Assignment 2 – Tutor Report and Response

My responses in blue.

Overall Comments

“This second assignment on the “unseen” is noted as being a strong and very good project that is supported by an excellent learning log. The strength of your research is very good along with its interpretation and contextualisation within your studies. the Images are technically proficient and are good regarding their composition. The associated text that accompanies each image may not be needed as it distracts from the overall strength of the set.”

“As a followup on Assignment 1, it was good to read your reworked section and to see how you envision the images final form. With text and the photographic image, investigate other forms of how text could be displayed. For example, if in book form the text could be printed on a page/sheet of acetate or other transparent substrate then overlaid in from of the image, creating a layering effect. Likewise if printed and framed, the text could be printed/etched onto the glass allowing the viewer to see both the image and text together but having to readjust their focus.”

Just to pick up on Russell’s point on presentation. During TAoP I was never asked how I would present work outside of the blog so it is interesting that he wanted to know this as part of his feedback on Assignment 1. I sense that Russell is very interested in curating and exhibiting work so it is helpful to be asked to consider this aspect of my work. Because of the question after Assignment 1 I did show Assignment 2 both as straight images and as how I would see them in an exhibition. Admittedly my ideas lacked imagination. The idea of using an overlay is interesting and worth exploring.

Feedback

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Your continuous use and exploration of the deadpan aesthetic is evidencing a strong and very competent technical and visual awareness. In particular the supporting blog post on this style is very good (here); there are some very strong observations and comments made.

The 16:9 ratio employed is excellent; at a quick glance it is subtle yet with the panoramic nature of the walls it is very fitting. Perhaps as a further technical exercise on rations, try cropping a little more from the foreground of the images to make them 2.35:1. This the same as cinemascope, which may prove interesting for a later investigation into the crossover of stills photography and moving image.

_NK27053-farnham-pink-walls

Fig 1 – 2.35:1 Ratio

 

_NK28082-portsmouth-sea-wall

Fig 2 – 2.35:1 Ratio

 

That is an interesting ratio and would work for some of the images in this series, I especially like fig. 2. With fig. 1 it brings the viewer too close to the subject so the photograph would need to have been taken 25 metres further back. It will be very worth while experimenting with this ratio but, quite obviously, it would be vital to have the ration in my head when taking the photos – fig.2 just happened to work, many others would not have.

Your images do form a tight series, which displays a very rigorous approach to their formation. Although you had doubts, your shot of the Square Tower in Portsmouth is strong; the leading lines of the piers railings pull the viewer directly into the frame to explore the different levels of the scene’s structure. My only criticism with the set of seven is perhaps figures 2 & 4 may be too similar; examine your contact sheets again and look at images NK27307 and NK27310. These shots that have water in the foreground offer extra time connotations that perhaps would make for a slightly stronger set.

Point well made. I pondered long and hard about whether 2 & 4 were too similar and the Winchester photos with the river in the foreground very nearly made the final cut. I will drop one of these and bring in a river photo in the re-worked series. The moral of that story is: if I spend a long time deciding whether to include something I am probably fighting my instinct to leave it out, so just leave it out.

Quality of Outcome

The brief, as mentioned was quite open for interpretation. Although it asks for what kind of subjects might be seen as un-photograpable: in which you have photographed walls, which are visually very photographable, it is the notion of time and palimpsest imbedded in your work that makes for a successful piece. The application of research and knowledge within this project has been the more prominent element. Your thoughts and their visual conceptualisation have yielded some very good results and possible lines of further investigation.

As mentioned I am not too sure about the lines of text that accompany each image, they distract from the overall presentation. It may work with just one of the lines, acting as an overall subtitle for the series, in which it questions the relationship between time, photography and structure. This would also allow the viewers to come to their own conclusion without too much textual prompting. This complimenting your notes on deadpan photography about having the artist’s subjectivity hidden in layers of objective information; with the text the work starts t fall on the periphery of the subjective and the objective.

This is interesting feedback and initiated an email exchange between my tutor and me in the course of today. My initial concern was whether I was over using textual appropriation, I used it at least twice in TAoP and have already used it once in C&N. Russell didn’t consider this to be the problem saying ” In general I do not think that you have overused the technique of placing text with images, only with this set the text was maybe too heavy”. This is somewhat of a relief as I enjoy the process of matching and mis-matching appropriated text with my pictures. However, the key point here is that I have injected too much subjectivity and as I specifically wanted to present deadpan, objective facts, the series is flawed. The challenge is that I liked the 16:9 ratio and felt that the addition of the white area to the left of each image (for the words to go into) added to the sense of horizontal width so I have suggested that I do drop the text but replace it with a square photo of the detail of each wall’s palimpsest. Russell thinks this may work as long as I mix up the position of the second image. This will take some trial and error but it feels right and having the closeup shots will also add another layer to the completed frames.

