Documentary Hangout 4

5 attendees: Me, Maurice, Johnathon, Bryn and Anne

Johnathon: Assignment 2 – Ephemerality of the image

For assignment 2 Johnathon has taken a polaroid image of a London street scene. This is then held in the same location and rephotographed. His goal with this technique was to show how things change (despite being of the same places, the images were different, presenting them together allows the viewer to notice and contrast the subtle differences) and the loneliness of the city – hence the title ‘ephemerality of the image.’ Maurice was immediately struck by a melancholy quality in the images which I saw too, Johnathon was pleased with this as it was something he hoped to show in the pictures. For assignment 2 the images should be presented as a pdf and Johnathon has chosen to present the pictures in a grid inside a frame that is held by a hand. Clicking on each image links to a high-resolution picture which enables a more detailed view, the hand symbolises his relationship to the images. The presentation emphasises the images as simulacra, copies without originals. I am really impressed with Johnathon’s imaginative response to this brief – I can see he is pushing himself, applying elements of theory he has come into contact with into his work and this encourages me to do the same. (As an aside, he asked if we thought ‘ephemerality of the image’ was a suitable title and we all laughed that this would surely score him points with his tutor and the assessors!)

Bryn: completed assignment 2

No work to show but we did discuss how he approached assignment 2 (Neo surveillance.)

Maurice: Assignment 5 – You cannot communicate

Maurice asked us to look at his final assignment in advance of the hangout, sending us links to his blog and a dummy of the book he is presenting for assessment. The project is a photo story featuring his father, who due to medical problems and dementia is no longer able to communicate. In a previous hangout, Maurice was concerned that this project was an easy option for assignment 5 as the pictures had been taken over a short space of time. I suspect his doubts are based more on how close he is to this project personally and I think he has made the right decision to go with this work as there is an authentic level of emotional engagement present. Having already seen the images it was interesting to see how Maurice had chosen to present them, I thought the design he showed in the book dummy worked well. A question was asked about whether the page of explanatory text should be at the front or back of the book – most, including Maurice, felt having the explanation at the front helped lead the viewer into the pictures. I thought that having the text at the end meant the pictures could be viewed with an open mind and then returned to with the benefit of context. The viewer could then reflect on whether their reading of the images was what was actually going on and Maurice’s intention.

Blog

Book demo

Me: working towards assignment 1: Local communities

This was a major step change for me showing my work to peers and asking for feedback. In fact, it is accurate to say that it is the thought of the upcoming hangout and thought of having no work to show that has provoked me to put something together. In advance of the hangout, I sent an email to the group asking them to look at my shortlisted images which I had uploaded to Flickr.

I presented the 22 images from my short list and talked about my concept and how I developed a working method through the assignment. Responses were positive with the main (unexpected) point being that without prior knowledge it would not have been obvious that the images were taken in a random way – maybe this said something about how I have selected the images choosing the ones that display a certain aesthetic? Bryn said he saw similarities between his approach and treatment for assignment 2 and I totally agreed as this is something I had considered myself. I find it fascinating that from completely different angles we have been attracted to similar influences and chosen to incorporate that into our work (provoke photographers being the obvious one.) The main difference for me, however, is that I am photographing scenes on my doorstep, with which I am extremely familiar, while Bryn took his photographs while travelling in Asia.

I was asked about how I made my selections and talked about how the process in itself meant that everything I had done to promote ideas of randomness and take away my prejudices was immediately negated by the editing process. I explained I was in two minds about whether to totally disregard this and put the shooting process in a separate category to the editing criteria. I talked about tentative the ideas I had to alleviate the problem – for example, was there a way the long list of images could be randomly selected or could the viewer direct the viewing experience? A student who I met through UVC gave some feedback and talked about Barthes ‘Death of the author’ which I had not considered as context for the assignment but now seems extremely relevant. I mentioned William Eggleston and how he seems unable (or unwilling) to curate his own images and questioned whether the photographer is ever the right person to select which images are best. From my reading I have also noted that it took others to edit Richard Billingham’s ‘Ray’s a Laugh’ series – the implication being that he was unaware of how strong the photographs were. Bryn used the term democratic presentation as we talked about possible ways I could allow the viewer to curate the images – a phrase I like the sound of and need to remember to use in my submission!

Anne: working towards assignment 3

Anne didn’t have any work to show but talked through how she has been struggling with assignment 3. Her plan had been to complete a project studying the effects of wild boar damage in the Forest of Dean – the numbers of boar have dramatically increased and there is a local debate about how best to deal with the issue with locals facing damage on one side and the boars also being promoted as a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, Anne was feeling that the project was not progressing and was struggling to find a way to meet the brief – her main concerns being that the images are too similar, do not represent a narrative and most importantly do not show what she has learned through section 3. I really identify with Anne’s predicament as it is something I have felt many times myself. Each of us tried to encourage her to try some more with the wild boar project and see what comes out of this, I certainly feel there is great potential and it would be such a shame if the work she has put in already did not develop.

At the end of the hangout we discussed Maurice’s imminent move to level 3, he is just waiting for tutor feedback for his last assignment and has already enrolled. Since Maurice has taken the responsibility for scheduling the hangouts and facilitating the meetings he was looking for someone else to do this and Bryn volunteered. I tried to encourage Maurice to continue meeting with us – I continue to attend hangouts with students I studied UVC with even though we have all pretty much completed the course and have moved onto other different studies. I think as students on documentary we have started to build a rapport and I hope this will continue with this group like it has with UVC. Also, Maurice has much to contribute and I find his work inspiring so I hope he will find time to meet with us – I will also be interested in tracking his progress through level 3.

Next hangout scheduled 4th June 2017

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