Category Archives: Learning log

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Traces of Time, Assignment 3 Research Notes

Photographers

I looked at the work of all the photographers mentioned and recommended in the course manual and took from that what I thought might help me in both the assignment and the project exercises:-

Project 1 – the frozen moment

Project 2 – a durational space

Project 3 ‘What matters is to look’

Harold Edgerton’s work (http://edgerton-digital-collections.org), despite the time it was made, is still technically beyond anything I could hope achieve with my equipment so the influence here lies not only in encouraging me to seek out new possibilities within my means, ie using the technology available, but also in eliciting an appreciation of a very powerful blend of scientific investigation and aesthetically robust imagery – the frozen human movements in particular. 

I’ve looked closely at Jeff Wall’s work because I found his techniques of deep research, patience and detailed staging to be very interesting. The picture of the bursting milk-carton is very powerful because it captures the moment of an event that seems to happen without the human subject being aware of it. Has he accidentally burst the milk carton or is he doing it or is it being remotely burst as part of the act? He’s looking the other way at something in the middle distance which suggests detachment. Knowing the background, the more I study the image the more I begin to see that the decisive moment may well be appear to be decisive for the viewer but it’s been meticulously planned in advance.

Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, (www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/exposed-philip-lorca-dicorcia ): I found his series of portraits of people going about their daily lives on the streets to be very powerful because they drew me into an interrogation of the subjects. Some might be seen to be physically attractive, ‘easy on the eye’, so we become interested. Others are lost in thought which means that some of their concerns appear to be marked on their frozen expressions and cause us to attribute states of mind to the subjects, to wonder at the kinds of lives they might lead, where they’re going, what they’re thinking, etc. I think these reactions are not unusual in terms of anthropology and human psychology. None of this depth of interrogation could happen, I think, with moving image. The still images are decisive in that the camera and associated apparatus capture a moment that humans cannot, allowing us to forensically examine the subjects and lend motives and meanings to their lives.

Robert Capa on D-Day at Omaha – this and other wartime documentary photographs by Capa are firmly established in the canon of photography. Without going into the debate as to how staged some of his images might have been, they are certainly very powerful pictures of undoiubtedly real events in which the lives and deaths of people are in play. For me, the most interesting image in the following series (https://www.magnumphotos.com/newsroom/conflict/robert-capa-d-day-omaha-beach/) is the one where we can examine the facial and bodily expressions of some of the soldiers at a ceremony for the fallen. One young soldier in particular, has a look on his face that combines horror, fatigue and grief all at once and he can barely lift his eyes from the ground. Whatever is going on in some of his other pictures, this one seems to grab an authentically decisive moment in displaying the effects of war and death on mainly young men undergoing extreme physical and emotional stress.  

Michael Wesely – I like the somewhat ironic turn of his ‘still’ life photos which are of course anything but still, thus setting the two dimensional plane of the image against the almost paradoxical depth of space and time that a photo affords . He seems to distil and refine certain techniques that have become very fashionable in the current era, for example camera shake (or ICM (intentional camera movement depending on one’s preferences) and other types of motion blur. But the quality of his imagery reveals deeper processes at work and what I take from his work is an enthusiasm for patience and undoubtedly a mindset that values sustained and committed experimentation informed by a generous measure of solid conceptual thinking.

Francesca Woodman – I’ve followed her work for some time now and recently saw an exhibition of her early prints in Edinburgh. If we’re talking about ‘the durational space’ then her pictures investigate this in many interesting ways, primarily by asking questions of identity within the time and space of the image’s realisation. Using long exposures, mirrors, fabrics and other materials that cover and hide parts of the subject (herself naked or partly naked in most cases) she seems to shake the identity of the subject so consistently and at times violently that it’s in danger of coming apart at the seams. I’d like to develop in my own work in the future the idea of loosening up the identity or even the reality of a given subject, perhaps myself, by exposing and extending the temporal elements inherent in taking pictures.

