s grammar and syntax have been torn apart by a copy editor, his manners rubbished by an etiquette consultant and his lines pored over by Talmudic scholars. He has been re-ordered by a crossword-setter, evaluated by a judge, shot up by a markswoman, second-guessed by a chess player and performed by actress Jeanne Moreau. A forensic psychiatrist decided he was a “twisted manipulator” ( Chrisafis, 2007).

The variety of responses and the in depth analyses of the breakup letter certainly make you aware of the importance of text and subtext.

Postmodern techniques include using parts of other texts, open-ended plots and endings. Their experimental nature mean that authors to let go of their control and allow viewers to put themselves into the story. So yes this work is Post modernist.

img_2523(Available at Anon, 2010)

Sophy Rickett – Objects in a field (can be seen at: The Photographers Gallery (2014) Sophy Rickett – objects in the field. Available at: https://thephotographersgalleryblog.org.uk/2014/03/19/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field/ (Accessed: 24 December 2016).

Whilst resident artist at The institute of astrology, University of Cambridge (IoA) she produced a body of work based on negatives previously taken by the scientist/astrologer Dr Wilstrop, “ appropriating the lexicon used by astronomers and astrophysicists that refers to stars as “objects” and to the sky as “the field” (Rickett, ND).  She collaborated with Dr Wilstrop combining his factual information and her own poetic diary. It combines several series of photographs (hand reprinted negatives altered by her aesthetic decisions), a video and an essay (a factual description of their meetings melted with subjective impressions around optics from her childhood). The exhibition is juxtaposed on the Museum’s staircase with historical observatory instruments.

mhs_oitf_01                                                             (Available at Johnston 2014)

This work “explores the connections between optics and seeing, the shift from analogue to digital, relationships between different kinds of photographic practice and the encounter between an individual and an institution, between an artist and a scientist” (Anon, 2016).

observation-123                                                                   (From Johnston 2014)

The narratives are sometimes contradictory and I find the interplay between them jarring. I do feel that she has maintained control as the author, although as the viewer has to participate in the interpretation and there is clear intertextuality where she connects two unrelated subjects (astrological images and her own optical experiences)I would conclude that it is postmodernist photography. I found it difficult to find other critical responses to her work though there is an interview with her by Sharon Boothroyd at: https://photoparley.wordpress.com/category/sophy-rickett/ (Accessed: 24 December 2016).

References

Anon. (2016)Exhibition & talk: Sophy Rickett, objects in the field on the shutter hub Blog (2016) Available at: https://shutterhub.org.uk/blog/exhibition-and-talk-sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field (Accessed: 24 December 2016). 

Anon (2010) Ears are burning. Available at: https://earsareburning.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/sophie-calle-talking-to-strangers-whitechapel-gallery/

Chrisafis, A. (2007) He loves me not. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art (Accessed: 24 December 2016).

Johnston, S. (2014) Sophy Rickett: Objects in the Field. Avaalable at: https://blogs.mhs.ox.ac.uk/insidemhs/sophy-rickett-objects-field/ (Accessed:24 December 2016).

Koons, J. (2006) Postmodernism. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/p/postmodernism (Accessed: 26 December 2016).

Moss, C. (no date) Take care of yourself (2007) – Sophie Calle. Available at: http://rhizome.org/editorial/2009/jul/02/take-care-of-yourself-2007-sophie-calle/

Sophy Rickett – objects in the field (no date) Available at: http://www.grimaldigavin.com/article/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field (Accessed: 24 December 2016).

Venice Biennale: Sophie Calle (2007) Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/venice-biennale-sophie-calle (Accessed: 24 December 2016).

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.

Part Two: The Narrative

Project 2 Image and text

Exercise: Cut out some pictures from a newspaper and write your own captions.

  • How do the words you put next to the image contextualise/re-contextualise it?
  • How many meanings can you give to the same picture?

 Try the same exercise for both anchoring and relaying. Blog about it.

Terminolgy:

Anchor – In news stories the text that accompanies pictures is usually there to control meaning – to stop the image from being interpreted in a manner that isn’t in keeping with the political views of the newspaper, for example. In advertising this type of anchoring text is used to fix the meaning of the image into one clear and distinct message (i.e. why you should buy this product).

Relay – In the second definition the text has equal status with the image. Image and text bounce off each other to create a fuller picture that allows for ambiguity and various interpretations. This is more in line with a postmodern view of narrative.

