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.
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.
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.
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
Recently I have been very kindly and generously given a speedlight, for which I am most grateful. I’m waiting until the gels and remote trigger which I have ordered for it to arrive, and then I will begin exercise 4.2.
Exercise 4.2 requires us to make use of any space with which we have access to for a few days, to add flat surfaces, and then objects, to create a space which only exists within the boundaries of the photo.
My space is going to be my lounge ceiling. I have paper, material and objects, which can pin too and hang from the ceiling. It’s a space which I intend to make more use of as the still life coursework proceeds. Seeing the photography of Laura Letinsky has been the trigger that my imagination has required to find some enthusiasm for this section.
We’ve also been asked to consider visual effect by exploring photographic effect, by making photos of things that have meaning for us. Well, as I’m slowly making these photos I’m realising that meaning and effect are personal and subjective. Yes, there are photographic techniques (composition, lighting, placement, colour, distraction), which positively or negatively impact upon presentation and reading of a photo, but photography, as with all art, is a subjective experience.
I am going to be working a little out of order at the moment. My health has been poor and rather than lag behind I will work on what I feel able when I feel able.
Here’s are some pigs. Pigs are a the spirit animal for abundance, the universe always provides what I need, and the many pigs around my house are a reminder.
Toxic Shame is a mixed media video created in collaboration by several Open College of the Arts Students. We study in different genres of the creative arts. It has been a very enjoyable process which has required thinking out of the box to respond to the work of other members submissions, based upon the theme for the month.
I would like to just say thank you to my tutor Jayne Taylor for her support, guidance and encouragement. I very much appreciate your input.
I have previously reflected upon the feedback which I received during a telephone conversation with Jayne (seen here).
The written feedback that Jayne has provided is a PDF which can be seen here. I am going to reflect upon the written feedback, but with preparing for my holiday, and having two more posts that I wish to make before I set of on my adventures, then I will further reflections until I have returned home.
Making this and the last post has taken me several days to get motivated to produce.
Photography was originally understood as being a means of authentically documenting reality
This view reinforced by Barthes in Camera Lucida – photographing “what was there”
Photo Journalism and documentary photography are meant to be factual and not misleading.
My view “as photographers we always mislead and never represent the external authentically”
My view “as photographers we spend more time excluding the distraction of what was there”
My view “our photography is shaped by our life experiences, psychology and ideology”
My view “our personality influences exactly what we choose to exclude from any photo we make”
My view has been reinforced by reading Photography A Critical Introduction by Liz Wells
Liz Wells highlights the photo “Migrant Mother” by Dorathea Lange
“Migrant Mother” is shown next to the other four photos Lange took of the mother and her children that day. It’s clear why Lange chose this as her final selection.
The context added by the other photos would have eliminated the emotional impact.
This is photographers manipulation of fact in order to present a moral viewpoint.
Editor’s, curators and accompanying text bastardise this “authenticity” further.
Ariella Azoulay adds to this by demonstrating how the Israeli National newspapers use photography unrelated to the story to reinforce an anti Palestinian Agenda.
In The Civil Contract of Photography Azoulay posits the idea that no one has authorship/ownership of a photo, as the subject, photographer and viewer all bring their own unique understanding and agenda to the photo
Kathryn Ryan (Canadian comedian) stated during her interview by John Bishop (John Bishop In Conversation With) that her daughter is a unique individual and as her mother she has no right to publish photos of her daughter.
She doesn’t own her daughter and has no ownership of her image
To do so would be an act of aggression as there is no consent.
This view is supported by Susan Sontag “On Photography” and Ariella Azoulay.
Hearing Kathryn Ryan was the first time this viewpoint made any sense to me.
In other contexts to commit an act upon another person without their consent would be illegal.
Asking permission to take a photo, even using a model release form can never be informed consent as we no longer know where a photo will be reproduced or end up.
Its been useful to solidify these ideas that have been floating around my psyche, it’s not to say that I agree with them all, and even where I do I think there has to be a loud call for balance. The views I’ve highlighted are valid, but where do we draw the line? There are legal lines of course, and I believe there are humanitarian lines. Governments often break these humanitarian lines for the purposes of propaganda (it’s happened in the UK in relation to “illegal” immigrants (no human is illegal!!!)). However, as photographers we can only do what feels right to us, and that’s different for us all.
Interestingly, as I have experimented with street photography I have become more comfortable with others taking my photo whilst out and about.
During the Foundations in Photography coursework we were asked to review The Conversation by Michael Buhler Rose, which was from his theme Creating the Exotic (please excuse my lack of academic referencing, I’m tired, unmotivated, and feeling adding something to my learning log is better than nothing). Buhler Roses’ photo is below.