Awoiska van der Molen (https://www.awoiska.nl/biography#about) – this kind of work, in the way the photographer has chosen to deal with time and place, interests me more than the kind of decisive moment street photography derived from Bresson’s pioneering photographs. Van der Molen engages with a location over many days, one or two weeks, immersing herself in an environment until she feels ready to start taking photographs. The actual location is unimportant and kept out of the narrative behind any given series. Whether these procedures actually produce images that accurately reflect or even refer to how the artist is feeling about a place or whether they capture something essential about a place or space is open to debate, but I’m convinced that the deeper the engagement with a location and with the passing of time over whatever timescale (in this case and more generally within the landscape genre), the better the chances of richer significance, depth and consistency in the images that result from the engagement. I’ve found this in the photos of several artists, most notably in the work of canonic landscape photographers like Robert Adams. To explain something of how Awoiska van der Molen approaches time and duration in her long exposure landscapes and how I’ve begun to think about the role of perception in photography I should quote here from an article which contrasts her work with what is normally thought of as the decisive moment.*

The notion of time at stake here has been called durée by French philosopher Henri Bergson, in English ‘duration’. Duration does not concern a conceptualisation of time, not a way of thinking about time; it concerns a phenomenology of time, how we experience time. Before elaborating on Bergson’s notion of duration, I will first reflect on the question what it means that Awoiska van der Molen’s photographic images evoke a temporality that thwarts the temporality of the unique moment, which has become so prevailing in the most dominant photographic practices.(p2)

In concrete perception memory intervenes, and the subjectivity of sensible qualities is due precisely to the fact that our consciousness, which begins by being only memory, prolongs a plurality of moments into each other, contracting them into a single intuition. (p6)

(quoting Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory [1896], trans. N.M. Paul and W.S. Palmer (new York: Zone Books, 1991), p.60).

This plurality of moments should not be understood as a narrative sequence, but rather as a form of stasis in which several temporal dimensions converge. The memory, which makes itself felt during perception, consists of a plurality of moments, but without the possibility of disentangling this plurality in specific moments in relation to each other, e.g., one moment after another. According to Gilles Deleuze in his book Bergsonism, Bergsonian duration is not defined by sequentiality but by co-existence.And this co-existence does not consist of specific moments, because according to Bergson time is indivisible and continuously subject to change. However, it concerns different temporal dimensions such as present and past, which can only be

experienced at the same time, in relation to each other. The photographs of Awoiska van der Molen seem to be an embodiment of Bergson’s notion of duration. (p6)

Here then we are being asked to completely rethink or at least remain open to new possibilities  within our ideas of time and duration in photographic imagery.

I also spent some time with the work of Richard Misrach, in particular his Desert Cantos. Misrach is another who has immersed himself in his subject or subjects, these being vast regions of American desert. Although he will have taken great care at the split second of capturing each image I think that the scale, depth, range and duration of his projects completely and successfully undermine the notion of a decisive moment.

Finally, I studied two photographers who approach the passing of time in different but equally interesting ways. Alexander Titarenko exploits the technique of (medium length) long exposures in urban environments, notably Havana and St. Petersburg, for example in the series City of Shadows (http://www.alexeytitarenko.com/cityofshadows). For me his greatest skills, apart from those he exploits in the darkroom, lie in the ways he blurs his subjects, normally pedestrians, just enough to contrast with static objects (eg street furniture) or even other human subjects at rest, offering an accumulation or an aggregate of decisive moments, all wrapped up in the one image. 

Chris McCaw on the other hand (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2015/06/18/when-the-sun-burns-a-hole-in-your-photo/) makes highly distinctive pictures in which the passage of the sun actually burns holes on photographic paper placed in the camera, asking questions of the passing of time and the consequences of exposing film or paper to what is probably the original timekeeper, ie the sun.

The Decisive Moment Debate.

Write up your research on the decisive moment in your learning log taking care to give a proper account of the three differing views….., and any further research you’ve undertaken independently. What do you feel personally about the decisive moment as a visual strategy, or just as a way to take pictures? Conclude your post with your own perspective on the debate at this point in time. 