I took these pictures from the BBC news online 23.12.16

airplane-girlshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-38415730

Original text: “Only three passengers on BA flight enjoy champagne and selfies” 

This is an example of an anchor text, another that recontextualises it could be “Girls perform as well as boys on flight simulators”. A relay text could be “Girls on tour”.

 

buck-palacehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38405648

Original text “Queen and duke begin festive break at Sandringham”. This is an anchor text, to recontextualise it another could be “Royals waste money flying to Windsor when they could go by car”. A relay text could be “Helicopter spotted flying close to the Palace”.

 

clowninghttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38315308

Original text “Mixed fortunes in the world of clowning”. I think this is a relay text as it is slightly ambiguous. An anchor text could be “Recent clowning scares reduce bookings for professional clowns”.

 

african-girlhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-38331974

Original text “Man throws a child in the air before she takes part in a dance competition”. This is an anchor text which is important as this picture is quite ambiguous. Another anchor text could be “Safety fears for under age performers”. A relay text could be “The sky’s the limit!”

 

smart-paperhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-38412707

Original text “Smartphone toilet paper’ at Tokyo airport”.

This is an anchor text, another recontextualising it could be “Japan the first country to provide toilet paper in two sizes”. A relay text could be “Time to reflect when on the loo”.

 

roadshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38408408

Original text “Busiest day of festive season expected on UK’s roads”. This is an anchor text, another putting it in another context could be “Half of drivers use headlights in daylight”. I found it hard to think of a relay text as it is an ambiguous picture but one could be “No place for pedestrians”.

This exercise has made me look much closer at the meaning and reasons for the captions accompanying images. Certainly looking at news online photos most seem to be anchor texts, it would be unusual to invite ambiguity in a news story. I would image that there would be greater use of relay texts in creative situations such as arts magazines and reviews.

PART TWO: THE NARRATIVE

Project 1 Telling a story

Exercise: How does Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project compare with Country Doctor? Make some notes in your learning log.

 These works are photo essays or linear storylines.

Subjects

W.Eugene Smith made the photographic essay Country doctor for life magazine in 1948. He chronicled the life of General Practitioner Dr Ernest Cerani, in Colorado for 23 days.

Briony Campbell’s The Dad Project (2009) tells the story of her relationship with her father and his death from cancer.

Context

Country Doctor: The American Medical Association were concerned about the future of the GP and stated in the opening of the editorial their support for general practise (Anderson). Smith was commissioned to document the life of a doctor who was responsible for the health of people covering 400 square miles, “These 2,000 souls are constantly falling ill, recovering or dying, having children, being kicked by horses and cutting themselves on broken bottles” (Magnum photos, 2014).

The Dad Project: Campbell’s text contextualises the project well. She seemed to hope that by chronicling her father’s death it would help her cope when he was gone, she was not sure at the outset of her work that it would be shared with wider audiences. Her Father’s encouragement and collaboration was crucial to her. Before she decided to go ahead she realised that The Dad Project could open dialogues about loss in others and that the project could be both “personal and universal” (Campbell 2013).

Narrative:

Country doctor: The narrative in the photographic essay early on gives a positive and heroic slant on the subject, “A single country doctor, known in the profession as a g.p, or general practitioner, takes care of all of them” (cited in Magnum photos, 2014).

The Dad project: Campbell’s narrative is compelling and adds a huge amount to the images. I have not been able to read the complete narrative to the Country Doctor.

Relationships to subjects: Impact on the photographer

W.Eugene Smith: He tried to immerse himself in his subject and began slowly without film in his camera to “help Ceriani get used to his presence without wasting precious film”. (Cosgrove, 2012). Cosgrove suggests that his work contains “unsettling intimate pictures” and would agree with this (Cosgrove, 2012)

Campbell: Obviously had a close natural relationship with her subject. She photographed herself to show others how she was feeling, although she was concerned that this was narcissist. “It is the collaborative partnership that makes it stand out from their projects that invisibilise the photographer, pretending at their absence when their presence is the actual core of the work”.  .” (Turnbull, 2015).

