On Completing Foundations In Photography

Firstly, I must say that although I’ve now completed Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts, I have not finished the 5th Assignment. However, I had my final tutorial last week, and the assignment continues as part of a body of work on eating disorders. I intend to continue with “My Emotional States of Anorexia and Strengths in Recovery”, of which I am still embroidering on the photography. Once completed I will write an artists statement and an exhibition proposal.

Sounds big to me, and what’s amazing is that exhibiting my photographs is a possibility, a possibility which I would never have imagined when I started Foundations in Photography.

One year prior to enrolling on the course I was desperate, scared and unable to leave my home for more than a five minute trip to the chemist to pick up my medication. A good friend said that I needed to do something different to rebuild my mental health, and so I bought a camera. My camera gave me a life. With a camera in front of my face I was able to gradually build up the time I spent outside. On top of this I discovered the peace and mindfulness of photography.

I set myself small projects to try and develop technique and style. Photography became a passion, it set fire to my soul. That spark is the reason that I enrolled on Foundations in Photography.

Being on a low income meant that I was worried that I couldn’t afford to apply for the course, so I applied for the Open College of the Arts bursary. I put together a written statement which was accompanied by 10 photos, with explanations of why I had taken them. I recieved the full bursary, which is half of the course fee’s. Looking back on those photos I can see that they were pretty poor, but I had a good understanding of why I had made them.

Beggining Foundations in Photography was a daunting experience, but I found the course material to be clear. My approach was to follow it to the letter as I was afraid of getting it wrong. I had no idea of how to use my camera in manual mode, but I soon got used to it by following the guidance in the course handbook.

British Touring Cars Championship
100 photos {2017)

The first assignment was a thoroughly enjoyable exercise. It was the first serious attempt that I made on researching and planning a photo shoot. I managed to produce three or four strong photo’s.

York :- A Photographic HistoryAssignment One (2017)

However, I really came to life during the third section of the coursework, specifically exercises 3.3. I broke away from the brief, I tried a few different styles of photography, and developed my own interpretation of the exercise.

Bulimia
Sick of Bulimia (2018)
Whitby Abbey
A Hermits Journey (2018)

My best photo’s come from a place of authenticity and exploration of self. That’s not the only Photography that I do though. I’ve explored portrait, and I am improving in this area, and I love macro and events photography. Going out and making developers my photographic eye, and keeps my enthusiasm going. The OCA encourages that we continue shooting for our own enjoyment outside of study.

My favourite assignment was the fourth one, Responding to a Theme. I produced a hard hitting piece of work on the themes of self hatred and self love.

Self-Hatred-and-Self-LoveSelf Hatred – Self Love (2018)

Although I’ve now completed the course, I am continuing with assignment Five, which is part of a body of work exploring which I’m producing about eating disorders. This is a mixed media art project in which I’m embroidering on photography. I wouldn’t have had the idea or confidence to attempt to learn an additional skill if I hadn’t studied Foundations in Photography.

One of the most important aspects of my development has come from the Foundations group email. It developed into an opportunity to critique each others work. It’s been such a helpful practice. It’s not easy to have my work critiqued and to analyse others photography, but it’s developed the way in which I view photo’s, and consequently, the planning and production of my own work.

The written aspects of the course have been enjoyable as well. I like to think and write, I find studying to be rewardingso I’ve put a lot of effort into it. My use of Photoshop and Lightroom were poor at the start of the course, I still have a long way to go in this regard, but I have developed some useful skills and techniques as well.

My tutor has been invaluable. Not only have I been given guidance and feedback on the assignments, I’ve also recieved ideas and information for further development, and suggestions on which photographers to research and review. This feedback has been tailored to the work that I am producing and my personal developmental needs. Thank you Jayne.

The student support services have been on hand as well. I became ill during the course, and needed to seek an extension. They took my difficulties into account and they checked up on my health and well being every few weeks. The level of care and compassion was wonderful. Thank you Lia.

My goal now is to complete my current project about anorexia and then sign up for the BA in Photography, and I’m going to study again with the Open College of the Arts. Open learning suits me very well and the OCA coursework and support has been top notch. Studying this way suits my life style and keeps the pressure off of me. I’m feeling very grateful this morning. Thank you OCA

Illustrations

100 photo’s (here)

Assignment One – Square Mile (here)

Sick of Bulimia (here)

A Hermits Journey (here)

Self Hatred – Self Love (here)

 

Cognitive Disonence – Dancing City At The Greenwich Docklands International Festival

Wow, what a performance Dancing City put on.

