Tutor Feedback For Assignment Four – Responding To A Theme

Jayne invested a considerable amount of time and energy into my feedback, for which I am most grateful. There were many points for further development, praise for my strengths, and guidance as to how to improve this assignment and develop it’s presentation. We also discussed which photographers to focus upon and review, and ways in which to develop further as a photographer and artist. Here is the formal feedback provided by Jayne, my notes and reflections are below, and then I conclude with a plan of action based upon the given feedback.

Two aspects particularly please me:- Jayne called me an artist. External validation from Jayne leaves me feeling proud of my photography and art. I am passionate about photography and I have become deeply creative and expressive. The exploration of mixed media photography has changed my perspective of myself as a photographer and artist.

Jayne completely understood my theme, and the motives that I had in producing this work. Jayne:- “This is very potent work, Richard, which I have to say is at first shocking, horrifying and worrying. It’s not just the cuts that shock but the words you literally inflict on yourself here. The initial impression does give way, though, to an understanding that the act of self-harm and self-abuse has been a part of life for you; and the “message” of the work manifests as being about your growth towards self-love/self-respect/self-care.“.

Hell yeah I am proud of this comment. I invested myself heavily into this assignment. I had something to say, a message about my process of change, a presentation of my reality, my self-hatred and the effort that I put into self-love. I am a visual artist, and as an artist I want to provoke a reaction, provide an opportunity for others to pause and reflect, and to feel. This piece of photography has given me the opportunity to do the same. I use photography for my personal development, which is my primary goal, the desire to provoke is secondary, but it is an important aspect of the work which I produce.

Jayne:- “This is brave, authentic and powerful work that expresses so well those difficult (and often buried) struggles with identity through opposing internal and external forces.

Identity is a theme that I have explored throughout my coursework. Self identity and the identity of others. Being authentic leaves me feeling vulnerable at times, but the support I have received has been such a blessing. Thank you to all of my peers and online community, I feel very grateful for your compassion and sensitivity.

Jayne:- “You raised an important point during our conversation about the inner resistance you noticed and felt through executing the self-harm element in the work – in that sense, it seems as though the work might perhaps have helped you feel, experientially how far you have come in the last two years, in all sorts of ways.

My photography has changed and developed, and I have developed mentally and emotionally. The resistance that I experienced was in relation to cutting words into my leg was intense. I didn’t want to do it, but it was a critical statement that I needed to express. It was something that I used to do in rage at my own existence, fueled by a deep resentment of being alive. I chose to self-harm for this assignment, to show the hatred that I had towards myself. To fall naturally into self-care after cutting was a surprise. It was completely unforced, and thus enabled me to see the results of my kind and compassionate self-care over the past two years. I have put in an immense amount of effort into these daily practices of compassion and dignity. It hasn’t been easy.

Jayne:- “experimenting with materials, and writing, are going to play a key part

Experimentation and collaboration have become important aspects for me. Collaborating pushes my boundaries. Working with others and responding to their art forces me into new ways to explore and express. I have some ongoing and upcoming collaborative projects.

Jayne:- “Your written commentary is important here. You write well – perhaps think about ways to weave the text and image together through future work & experiments.”      and      “The diptych format feels a good way to go in the sense that the self-harm comes before the self-love, in as much as a diptych might be read as a ‘sequence’”      and      “The over-sewing works well & is really effective… try to capture your thoughts around the ‘mask’ effect and your choice of colours for the thread.”      and      “We talked about how you might present the work in a way that allows for the white space around the images – which you mentioned arose through accident & feedback – while also making sure the images are large enough to reveal detail, like the reflected image in the droplet on the berries. One way would be to create a gallery mock up, to scale, and play with appearance and effect.”      and      “We talked about the possibility of somehow moving away from the straight edges and rigid corners of the images and into some form that might translate the sense of arising/emerging and disappearing.”

The initial idea in response to Jayne’s feedback:- Print photos full size, buy three length of fabric that allows space  for each diptych, sew the background fabric with the appropriate colours for the self-hatred and self-love, over-sew into the edge of each photo. Each diptych to be displayed onto separate walls. Create a sound recording of prose or verse to accompany each photo, this will give the viewer insight into the emotions, thoughts and language which reflect my internal dialogue. I like Polly Apfelbaum’s use of space and colour as an installation (reviewed here), how can I make use of the floor space to add depth and emotion?

Jayne:- “The self-portrait in particular represents a massive step forward  for you.”