The three points of view discussed in the OCA Handbook, Expressing your Vision, can be summarised as follows:-

Point of view 1

Some important photographic practices, eg documentary photography, looked to find meaning not in the making of great statements but in recording smaller more discrete moments in the belief  that fragments of time can be given meaning by dislocating them from their context. This suggests that the decisive moment was something of a revolutionary way of thinking about documentary photography in particular.

Point of view 2

It misses the point of our contemporary situation and photographers such as Paul Graham have successfully undermined the decisive moment by introducing indecisiveness into the urban experience.

Point of view 3

The decisive moment is a cliché even if it has a basis in reality. New modes of investigation are needed, especially for contemporary examinations of urban life.

Where do I stand with ‘the decisive moment’? It’s certainly not the only way of thinking about photography because, like any other artistic practice, photography is essentially what it is in the current era by virtue of its great diversity. I agree that there is a style of photography which offers great visual interest, depth and meaning by working with the notion that it’s worth waiting around for something interesting to happen and that the more you do it, the better you get at it. However I’m more interested in why a ‘moment’ should be the preferred unit of time (or, better, duration) that one wants to consider as decisive. How about the decisive day or week? Obviously a carefully framed or serendipitous photograph taken with a time exposure of up to a few seconds can be considered as decisive and momentary but we also need to consider the intentions and procedures of the artist who might care less about waiting for the right moment and more with embedding him- or herself in an environment over long periods of time, at the same time perhaps exploring the wider psychology of perception than small-window ‘snapshots of reality’. I’d be interested to learn more about the mechanics behind a possible correlation between a photographer’s philosophical view of the human condition and their idea of aesthetics in relation to photography. Then to learn more about photographers who challenge the notion that we see in nature what we’ve been taught to look for. I base this on the idea that good photography can teach us to see the world in new ways.

Although good pictures are good pictures and observational skills lie at the core of any photographic practice I don’t think it makes much difference to Cartier-Bresson or to photography more generally what we call his style or method of photography. People will always wish to organise, categorise and label whatever falls within their interests. It seems to be the way of things that a single-minded original artist will set the standard for an innovative type of practice, someone labels it, hordes follow, comment and debate ensue, academia gets a hold of it, then the style becomes (apparently) fixed, as if it actually exists as a reality in the world, by which time it’s already in the history books. This happens with music, film and painting and amounts to the same thing as a movement from cliche to ideology.

There are grand narratives own photography, just as there are in music. I’m not against these. Just as music is the art of sound, photography is the art of the still image. Both reveal form, add value to form, and so photography for example in its specific modes can point to truth and beauty. The orthodox idea of the decisive moment contributes to such narratives and is therefore important.

Like Wall and Woodman, Cartier-Bresson could easily have staged some of his photographs. Perhaps he did and for me this is unimportant because artists don’t always do what they’d like us to think they do. So the matter of chance, luck or staging is less important to me than, say, qualities such as economy of means, grace, freshness, ‘fresh intimation of form’ (Robert Adams) or any number of aesthetic measuring rods, not to mention socio-political engagement.

*TIME SATURATION: The Photography of Awoiska van der Molen by Ernst van Alphen (https://www.awoiska.nl/var/upload/essay_alphen_nu.pdf), accessed 28 July 2019. 

Further Research

Adams, R (1996). Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values. New York: Aperture.

Berleant, Arnold (2002). Environment and the Arts: Perspectives on Environmental Aesthetics. Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate Pub.

Long exposure tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MItJk0J0Yb0, accessed 28 July 2019.

Reflection 

Check your work against the assessment criteria for this course before you send it to your tutor. Make some notes in your learning log about how well you believe your work meets each criterion. Your tutor may take a while to get back to you so carry on with the course while you’re waiting. 

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Materials and techniques: I chose my lenses and applied new techniques very carefully. Following a period of experimentation tied in with reading the assignment text, I overcame several initial difficulties and achieved my technical aims. 

Observational skills and visual awareness: I took great care to apply observational skills in particular with the assignment where I had to take account of framing, focus and exposure in a fairly tight space, then readjust everything after several attempts and with the help of the preview features of my camera. My visual awareness was also put into practice in processing images using the software.