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I hadn’t planned on seeing dancing City, I just wanted to take a trip to Canary Wharf with my camera and do some photography. It was a blessed relief to get out with my OMD EM 10 MK II and explore the docklands (these photos were taken on my Huawei P 20 Pro) . Dancing City were performing outside of the tube station so I stopped and had a look.

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Got to be honest, I didn’t think this was for me, but I have a friend who is a contemporary dancer so I sat down on the floor and figured I’d try and work out what was going on. The performers were dancing with objects that have a resemblance to the human form, so I figured they represented people. The dancing appeared to be sexual, passionate and suggestive at times, which threw me. What the hell is that about. I could understand it with people but not objects. Other aspects of the dancing seemed to be free form and uncoreogeaphed.

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I concerned relationship, specifically the kind of relationship where someone views the other as being something they are not. It’s hard to explain, but I’ve fallen in love with my partners potential, only seeing their best points, so I’m not in a relationship with the person who is really there, warts and all. Then I considered the dance portrayed psychosis and the interplay between heard voices, delusion and life.

It turns out that the performance was an exploration of modern day slavery.

The performance is worth considering in relation to my photography. Creating cognitive disonence, by including an object which is out of place, the viewer is left in a position where questions will arise. A viewer then becomes engaged with what they are gazing upon, and they may seek conciliation between the known and the abstract.

Encouragement From Jessa Fairbrother

I approached Jessa Fairbrother via email in order to receive feedback/advice about how best to keep the reverse of my embroidered photography tidy.

Although she didn’t give direct guidance, she did say that I was clearly doing things ‘right’ and that we all sew differently, and my development would come with time and exparience.

Part of me feels child-like by asking for direction, as though I can’t stand on my own two feet. However, the reality is that I wish to be an exhibiting photographer, and I will benefit from seeking and accepting the critique of others.

ConstellationsFig. 1. Minor Constellation 1; 2018

Jessa Fairbrother sews on top of photographs to use “the body-as-site to explore communal meanings and is concerned with making explicit the moment when performed gesture and gaze of the viewer collide.” (Fairbrother; 2019). She uses needlework as exploration and reclamation of her body.

Illustration

Figure 1 Fairbrother, J; 2018; Minor Constellation I [Silver Gelatin Print and hand sewn tbread]; AT: https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/print-sales/explore-artworks/minor-constellation-i-2018

References

Fairbrother, J; 2019; About/Contact; Online: AT: http://www.jessafairbrother.com/about.html

Catching The Big Fish – David Lynch

David Lynch is best known as a film maker/director (Blue Velvet; 1986) and (Mulholland Drive; 2001). He has written TV shows and he’s a photographer.

My tutor suggested that I read his book, Catching The Big Fish because he discusses how he uses meditation as part of his creativity. The “big fish” are those big creative ideas, which then refine themselves as he is producing film. He practices transcendental meditation.

It was a wonderful read for me because I use meditation as part of my idea creation and development. That’s not technically accurate, I meditate because I enjoy it, but I know my creativity will develop as a result. Sometimes ideas come up during the meditation, but mostly they develop because my mind is clearer. As a result of reading Catching The Big Fish, I am going to learn transcendental meditation this weekend.

David Lynch; 2006; Catching The Big Fish; Tarcher

Homelessness – We Made This

One of the things that I have found most disturbing since I have moved to London has been the disparity between extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Worst still is to witness members of the public abusing homeless people. On Tuesday I witnessed a woman shouting at a homeless person and I shouted at the woman. Not something I usually do, it was an automatic reaction.

It’s not possible for me to speak to or donate to every homeless person, however, as a photographer I am forming an idea for a future piece of work exploring wealth and poverty.

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fznor

 

Update On My Photography And Art – The Value Of Documentary Photography

Hi all.

My recovery from my overdose and consequent surgery is going well, which is good for my photography and art.

I’m so grateful that I have the energy and desire to continue with my final assignment. I’ve managed a few hours of embroidery over the past few days. By making use of the research I conducted, and adapting the input from others, I now have a very good technique for embroidering on top of photography. Result!

I have several pressure sores. Some of these were acquired whilst unconscious following my overdose, and one which I acquired in hospital whilst under sedation. A good friend suggested that I photograph the one on my arm, the one acquired in hospital, and create some documentary photography.

I liked the idea but felt it was not particularly practical. So instead I decided to photograph the consequences of a failed suicide attempt. During my stay at the Heart hospital (they saved my life) I was in a single room, which gave me the freedom to make Photography of my experience. The Heart hospital is where I had surgery to remove a septic abcess and part of my right lung, and where I had a cardiac arrest.