I have made tentative plans with an OCA degree student (AK) to be photographed for his assignment and also for my personal development and healing.

Jayne:- “We talked about the staged photographs and your effective use of lighting. Brilliant to hear that you’re learning from another student on this score. I think you’ll enjoy experimenting more with using lighting to create atmospheric effects. Again the work you produced here is brave and affecting.

I’m incredibly pleased with these comments. Lighting is an alien field to me and one which I have had to overcome resistance in order to begin to use it. I am grateful for the support and generosity of JK. I need not be afraid to ask him more questions and seek his expert guidance.

Jayne:- “The final image on your contact sheet is strangely beautiful, relates to the Letinsky coursework perhaps?

It’s fair to say that I find Letinskys art very enjoyable and beautiful to look at. I thoroughly enjoyed trying to emulate her work, and there are some similarities with its simplicity, space and planes. Although I did not consciously try to emulate her with this photo, I did want to create something pleasing and simple. The only reason this did not make it into the final six is because it lacks the religious symbolism of the cross in the selected image. The cross represents the shame that I have felt through out my life, the shame of never being good or worthy enough. Why the fuck am I even alive?

During our telephone conversation Jayne reflected upon the positive impact that my work has upon others, that I have a positive effect upon those who view my work. It is important to make use of meditation to find my inner voice. I am aware that meditation is an important aspect of my creative process.

 

Actions to carry forward

  • Update assignment to include the image quality, colours and mask concept re over-sewn photo.
  • Meditate
  • Gallery layout
  • Collaborating with others – OCA collaboration group and TL
  • Continue to use thoughts and feelings as drive for my photography
  • Consider using prose and verse more frequently to enrich photography
  • Build up mixed media skills
  • Be photographed by AK – journal my reactions to the shoot and the photos, use the journal to create prose and verse of the experience
  • Mexican Votive painting
  • Continue emulating Laura Letinsky to develop this technique further
  • Read about lighting and ask JK when neccessary
  • OCA London regional group
  • OCA TV

Reading and viewing

  • Diane Arbus: A Chronology – I relate to Arbus’ character and motives of fascination with self and other.
  • Stick close to Arbus over the next year, dip into her photography and also those critiques of her, especially Sontag.
  • Gregory Crewdson: Beneath the Roses – Look for the message of yearning to be, or for, something other than the mundane/seeking escape. Also view Twilight to explore effective use of lighting and colour temperature.
  • Ochi Reyes: Mother and Revelations
  • Daniel Regan and his Arts & health Hub and Fragmentary (London calling!!)
  • Claude Cahun – use of masks
  • Gillian Wearing – use of masks

Also

  • William Eggleston
  • David Lynch

 

 

 

Responding To A Theme

Self Hatred – Self Love

Disclaimer: This article covers sensitive subjects, including a photograph of the act of self harm, which may not be suitable for certain audiences.

Self-Hatred-and-Self-Love

The theme of self-hatred and self-love felt like a natural progression from exercise 4.12 Presence/Absence (here). Self-hatred was a prominent aspect of my life for many years. With lots of practice and the development of new skills, self-love and self-care have become important actions in my life. 

My initial plan was to create three photos which represent self-hatred and a further three for self-love, and to display them on opposing sides of a cube, as if they were a dice. Often it has felt like pot luck as to how I feel about myself.

My initial idea developed after speaking with a friend, and I opted to use a Rubik’s Cube. The self is not dualistic, different traits are apparent sometimes, and we can have many elements present at the same time. Using a Rubik’s Cube, and moving the images so that they mix with each other, would highlight the spectrum of love and hate. Moving the cube would provide a dynamic interaction between the photos and the representation of self-harm and self-care. Sticking the photos to the cube was almost impossible with super glue and PVA, which made the Rubik’s Cube unworkable. Because of this I stuck with the original cube idea. Presenting the photos in grid format (above), with space around each photo, was an idea developed because of the feedback of OCA photography student Andrew (Andy’s Blog). I have been able to move towards self-care and love by allowing my self-hatred to be surrounded by the love of the universe. Allowing it to exist in the vastness of space has meant it can be loved and nurtured. 

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Although my assignments are presented on-line, I wanted to feel and interact with my photos. Too often they are left on my hard drive, and I want more than that with my photography. Art is nebulous, sometimes flowing and at others grating. I want my art to be more than a visual and mental act.

I also wanted to over-sew two photo’s in the style of Gerhard Richter’s over-painting. Mixed media art has become important to me, and I am eager to experiment.