Design and Compositional skills: I’m pleased with the compositions in all of the photographs that I chose as final selections. I believe that my compositions are improving as I go through the various contact sheets in the assignment, or at least I’m getting better at rejecting bad shots, and I’m aware of the feedback that happens from preview to reframing to capturing a better shot. Exercise 2, where the toning of the umbrella largely determines the abstraction of the subject, is partly an exercise in design and I’ve learned a lot about how fairly simple processing techniques can make an image stand out.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

I chose the presentation of the assignment and exercises very carefully and put a lot of thought into their realisation. Personally I like to ‘worry’ the tasks a little, do some reading and other research, then juggle ideas around in my head before picking up the camera. The assignment and two of the exercises clearly apply knowledge I’ve gained from studying the work of other photographers. I’ve taken care to present the development of the assignment and exercise 1 in particular and have put some effort into making the explanatory texts structured and clear.

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention.

It’s difficult to be objective in talking about one’s creativity, imagination, etc. but I can say that I put a lot of time and energy into experimentation, which of course involves rejecting a lot of ideas and first efforts, often over several cycles. Rather than jump on the first idea that came into my head I tried to keep my imagination and invention in check until I was well into the process of reading around the project. Then I planned and carried out the tasks.

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking.

I particularly enjoyed the research and reflection for this project. Some of the recommended photographers were new to me and I learned more about some that I already knew. Part of the satisfaction comes from looking at what other photographers are doing, digging into what I can find out about their influences and then extrapolating from those to offer my own version of a concept or approach. For example, given that I spend a lot of time researching contemporary landscape photography, I had never seriously considered ‘setting up’ shots (like a light version of Jeff Wall) but now have in note form a few future projects that will benefit from such a method. 

Feedback from Assignment 2

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis. Be good to see more relevant and related research/photographers linked to your project – perhaps share this on your learning log – sharing key images by photographers that inspire you with text on why you like their images + what the photographers intention was – how it makes you feel?

I can’t say that any one or two photographers in particular have inspired me directly in the making of this assignment but my research has most certainly fed into my efforts and continues to do so ever more meaningfully as I look closer at the work of other photographers. I’ve been following roughly three lines of enquiry: historical and contemporary landscape photography, in all its diversity (I’ve just finished J.A.P Alexander’s Perspectives on Place, an excellent book that has given me ideas for fresh investigations); photographers who work on very personal projects, in whatever genre; photographers who deal with the everyday in their work, be it gathering images by (apparently) simply walking or hanging around, by engaging with a single location, by attending to a restricted set of themes and topics. Whatever the style, I’ve become drawn to photographers whose work becomes very recognisable as theirs and theirs alone, perhaps because of a few quite distinctive features, colour palette, choices of lighting or techniques of developing/processing their pictures. Fundamentally I’ve chosen to look at artists who make the kind of work that I’d be able to make within my means. I’m not suggesting that I have the skills to make pictures like those I’ve been researching, but simply that, because of where I live, I have easy access to landscape – not just pretty views but the full range of critical problems and topics inherent in the genre – as well as the simple things of everyday life. Finally, like everyone else I have access to my own body and to its movements in time and space.

There are so many excellent landscape photographers to choose from. From the canon of 20th century American artists I’m interested in the work of Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams, primarily for their compositional skills and the consistency of their projects. Form more recent times I’ve taken time to study the work of Ron Jude, whose work at first might appear somewhat bland but on closer inspection reveals an interesting subdued tonal palette and a concern with liminal spaces, the edge rather than the centre. These spaces and places take me back to a childhood fondness for playing in dusty old out-of-the-way sites or yards or railway sidings in the summer months. For example:-

For an ‘everyday’ photographer I should mention Rinko Kawauchi (I bought two of her photobooks) whose work covers so much ground but always looks fresh, spontaneous and seemingly grabbed out of everyday events. There’s a wonderful sense of light going on in all her work as well as a kind of bleached out quality to her prints that appeals to me and makes me wonder whether digital cameras can ever achieve such a palette. Even though her sequences hang by slender threads in terms of a logical narrative, the colours and the treatment of light in particular bind everything together. For example:-

Finally I’ve been following up on the work of photographers who make work around themselves, their body, close circles of friends and so forth. Here I’ll go back to my long standing interest in photography/performing art hybrids –  the work of Ana Mendieta and Francesca Woodman are excellent examples. Another is J.P Engstrom who, in working with all manner of cameras, techniques and subjects gives the impression of spontaneity experimentation and adventure largely base around his own experiences in life. For example:-

You have referenced Rodchenko and his influence is reflected in the work, but be interesting to see more playful angles / perspectives which are in line to his practice.