The critical care unit at the Whittington Hospital was the first ward that I was on. They somehow managed to bring me around from my overdose. It wasn’t expected. They informed friends and family that I wasn’t expected to pull through. However, I survived. I was in no fit state to take photos in the Whittington until just before I left, so I have very few photos from there.

During my recuperation with friends and my cousin I’ve taken some photos of my recovery. I shall evaluate and collate all of these and put together a documentary series.

Of note:- during my coursework I reviewed a documentary series called “Ray’s a Laugh” by Richard Billingham, (see here). I feel that documenting my failed suicide attempt is similar to the style of Billingham, and has opened my mind to the value of documenting the everyday. Many people try to commit suicide, and considerably more survive than die (over 15 successful suicide attempts per day in the UK). This is why I use the term “everyday”, I’m not dismissing the tragedy of suicide or attempted suicide. There is good work being done to prevent suicide and I hope more will be done in the future.

Documentary photography in the style of Billingham, and my own series, creates a space for reflection and discourse, and this can create connection and change.

Here are a couple of photos from my series. Not quite sure when I will get the time to put my series together as I have so many medical appointments.

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Study Break – Exhaustion

Hello all.

I’m taking an unplanned study break. I move to London at the end of next week, which is incredibly exciting. I’m also finding the pressure of moving to be exhausting. I’m learning to listen to my body, and just now I’m needing to rest.

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I am experiencing moments of anxiety, not a huge amount, and I think the exhaustion and need for additional sleep, is the way my body and mind need to do things in order for me to cope. The anxiety had triggered my neuro-muscular condition quite severely, which will also have an impact upon the tiredness. I’m going with what my body needs at the moment, and that feels so healthy.

I’m still waiting for my self portraits to arrive. My next steps will be to review Cindy Sherman’s use of masks, and then to begin embroidering over my portraits. But that’s for once I’ve moved.

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Looking after myself is not a natural experience, but it’s happening. It’s a change that I put down to working the 12 step programme. It’s a relief to pace myself, focus on one thing at a time, and rest. Rest includes play, which right now is about watching comedy and the occasional movie.

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I’m on track with my eating, and working closely with my nutritionist. I can’t believe that I’m coping with change without restricting my diet or bingeing and purging. I feel very grateful.

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Moving Home – Which Degree?

I’m excited, I’m focused, and occasionally a little anxious.

Although I don’t have a moving date as yet, it’s likely that I will be moving at the end of the month. I’m excited that I want to begin having contact with people, especially my peers and others in the creative community. Opportunity beckons.

It’s also getting close to a cut off point for deciding which course to study. Do I continue studying with the Open College of the Arts, or with the University for the Creative Arts. I’m very suited to distance learning, and I know that studying with the OCA provides me with as much opportunity as I wish to develop creatively, and flexibly. I’ve pulled off a coup by connecting with Laura Letinsky, and this tells me that I can create my own opportunities by studying this way. I value the tutors and the course material.

Studying with the UCA will give me access to a dark room, a vast library and work placements, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other students in other fields. But… I’m getting these opportunities with OCA students, and as an undergraduate I can access any university library.

When I put it in black and white like this I can see that I have a preference. Next week I will speak with student services at the Open College of the Arts, and then meditate before making a decision.

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Annie Leibovitz – Masterclass – Lesson One – Portrait

A precious gift that I recieved for Christmas, from a dear friend, was a subscription to an Annie Leibovitz Masterclass.

Masterclass is an app that provides master-classes by people who are world renowned in their field, it can be optained on Google Play Store and the Apple Store.

Lesson 1

There are a few points that I’m taking away. Which I’ll bullet point below. But the most interesting point was a question one of her students asked. It was raised in relation to to photo-journalism, but I think it applies to all genres of photography. “Where is the line?” I photographed an act of self harm for part four of my coursework and in assignment four, and it was necessary for me to question was my photography relevant, necessary and provided in context. Ultimately this is a personal question and each photographers answer is subjective. It’s of note that Leibovitz says this question is ongoing for photographers.

  • You cannot capture an individual with one photo
  • To capture different aspects of personality more than one photo is required
  • It’s beneficial to return to work with an individual in a new setting at a different time (months or years apart
  • A series created in such manner reveals more about a person than a single shoot could do
  • Take lots of photos and regularly
  • It takes years to learn how to see
  • Keep photos that you’re not initially drawn too, your perspective may change over time

Elf Portrait

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btfmdn

 

Actions To Carry Forward From Assignment Four – News About Action Man

Actions

  • 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
No fella, it’s actions to carry forward, not carry Action Man forward
No, don’t do it, don’t jump. Yes, I promise you can write a travel blog at Christmas.