Demonstration of Creativity

There is a marked and well-evidenced development from the previous assignment, you have presented a project with successful outcomes and creativity in terms of its formation. the work according to the brief has been tightly edited and is visually constant, yet what creative risks have been taken? Although you were given a brief with a desired quantity of images to be produced, could working outside of the guidelines be considered taking risks?

A fair comment and one I find difficult to answer. Throughout TAoP and even in assignment 1 of C&N I have strayed from the briefs. This was not necessary intentional just the way that the projects developed. In this instance the creative risk was in the subject, walls, as Russell points out are very photographable, and I wanted to make them something that was not easily photographed – time. I decided to work inside the visual consistency and quantity brief because I wanted to bring rigour and discipline to the project, something I felt I lacked in assignment 5 of TAoP. In this instance I felt that exceeded the minimum number of images called for in the assignment was an indulgence and I needed to learn how to express an idea in a small number of images. I agree that this didn’t push the envelope but I found it a useful exercise all the same.

You made some interesting comments about Ruscha’s series and the number twenty-six (here). Do you think you could have produced twenty-six images and presented them as a grid for this series?

After looking at Ruscha, Power and Eric Tabuchi I did toy with the idea of a “twenty-six” series but the walls feel betwixt and between, they were not similar enough to create the seriality and neutrality in Ruscha’s Gasoline Stations and too repetitive in terms of form to create the varied atmospheres found in Power’s Twenty-Six Different Endings. I would very much like to complete a “twenty-six” project and would like to produce a Becher-style grid. This is definitely on the list but probably not going to fit into C&N.

Whilst looking at your images I was struck by the shot of the “Square Tower” in Portsmouth taken from the end of the pier. I must confess, that I have photographed that pier and area for years but have never gone to the end of the pier and turned 180 degrees. Could this be a possible project for investigating sites? Find the chosen spot and then turn exactly 180 degrees and take another shot.

Russell’s idea, which is a really good one, brought a smile to my face because when I was in my previous world of IT we often reached the point when someone would say that the main thing we needed to allow some progress was for people to stop having good ideas. If the degree course was totally fluid and we could just start new projects that were triggered by the last one “180 degrees” would be a great next project, it would also be a cool title for a book. Its now on the list.

Learning and Contextualisation

Your contextual studies and research has again been very good, which demonstrates a developed and intellectual understanding of the source material. Your conclusions are very articulate and self aware; they join together your overall development pathway making for an intriguing final piece.

Suggested reading / Viewing & Pointers for the Next Assignment

Having accessed your online learning log om 19/04/2015 I can se that you are already investigating portraiture and your post on Cindy Sherman is very detailed and informative. the passage on the three distinct levels is great; it is the complexity of hess codes, which are embedded in cinema that we feel so connected to, that makes the work very accessible.

The next assignment is a challenge to most photographers as typically they go with the credo of being behind the camera and not in front of it. Yet I feel it is almost a rite of passage for photographers to take self portraits, to enable them to feel a sense of vulnerability even though they are in total control.

Look at the work of Vivian Maier; although her greatest body of work was discovered after her passing, which was her street documentary; it is her substantial set of self-portraits that are worth investigating. modest were shot as reflective self portraits, in mirrors, windows etc., yet there are some beautiful shadow play shots that work very well. The whimsical side of my imagination likes to think of Peter Pan and his shadow…. Anyway see: http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/self-portraits/

Another photographer to investigate would be Francesca Woodman: http://tate.org/art/artits/francesca-woodman-10512

Although not self portraiture, look at the work of Bettina Von Zwehl, I’m particular her series “Alina”. It is more about the process in which she took the portraits that is worth investigating: http://www.bettinavonzwehl.com/

It was interesting to take a first look at Vivian Maier’s self portraits, as I was already thinking that Assignment 3 might be a best approached using reflective self portraits. This idea has come from two main sources, firstly that the last time I used reflections (TAoP Assignment 3) the project never felt complete and the limitations imposed by the required colour combinations restricted my exploration of the idea. Secondly, I was reminded of reflections by some of Cindy Sherman’s Film Still and one rather unsettling images from her disasters series. I will look much more closely at Vivian Maier but, at this stage, I feel that reflective self portraits might be the way forward.

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