This is excellent advice and I took this on board as best I could in my final amendments by incorporating image 6 which has a more playful perspective.

You have referenced photography theory and writing, but it’s also important to look at contemporary photographers – which photographers explore modes of representation, challenge truth and how?

This is something I intend to address more constantly in the forthcoming assignments.

Try to imagine a stranger looking at your images and then reading a paragraph about the work – keep it simple and straightforward – you want most of their reading and analysing to be when they look at your images.

My statement on the pictures from Assignment 2:-

‘This series explores the domestic environment, often ignored or taken for granted as we go about our daily business. But, as if for the first time, we look with fresh eyes, shed fresh light upon these commonplace things, we can learn to be fascinated again, to experience the pleasures of childhood where everything is full of promise.’

Consider simple and straightforward concepts, research artists/theorists that explore themes you’re interested in and write about what excites you about their work / writing and how you will draw/explore from that in your project.

Try to experiment more with genres, potentially mixing approaches but still considering how to keep the images connected – ie. By colour, theme or symbolism.

I’m realising that the most important skill lies in sizing up individual images, then keeping the salient features of theses in mind as you shoot the rest of a series, made all the more challenging by the fact that a series might be spread out across considerable distances in terms of space and time.

Strengths 

The ideas I have are fairly interesting though I need to improve on how these are presented in photographic imagery. Because I read a lot I’m confident that if I keep reading and studying photographers I’ll absorb some good practice and find something of my own.

Areas for development

I believe that I need to plan and research my assignments prior to any involvement with the camera. That’s not to say that I stop taking pictures but that I focus my reading and research around the assignment, take notes and come up with original ideas and concepts, then start taking photographs with what should be more consistency and focus.

Composition 

On a recent overseas trip I took hundreds of photos, many with specific ideas in mind and having briefly looked through I can say that the efforts I made to frame and compose my shots is paying off. I still made several photos in a more free flowing spontaneous mindset but where I take time to look around a subject I’m coming up with some presentable images.

Writing and Research

Following the feedback for Assignment 2 I’ll be continuing my reading but spending much more time looking at individual photographers. I usually begin my making lists of photographers that I find interesting as I read, then read interviews and statements about their work. This results in smaller shortlists of artists whose work I go into in some depth, making notes and cross-referencing as I go.

Lighting 

I don’t know if the next assignment is the right one, but at some point soon I’ll be working with a medium format film camera that I bought used, and reading exposure settings from a light meter. I’ll also be seeking advice and tips from friends at the local camera club on working in low light and indoors. After that I’d like to do some work, indoors and in the landscape, around self-portraiture.

More experimentation

My overseas project is based around ‘The Fundamentals of Architecture’ where I took photos of platforms, canopies, pits, boundaries, markers and so forth – these being the fundamentals. Many of the pictures were taken in Greece which is quite appropriate, not only because of the ancient history of the country with respect to architecture, but also because of the fact that many buildings are only half-completed as a result of the economic crash.

Creativity 

I’m always learning new skills and will use Assignment 3 to get a firm handle on working in shutter priority. Because it’s summer there are many sporting and outdoors events where I can get creative with fast shutter speeds or long exposures. The light is also good early morning and late evening for low light work and I’d like to explore new creative possibilities in this area.

Concept

I’ve learned so much about how to think conceptually (in the wider sense of the word as opposed to thinking only as a conceptual artists) by studying the photos and writing of established photographers. My aim is to be able to form as clear and tight conceptual frameworks as possible prior to a new assignment. To somehow think the photographs before taking them.