I’m aware that we all draw our inspiration from the world around us, and I’m begging to think that Buhler Rose may have drawn his from John William Waterhouse. Waterhouse made several paintings which included people, in groups, conversing, wearing bright colours. The Enchanted Garden is a good example, as is Tales From Dr Cameron (below).
I certainly have no recollection of Buhler Rose discussing his inspiration or the works of his or others that he had built upon, and I can now see why our tutors ask us to do this. Doing so helps me to become more definitive in my photographic profile and signature and becomes a cornerstone of continued professional development.
I saw the Waterhouse painting on a UK TV program called University Challenge and I instantly thought of The Conversation
Today has seen me complete a composite photo which I have worked on over the past few months (sen here). It was a project that I had begun a while ago, and then exercise 3.4 of Foundations in Photography required us to create a series of photo’s to document change, which I completed according to the brief. However, I also felt that I could use my anorexia project to document change in one photo.
I created a draft of the project and then sought feedback from my peers (seen here), which was very helpful. I have taken this into consideration since the draft photo, but the most helpful feedback that I received was from a peer who sent me a personal e-mail, and this has had the biggest impact upon my re-working of the photo. Thankyou Sarah.
The photo has many layers which include differing sizes of clothing, which progressively become smaller, all of which were photographed individually, parts of the body and the headstone background.
Sarah suggested that I change the emphasis of the head so that eye was prominent, because of its haunted and piercing gaze. So I erased the other elements of the face, and following comments about different parts of the body I have re-shot them this week.
There were times during which I over complicated things in Photoshop especially with using the background eraser. Overtime I have learned that as I had shot each part separately, I could return to the original photo, layer from background, and use the eraser rather than background eraser. This ensured there were no half erased areas, which looked untidy on my working PSD (the clothing photo has evidence of some partially erased areas). The eraser was better than selection tool – delete, because the selection tool was leaving tatty edges in areas where the tone was similar with the background. Again I have improved this with the photo’s that I made this week by shooting the subject upon a white background. This meant the selection tool became an effective method of getting rid of the unwanted parts of the photo’s.
On of the most tricky aspects has been lining up limbs so that they fit into the shape of the clothing, but I feel that I have got this right today by making use of the transform – warp/perspective tools.
Overall I am pleased with the result of this photo. I have achieved what I set out to achieve, showing the downward spiral of anorexia and change in body shape, but also I have managed to capture some emotion within the eye, as well as sadness I detect some fear as well. With the figure floating upon the tombstone in an ethereal manner, and the fading of the limbs, sinking into the clothing, then moving towards death becomes apparent.
When I create photography such as this I like to carry a message of hope, which comes in the form of the text which is found underneath the photo. Help is available, recovery is possible.
Following on from reading Behind The Image: Research In Photography (Fox, A and Caruana, N; 2012), I have decided to start my own photographic archive. My current sources are newspapers and magazines, ebay for purchasing used photo’s (it’s bloody strange viewing a family’s wedding photo’s, but other than that it good) and printing some of my own photo’s. Gerhard Richter makes collages using text as well as photo’s and this idea has grown upon me, so I am also collecting snippets that I like. There are also themes and issues which are important to me, such as Palestine/Israel, gender and sexuality, mental health, women as role models (without comparing to men, just strong images and stories about women and their chosen roles). With these I am collecting stories not just headlines. This is a valuable part of me gaining a deeper understanding off societal issues, and a new perspective, as well as the research required to deepen my photographic understanding and practice.
Returning photography into a physical form creates a lasting document. I’ve purchased a cork board so that I can pin photo’s onto it, which means I can get used to viewing my own photography and gaining deeper understanding into how I work as a photographer. The time difference between taking photo’s and pinning them to the board also removes some of my emotional attachment to the work which I produce. Photographs that I used to like are sometimes less important, and I perceive them as being of a lower quality than I originally thought, and of course this works the other way around as well. There are a few photos that I really was not keen on when I developed them, that now stand out as being good images.
Fun, interesting, rewarding.
Reading List (Recent and Current)
The fiction and non-fiction which I read are just as important to me and my development as a thinker and photographer as the reading that I enjoy about photography.
Jesmyn Ward; Sing, Unburied, Sing (fiction) – Carol Anne Lee; The Hidden Life Of Otto Frank (biography) – Ian Black; Enemies And Neighbours: Arabs And Jews In Palestine And Israel, 1917 – 2017 (non-fiction) – Sophie Calle; Suite Venitienne (photography) – Seth Joel; Photographing Still Life (photography) – Arthur Lubow; Diane Arbus: Portrait Of A Photographer (photography) – Archna Singh; The Immortals (photography)
Fox, A and Caruana, N; 2012; Behind The Image: Research In Photography; Lausanne; AVA Publishing SA