The assignment is very open in terms of subject but quite specific regarding the final presentation. We are asked to submit a “tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7 to 10 images”. My final selection is very much driven by this criteria.
I have chosen to stay with the flat, pale skies I used in assignment 1. This is partly practical as the shoots were undertaken in February and March but also reflects the research streams I have followed since completing assignment 1.
Deadpan: (For research see here) / Neutrality and Seriality: (For research see here) I was not aiming for a pure deadpan aesthetic but I did want to capture something of, what Charlotte Cotton (1) calls the “neutral and objectifying” style of Deadpan. My subjects are straight forward, they are there so I have photographed them, often head on in simple compositions without sentimentality or an obvious narrative, just a series of similar edifices. In this regard I was influenced by Ed Ruscha’s Twenty Six Gasoline Stations
Palimpsest: (For research see here) Although the subject was really time and history I set out to use architectural palimpsest as the way to show how walls evolve over long periods of time and how that evolution is recorded in traces of recycled materials, openings that have been closed, changes in the way structures are used, additions and subtractions. However, the more I looked at particular artists the more I wanted this story to be very subtle. I kept thinking back to Paul Seawright’s work where he asks the viewer to look beyond the obvious to find the real subject (see here), and more recently the work of Mark Power (see here) whose 26 Different Endings ask the viewer to take time to find his meanings.
Postmodernism: (For research see here and here) Deadpan is, in effect, a postmodern approach so the fact I was aiming for neutrality and objectivity was already likely to give the series a postmodern feel but more specifically I wanted to provide some hints in my text and leave the interpretation of the images to the viewer. I also wanted to appropriate the text that accompanied the images, this is something I gave done before (here) but this time I am hoping the text is more ambiguous. There is however no political or social message here.
The finally series is based on 8 shoots carried out during February and March 2015. I visited Farnham, Guildford, Winchester, Salisbury, West Meon, Portsmouth, Aldershot and Swarraton looking for the right subjects. I created a long list of possibles which I have included here. My process is always to complete a shoot, leave the raw files for few days to create some distance between me the editor and me the photographer and then edit those images that immediately appeal. I bring those together in one folder, create a contact sheet and start marking up the possibles.
I then leave that section for a few more days and come back to select a short list. For this assignment I loaded the possibles onto my iPad so I could take a look at different times and in different contexts.
This enable me to produce a shortlist as shown below.
In many ways selection of the final 7 images was easier than normal because the assignment criteria were so tight. I wanted to use the minimum number of requested pictures so the rejection process had to be brutal but I was also intent on achieving “visual consistency” and as a result the first 6 images selected themselves. The last one, the fort at the entrance of Portsmouth harbour was the hardest choice and, at time of writing I am still uncertain whether the fort is too different from the other walls and whether to bring in another left to right composition. This doesn’t worry me too much, I am usually adding, rejecting and re-sequencing right up until the moment I declare the assignment as completed.
I made the decision after the first shoot that I wanted to crop the images in a 16:9 ratio because the subjects, being mostly walls, were generally wide and narrow. This also had a satisfying hint of Josef Koudelka’s Wall about the presentation, he obviously presented black and white panoramas in that series but his work was in my mind.
Having made this decision I then chose to present the pictures with a wide left hand border so that the appropriated text was a strong feature.
Cotton, Charlotte. (2004) The Photograph as Contemporary Art. New edition 2009. London: Thames and Hudson.