Writing

I write and take notes as I read. Over time I want to get round to writing clearly and concisely about my various projects as they come to fruition. The feedback point on keeping things simple should guide me in this area.

Checking Assignment 2 against the Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Materials

I shot all images using a Fujifilm X-T3 with two lenses, 35mm and 90mm (50/120 equivalent). Having decided on my strategy for the project I shot everything first with the 35mm, then took the same shots with the 90.

Techniques

I wanted to capture the images in a spontaneous yet intuitive frame of mind so I made rapid decisions on distance from the subject, framing and aperture settings as I moved from location to location. I sought out things less for their beauty than for their colour and their part in some loose as-yet undefined narrative that tied the locations together. I adopted techniques of unorthodox framing and structuring for each shot (taking stock of previous exercises I visualised a mental grid for each photo), though I selected carefully specific objects and groups which would best represent the things of the domestic environment world that I wanted to represent.

I took stock of the four exercises in Part 2, in particular with respect to depth of field. In fact most of the shots were driven by an intention to use my awareness of depth of field to best advantage, be it by thwarting expectations around what should be in focus, by foregrounding what might be seen as unimportant elements or by leaving possibly assumed important elements hanging outside the frame.

I sought out things (and assemblages) less for any sense of beauty than for their colours and shapes, how they sat together with their backgrounds, their alignment with other elements in the frame (windows, open doors or backgrounds in the garden for example which would blur well at high apertures). I wanted to work in a way that allowed unexpected elements to enter the frame, shooting quite quickly and completing my round trip from house to porch to conservatory to garden quite rapidly, concentrating on a specific task relating to capturing the things in what was a very good outside light that day. I chose to work with the jpegs straight from the camera even though I could have gleaned more detail and a wider range of options across many parameters from the raw images by working with the software application. There’s a freshness and consistency in the Fuji jpegs and the way that the colours are rendered and some of the dark tones flattened lends consistency to the palette. 

Observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

Some of these I’ve covered under ‘Techniques’ but I should add that I wasn’t in any way taking a casual or negligent approach to the shoot. Sometimes a creative project will requires other than slow-paced or rigorously formalised procedure. I wanted as far as possible for the design to emerge from an almost performative process in which I moved towards the subject, framed and set the camera efficiently and effectively (as far as my modest skillset would allow of course), then moved on to the next location where I repeated the procedure taking stock of the new conditions. Considering my intimate foreknowledge of the territory observational skills were somewhat built into the shoot. I intend that whatever quality of design came out of the series should emerge with a measure of pace and flow.  

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

I took care to apply as much as possible of the knowledge gained through previous exercises, in particular awareness of point, line and frame. Concerning concepts and ideas my primary interest here is in how photography can deal with matters and modes of representation, how new modes might subvert or collude with the dominant modes of realist representation, in how narrative can arise, intentional or not, on the part of the photographer. This is of course a project bigger than any one series of shots but the attempt at producting a coherent set of images with some clarity of intention is a good start to such investigations.

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention.

I would hope that these three are evident in some measure throughout my approach towards and execution of the project. I should add that after the work of selecting and editing the images I thought about a title and decided upon Domestic Crime Scene. Although this might seem to contradict some of what I’ve said about spontaneity in the genesis and evolution of the collection, the adoption of a spontaneous and intuitive approach does leave open the possibility of an emerging narrative after the fact. Any given narrative is never set in stone. A narrative can hold some measure of truth contained within a posited ‘real world’ that sits behind the images or it can be a truth (or even a pack of lies posing as the truth) imposed, fabricated, alluded to and so forth. What interests me is that my modest collection of images could possibly be the so-called objective documentation of evidence from an actual or imaginary crime scene, perhaps taken in a hurry, which raises further issues around any assumed harmony of domesticity. I also find it interesting to reflect on the uncertainty around what the results would have been had I thought up the title in advance of the shoot and what might have been lost or gained as a result of an inevitable stiffening up in terms of formalising the structure of the images.  

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking.

I’ve written and continue to write about my research towards this and other projects in my learning log. For this project I delved into writing that dealt with matters of representation and how regimes of truth are constituted and promulgated.

