A situation evolved before me yesterday, one with a humanistic, moralistic and Sociological perspective. Whilst I was waiting for a bus a naked guy parades up and down the street. He was speaking non aggressively in a language which I didn’t recognise. On the whole people were ignoring him, other than an occasional person who tried encouraging him to cover up.
At this point I decided not to take a photo, because I didn’t want to write or publish an article which would have been embarrassing for him. I suspected that his mental health was influencing his behaviour.
The police arrived, and the aforementioned naked guy assaulted the police officer. The officers colleague shouted “tazer” and as the guy went to assault her she fired the tazer.
When the guy was face down on the floor I took a photo, reasoning that he couldn’t be identified, and the discharging of a tazer is of current Sociological importance and is “newsworthy”
However, I’m not a photo journalist, its not my style of photography. There is a significant debate upon the arming of police with tazers, which is worth exploring. But I still decided to delete the photo rather than publish it.
Seeing a police officer assaulted, and an unarmed man tazered is frightening, and would have been more upsetting for the man and the police. I believe the guy was having some form of mental breakdown, and ultimately it’s why I didn’t publish the photo.
I’m in favour of the police having tazers. There have been several vicious assaults on the police recently and they need to be able to apprehend an assailant, for their own, and the publics protection. Arguably, if yesterday’s event had have played out in other countries the guy could have been shot dead, so I’m in favour of more tazers over more guns.
There is a need for photo journalism and documentary photography, and yesterday I was faced with a choice. We all do as photographers, we all have our preferred genre and field of expertise. Most of the time there is no right and wrong in photography, and yesterday was a personal choice that suited my weighing up of external and internal drivers.
Walking with a crutch provided me with the opportunity to experiment with perspective. I can balance and keep the weight off my right heel, but what do I then do with the crutch? It’s made it hard to make photo’s unless I put the crutch down on the floor and kneel down. With this being the case I thought I’d make the most of it and explore what I could learn from the altered perspective.
When standing to take a photo, the head is generally pointing slightly down towards the horizon. From this viewpoint the sky takes up a third of the photo and the land takes two thirds of the space. When kneeling, the eye is looking up towards the horizon and reverses the sky to land ratio as below.
Usually this doesn’t work and detracts from the subject, the land. However, the above photo is balanced. The line of the boats mast balances the geometry and breaks the photo up. It would have been a better photo if the sailing boats had been further to the left, they would have made a nice subject.
In a narrow street, this new perspective makes the street appear narrower, but brings the buildings in closer to the centre, which could be good to highlight city lines, or to add an emotional tension (being followed on a dark night/a chase scene), especially when a short focal length is used.
But, with a spacious foreground, a clear line through the image becomes prominent.
In the wide open space of a Victoria train station the lines of the metalwork are heightened, and the spaciousness can emphasise the activity of the people. I like this shot.
My favourite of the series comes next.
OK, so the photo needs to be retaken without the people in the red and orange shirts. Putting that to the side I’ve found a real lesson for bringing the best out of a subject. The lower horizon provides more space in the sky, and this works well with the neutral foreground. And voila – the subject is what my eye looks at. I’m drawn to look closer at the detail. I love it.
Kneeling behind the prominade fence in the next scene creates layers of activity. Not the greatest of photos though. It would work better with a yacht on the sea, the eye needs a point of focus, but the layering works well.
And finally, I don’t know if this was related to kneeling down and thereby being in a more submissive stance, or not, but I felt more confidence in making Street photography whilst I was in Brighton. Regardless of the reason, or lack thereof, it was fun to take photos of people.
The Plan is simple. I’m taking a break between Foundations in Photography and the undergraduate BA in Photography. I will resume my studies in January. Study is so good for my mental health that I have considered enrolling immediately on the degree, but I also don’t feel that’s right just now.
I haven’t read photography books for some time, so I have reintroduced this progress. I don’t particularly enjoy reading these texts, but my practice does benefit from it.
My personal projects are important for my development. I have started to photo the London underground stations, both inside and out. The inside is a plain photo of the sign and surround, and I’m trying to capture points of interest outside of the tube station (not always possible as some of the surrounds are dull. My intent is to do this for the whole 270 tube stations, and I want to capture the mundane commute, but also include points of peace or joy along the route. I’m considering producing a poster size map of the London underground system and making a collage using 3 inch by 2 inch photos to present this series. The following two photos are the inside and outside of Charing Cross.
I’m aware that photographing a square mile will be an aspect of Express Your Vision, which is the first module of the degree, and I intend to use London’s Square Mile for this.
Today I am photographing my trip to Brighton from the perspective of me kneeling down. I simply want to try a new perspective with my photography and to document a simple journey. Love, peace and joy to you all on this beautiful Sunday.
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.
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.
Assignment 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.
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 – 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fig. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.