I’m quite disgusted with the photo of myself. I struggle to look at any image of myself, so I chose the worst photo and with poor image quality, and I then stitched over the top. It’s a tricky process and overall I’m not impressed with the results, but I do like the lips, and the white dots from where each stitch manipulated the photo paper. The needlework looks like medical stitches, and I’ve previously had many self-inflicted injuries sewn up in A and E, the correlation worked well. However, over-sewing a photo was awkward. If stitches were too close the paper would tear, which meant I couldn’t produce the fine work that I wanted to produce. I chose not to apply this technique to a second photo because it’s too cumbersome. However, I am going to practice this in future. There is a saying that shame is about who I am, guilt is about who I am. The colours of the over stitching are about shame and guilt. The guilt is represented by red thread, I’m a guilty sinner who requires a blood sacrifice for salvation. The purple and black represent shame. They are dark colours, heavy, dreary and dirty.

I chose to create the photo of the cross with blood because it has religious symbolism, which reflects the shame I have experienced just for existing. The shame that springs from my childhood experiences was exacerbated by the religious upbringing I had. I could never live up to the expectations of those in religious power, nor of the scriptures. Apparently I am a sinner, and not only are my actions sinful, but so are my thoughts. I’ve paid for my sin’s in blood.

Self-harming has not been an easy or enjoyable behaviour for this assignment. But as it was a daily behaviour for many years I felt it was a justifiable action to take even though I hadn’t self harmed in over two years. I used to cut derogatory words into my legs, and I chose the words “fat cunt” because there are times that I internally call myself this. It’s hard having an eating disorder, and it’s correlation with body-dismorphia it’s obvious within me. However painful these thoughts are, I am proud of the changes that I am currently making. I often find I am in a place of nurturing myself in response to a cruel inner monologue.  On the whole the self harming for this assignment has been a positive experience. It has affirmed that I’m no longer in a place of self-hatred, and I was able to naturally practice self-care for a couple of days afterwards.

Producing photography that involved the act, and results of self harm is pushing the boundaries of what is graphically acceptable. Because of this I have posted trigger warnings on my blog a few hours prior to posting any images. The truth is self-harm is a part of my history, and I am a visual artist who uses photography to explore and express myself. Personally I believe that my photography has been authentic, as tasteful as possible for the content,  and I have presented it within an appropriate context.

My self-love photo’s included macro photography, the side of my bath, and a card that I wrote to myself.  Macro photography is pure enjoyment and a spiritual connection for me. My bath has many fossils, rocks and minerals, and I always have a multitude of shower gels. Having difficulties with body image has made it necessary to have a safe bathing space. I regularly write myself texts telling me that I love myself.

Love is not a feeling, it’s an action, and I need to practice loving kindness towards myself on a daily basis. I cannot afford to wait until I feel better about myself in order to take affirmative action. I have to act my way into feeling better about myself.

The lighting was a combination of daylight and incandescent. I opted for the ambience provided by natural daylight, and I didn’t feel that it was necessary to use flash or additional light sources for this assignment. However, I changed the white balance on the photos of the bath and the card to add some warmth.

My execution of this assignment has, at times, been emotionally challenging and also rewarding. I feel excited about the use of the cube and the over-sewing. It’s wonderful to push myself, to learn new techniques and experiment, and to play with physical photos.

The biggest joy has been the realisation that I love myself, I may not like how I look, but hey, progress is progress.

Photography is so much fun, and it has helped me to take care of myself, to connect with Goddess, and it has improved how I feel about myself. It’s hard to convey the extent of how photography has changed my life.

The Individual Photos

Self Hate

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Self Love

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The contact sheets can be seen here

Rubik’s Cube Update

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Following feedback from OCA Foundations in Photography student Jonathan Kiernan (here), I made a second attempt with the Rubik’s Cube. This time I cut the photos into cubes prior to sticking them onto the cube, and tried to stick them into place by using double-sided tape. This technique was better, however, cutting the tape was a nightmare as the tape kept sticking to the scissors. Making use of a five by five cube meant the photos were divided two small to be neat, and didn’t provide a large enough surface area for the tape to stick the photo’s. The solution would be to use a larger Rubik’s Cube which is also only three by three. I think the best technique to glue the photo’s to the cube would be to use PVA on the cube and photo as a surface primer, and then to make use of super glue as the adhesive.

 

I always welcome constructive feedback and critique. Please feel free to comment and explain either what you like or don’t like, and why. 