Revision following feedback

Following tutor feedback and advice here are the three selected images, resized. I’ll rephotograph the three sites at the same time of day and with the same light, as far as possible and I’ll use the same orientation.

Feedback on Assignment 1, ‘Square Mile’

The overall comments were encouraging and have motivated me to move forward with some measure of confidence.

With reference to assignment 1 , ‘Square Mile’, the most important points, for me at least, converged on the choice of images towards presenting a series. I think that once this clicks into place, esatblishing a clear set of basic guidelines for keeping a set of images homogenous in some way, a lot will become clearer in advance future assignments and exercises, with both individual images and a series taken as a whole.

Hanging Tree 2, Drowning Pool 2 and Burning Field 2 were considered to be the better of the choices:-

Hanging tree 2 and Drowning pool 2 – these feel most resolved and feel consistent and connected. Concept behind the church and flower images are symbolically interesting, but the images do not seem to reflect the overall tone and intended concept. Perhaps, placing/composing religious objects / flowers into the landscape in some way would enhance the series, match the other images and add a spiritual element. 

As discussed Hanging tree 2 and Drowning pool 2 feel most resolved in relation to your artist statement. These two images along with burning field 2 share similar palette and tone and evoke a mythical element, which complements your concept. 

This gives me a ‘tight’ series of three along with good reasons for eliminating the photo of the church, despite its conceptual affinity, and an interesting insight into the kind of language I need to be adopting to self-critique my own work. I’m referring in particular to the words ‘resolved’ which I’ll bear in mind for future reference, and ‘palette’, which is obviously important as a binding agent in any series of images.

In video discussion with my tutor I learned that there are two fundamental binary choices that have to be made to ensure consistency across a series – orientation (landscape/portrait) and colour/black and white. The third, palette, hadn’t entered into my thinking, but from a limited knowledge of painting and painters I know that individual painters have a preferred choice of basic colours from which to mix, their unique palette in other words. It makes perfect sense that photography should differ only according to the conditions of the medium. I’d therefore want to ensure that I use the same camera for each image and that I’m consistent in the software and post-processing domains (I use a digital camera) with respect to choice of palette (which implies choices around hue, tint, saturation and so forth) Leading on from this is a desire to review the work of certain photographers to see how this awareness of palette comes across in their images. I also learned to think more critically about point of view. For example looking up at a tree gives more of a sense of proximity to the branches and alludes to ideas of hanging and possibly ropes. Looking down into a pool heightens the anticipation of jumping or being thrown into the water. Foliage can suggest limbs or hair. Simple but effective techniques to remember in future. All the time avoiding the temptation to adopt a pseudo- gothic or other hackneyed generic style to play up an assumed dramatic effect.

To further the project, perhaps consider photographing sites at different times of the day, thinking about how the tone of the light can help convey the dark history of the land.

This one, light, had been on my mind as I visited the sites. Returning to Chloe Dewe Mathews’ series ‘Shot at Dawn’ it becomes apparent that the shots are taken in the early morning hours, around the time that executions will have taken place. This strengthens the work both conceptually and materially in the quality of light that gives the photographs their unique resonance. I should therefore go back to the three sites – tree, pool and field – and shoot as far as possible in similar lighting conditions.

Further creativity is encouraged and intervention, mixing up still life with portraiture or landscape, exploring ways it can still look visibly part of same series but cross genres.

This refers to my inclusion of the images of flowers as votive offerings. The idea is fine as an idea but, as with the church, the images don’t sit well alongside the three central pillars of the series. This led to discussion (and many interesting research references to be followed up) around ways of mixing genres, more exactly incorporating the idea of votive offerings in what is essentially a small landscape series. Physical intervention is one idea, strewing actual flowers around the scenes and photographing that. Because I initially came to photography via an interest in collage and photomontage, where I found myself interrogating found images, there’s scope here for some sort of splicing or blending or merging of images of landscape and objects (ie tree/flowers etc), either in the analogue or digital domain. Or some sort of recursive process where images of one thing are photographed at the site of another, embedded in the landscape, perhaps multiple times. All to be investigated in the weeks ahead.