Impact on viewers:

Country Doctor: According to Life,com it was an instant classic “setting Smith firmly on a path as a master of the unique art form of the photo essay, and solidifying his status as one of the most passionate and influential photojournalists of the 20th century” (cited in O’Neill, 2012). Smith said that “that essay changed people’s lives and gave them a feeling of inspiration for good, and compassion (Hill and Cooper, 1992). Ceriani thought the photo essay portrayed him working harder than he did, however his patients didn’t agree (Anderson, 2015).

The Dad project: Campbell herself points out that the Dad Project has been seen by tens of thousands of people around the world and that it provoked “overwhelming responses” (Campbell 2009). It was exhibited for her Masters course, published in the Guardian weekend magazine, in Spain’s El Mundo and shown at the Photographers gallery. Campbell did make different edits for the different audiences.

The impact of the Country Doctor is more astonishing when you consider that in 948 there was no Television and no social media, whilst Campbell had audiences on social media, at exhibitions.

What do you think she means by ‘an ending without an ending’?

Though her Father’s life has ended he lives on in her work and her relationship with him continues as she reflects on, edits and represents their work together in the Dad Project.

 References:

Campbell, B. (2013) The dad project. Available at: http://www.brionycampbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/The_Dad_Project_Briony_Campbell.pdf (Accessed: 14 December 2016).

Cosgrove, B. (2012) W. Eugene Smith’s landmark portrait: “Country doctor.” Available at: http://time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor/ (Accessed: 14 December 2016).

Hill, P. and Cooper, T.J. (1992) Dialogue with photography. Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications.

Magnum photos (2014) Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/Package/2TYRYDDWML5P (Accessed: 14 December 2016).

O’Neill, C. (2012) Revisiting “country doctor,” A 1948 photo essay. Available at: http://www.npr.org/sections/pictureshow/2012/01/10/144916879/revisiting-country-doctor-a-1948-photo-essay (Accessed: 14 December 2016).

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (2015) “Country doctor-a Colorado story,” by Bob Anderson, MD on September 21st, 2015. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slKACBnRskU (Accessed: 14 December 2016).

Gemma-RoseTurnbull (2015) The dad project. Available at: http://www.asocialpractice.com/the-dad-project/ (Accessed: 14 December 2016).

 

 

 

Part One: The photograph as document

Exercise

Now that you’ve reached the end of Part One, reflect on what you’ve learned in your learning log or blog.

1)   What was your idea of documentary photography before you worked on Part One? How would you now sum it up?

 2) What are the differences between documentary, reportage, photojournalism and art  Photography?

These are the differences between the various forms of documentary photography:

 Documentary: Covers a variety of genres, news, journalism, art. Documentary can be an  accurate representation of an event or biased in some way.

 Photojournalism: News journalism which uses imagery; it may not be completely factual  or unbiased. Though it may have objective intentions it may be influenced by the publishers agenda.

 Reportage: is a more subjective way of storytelling through images. The may be a story implied from the point of view of one person, or be a more distanced style

 Art photography: In the reams of documentary this is documentary photography which is    an art form in its own right, as an expression of reality. Documentary style photography can  be used to challenge what is real. It may be an objective style of photography that makes a point by creating fictional, manufactured, and therefore subjective realities.                   

Prior to this learning I thought documentary photography was primarily news reporting and factual, although I was aware there were elements that could cause bias.

Having worked on Part one my viewpoint on documentary photography has changed. I have spent time philosophising about the “truth status” of photography and discovered there are many factors that affect this. I have visited several exhibitions over the last few weeks in particular which have added to my body of thought:

  • Wildlife photographer of the year 2016. The Natural History Museum. 8.11.16
  • ? The image as question. Michael Hoppen Gallery. London. 8.11.16
  • The radical eye: Modernist photography from the Sir Elton John collection. Tate Modern. London 12.11.16
  • World Press Photography Exhibition. Festival Hall. London. 13.11.16

My opportunity to visit these exhibitions coincided with the end of my work on documentary photography here in part one, but they were still useful indifferent ways. So not to hold up the posting of my assignment I will write up the exhibitions generally for my learning log later; I have however  added some notes to my earlier postings to note how these have affected my thinking on the coursework previously completed.

The impact of the “? Image as a question” exhibition on me is particularly relevant to my opinion now about documentary photography. I pose the thought that 100 years ago documentary photography was possibly more pure than today, being used primarily to record facts. Conversely the boundaries of documentary photography are more blurred; the intent of the photographer is key to how objective the photograph as a document is as is the context and narrative provided or masked by the photographer, editor or publisher.