 

 

 

 

Assignment Four – Responding To A Theme – Initial Ideas

The brief asks us to create a series of 3 – 5 still life images that respond to a theme. Exercise 4.12 Presence/Absence gave me the opportunity to explore self harm and suicide, and I have an idea which will give me the opportunity to build upon this.

  • Self hatred juxtaposed with self love
  • 3 photos relating to self hatred
  • 3 photos relating to self love
  • Crop photos with a 1:1 aspect ration
  • Create a solid cube from wood
  • Attach self hatred and self love photo at opposing ends of the cube
  • The cube becomes a still life object

Preparing For Assignment Three – A Narrative Photograph

Brief:- For this assignment you have two choices – To make a staged photograph, or to make a narrative sequence. The key to narrative photography is observation. Watch people, the way they interact, the way things happen, events unfold, and you’ll see that there are telling moments like a ‘stand off’ between a wilful child and it’s parents, or an awkward defiance when a ticket conductor on a train finds someone without a ticket. These may not seem like Hollywood situations, but the point is to find situations that are near to you. It may just be  frozen pause during a meal with friends or the cyclist sitting by the road after coming off his bike. What you’re trying to recreate is a telling expressiveness, the quality that shows you’ve noticed how people behave and how their character is revealed in their actions, postures, facial expressions.

  • A staged photograph – A staged photograph is like a snapshot from a movie. It’s a ‘scene’, an event which you have constructed at the perfect moment as a still photograph. It can be a simple ‘moment’ like a glance between two strangers on the street (Jeff Wall’s Mimic, 1982) or an elaborate recreation of a dramatic event (Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind, (after Hokusai), 1993). It can start with a simple event, like the postman peeping through the letter box, an old lady jumping over a fence or someone tripping over a paving stone. But you should explore it conceptually and make it weightier in meaning by embellishing it, monumentalizing the event even though it is small. In this way you could turn the postman picture into an allegory about privacy, or the old lady picture an allegory that challenges perceptions about old age. Start by researching the work of Gregory Crewdson and Hannah Starkey.
  • A narrative sequence – a narrative sequence can be like a story board or comic strip that tells a story in a series of images. The story may be mysterious or humorous like Duane Michals Things are Queer (1973). It can be a fleeting moment or a monumental event. But there’s always the sense of time passing and an event unfolding. Research the sequences of Duane Michals online. Use your own life and work experiences as a source for ideas. Or use your dreams. Here are some key elements to think about: Event – Your aim here is to express a situation or event. Perhaps it’s something you’ve noticed, like someone sneezing in the high street or two people arguing. You don’t need to encapsulate war and peace. People – It will almost certainly involve people who will need to be rehearsed and directed like actors. But they can be themselves, they don’t need to pretend to be other people and they don’t need to be actors. Try to just let them be themselves and see what kind of images you get. If that doesn’t work, ask them to think about a memory which reflects the one you’re trying to portray. Setting – Every event has a setting. it happens somewhere. So think about places that would be accessible and telling. If you can, use environments that you have access to, like your workplace, your home or back garden. Props – Objects you use are important for setting the scene and expressing meaningful and narrative points about the situation.

I have very mixed feelings about this assignment. We are only required to complete one of the tasks, and I know that I can create a staged photograph. The idea has been with me, fermenting for sometime, and I know that I can give it a very good shot. It will involve a bankruptcy notice, a newspaper horse betting form guide, a mobile gambling app and a pint. On an outdoor pub bench and shot from the point of view of the person with the gambling problem. With a title of When the Fun Stops, Stop? I am going to complete this.

However, I am going to have to think of a way to also complete the narrative sequence. If I don’t then I know that I will be taking the easier softer option. It involves working with people, which right now is incredibly challenging for me, and is worse than usual. The brief is really clear that the idea doesn’t have to be fancy, it’s clearly more about staging and directing. The idea will come, ideas aren’t a problem for me – but the people are. I have already created a narrative sequence using birds, and also of me going out deliberately to get sun burned, I will post the birds sequence later in the week. It’s a strong sequence about spring and new life, but it didn’t involve staging. Me getting sunburned is wishy washy, yeah I will add it to my digital sketchbook, but that’s not a sequnce which I’m going any further.

I feel a bit down on myself right now because of my difficulties interacting with people. Although I haven’t been able to get in touch with my tutor, I know what she would say. She is aware of my poor mental health and would encourage me not to put myself at risk and that the staged photo is enough. However it isn’t enough for me.