In the time between assignment 2 and 3, I changed tutors from Simon Barber to Russell Squire. Initially I was frustrated by this having built a relationship with Simon and spent time discussing my interests and motivations I was concerned about starting from scratch with a new tutor. I need not have worried however as I found Russell’s response to my submission for assignment 3 to be prompt, considered, positive and motivating. My written report was preceded with an hour long conversation with Russell during which we discussed my photographic interests and he suggested photographers and artists to look at, how I am finding the course, his feedback and suggestions for my assignment submission, and, my ideas for assignment 4 and 5. This was an extremely generous use of Russell’s time, I was encouraged by how engaged and knowledgeable he is and found the whole experience incredibly useful.
Assignment 3 feedback:
Russell’s feedback was pleasingly positive: he stated that the assignment was received well and was successful as a personal project with a strong contextual underpinning and conclusion. As I mention in my reflection, I had many doubts about the validity of the project prior to submission and I found it reassuring that there were many positives to be taken from the work.
Russell describes the project as being “very textual” as well as being a suitable portrayal of the subject. He picks up with, and agrees with, the concern I raise in my reflection that the narrative is not obvious although the viewer is invited to travel around the house via their perceived comprehension of the layout. Although the overall selection of the images is good, the use of doors and doorways to lead the story works but is overused.
Russell found the use of the Instax pictures at the front and back of the book interesting and saw this as a evidence of creativity. We discussed the idea of having the whole book in this format – the physical one off nature of the photographs resonates with the subject matter. I mentioned that this is something I considered, and attempted, but ultimately decided not to pursue. A learning would be to include details like this in my reflection. The instant/polaroid format is something I am interested in and following our discussion I feel inspired to investigate this more and potentially use for future projects. Russell questioned the way I had photographed the Instax pictures and suggested the could be more effective if presented in a way that emphasised their uniqueness, for example, on a white background lit in a way to show the 3D quality of the prints.
Russell agreed with my rationale and argument about the use of the self-adhesive photobook to emphasise the uniqueness of the work as a one off item and play on the connotations of the family photo album. However, he felt that the negative effect of this was that the images and text became overpowered and a more scrapbook aesthetic was emerging. I can see Russell’s point here, on balance, I was probably so focussed on the use of the self-adhesive album that I either ignored or did not consider fully the elements of this approach that were less successful. This was something I did recognise bringing the project together as I realised the way the final images of my grandparents did not have the effect I desired.
The use of handwritten text was felt to be effective which reassured as I had become tied in knots trying to formalise this. Russell suggested placing the images on a single white page and allowing enough space for the text to be presented around them. He pointed me towards the work of Duane Michals for inspiration.
Although Russell felt that exceeding the number of images that the assignment asks for is not a problem in itself, he felt that the submission could be improved by pairing down to fifteen images which he suggested. Again, this is an example of how I have been too focussed on the output of the assignment as a physical book and selected a number of images that will fill this space. He also mentioned that having the pictures of my grandparents on opposite pages would work better aesthetically as well as accentuating the point in my text about my memory of them both sitting at opposite sides of the room. He also suggested that these pictures could work as opening rather than final images.
Russell was complimentary about my learning log/blog and the way I had engaged with the exercises. He particularly noted Exercise 3-3: travelling gazes. I was pleased he had taken the time to look at my blog and reassured that I am on the right track with this. I discussed how I had refined my workflow in terms of exercise completion as I had progressed with the course and he advised me not to be too hung up on completing every exercise as while they are important in terms of learning it is the assignments that are ultimately the most important aspect of the submission.
We discussed my ideas for assignment 4 and 5 and my interest in the heritage/nostalgia industry and how this relates to the post-industrial landscape of North East England. I mentioned my intention to photograph the upcoming Durham Miners Gala as the basis for the final assignment. I talked about how I wanted to approach this with an open mind and see where the work took me and he agreed this was a sound approach and one that is practiced by many photographers when formulating work. Russell mentioned Grayson Perry’s documentary which features the Durham Miners Gala in his written feedback and although we did not discuss this I am very inspired by the way Perry spoke about the Gala and used this to produce his own art.
Assignment rework suggestions:
• Use of doors and doorways to lead the story overused.
• Rephotograph the Instax pictures to emphasise there 3D, one off, quality. For example, on a white background lit to emphasise shadow.
• Use of self-adhesive photobook overpowers and distracts from the images and text. Images presented on a single white page with handwritten text around them could be more successful.
• Edit down submission to fifteen images.
• Feature images of Grandparents on opposite pages rather than one page. Potentially open with these rather than finish.
• Experiment with an HTML5 flip book creator.
Actions for future submissions:
For future submissions include images presented as contact sheets alongside the submission to enable clear identification and enable feedback about specific pictures.
Russell mentioned the work of Duane Michals with particular reference to the way he uses hand written text with (some of) his images and the how he positions his photographs on the page. Michals is a photographer I am aware of but not entirely familiar with. My initial research has led me to a varied and interesting body of work which I will have to come back to and consider in greater detail in the future. The photographs he displays with text are of particular interest in regard to this assignment and something I will consider further when thinking about reworks of the project.
Strecker, A. (2015) Storyteller: The photographs of Duane Michals. Lensculture website. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/duane-michals-storyteller-the-photographs-of-duane-michals-2 [accessed 18th June 2018]
Mark Power: 26 different endings:
Again, Power is a photographer who I am only partially familiar with and will have to return to in the future. Russell spoke specifically about his ’26 different endings’ series as we discussed how conceptualisation can inform and drive a project forward. The basis of Power’s series is how each edition of the ‘A-Z London street atlas’, the most popular map in Britain selling 200 000 copies a year, changes with each edition – decisions made about where it should end mean that the coverage changes and some places ‘fall off the edge’ of the map. ’26 different endings’ is a series of photographs of what Power found at the end of these areas of the map.
Conversation turned to Stezaker as Russell and I discussed the enormous number of photographs that are taken, how these are disseminated and what this means for photography in general. Stezaker no longer takes photographs of his own describing photography as being “super saturated” – his work features found images from a range of sources which he collages together to make works that challenge perception and the nature of imagery itself.
O’Hagan, S. (2014) John Stezaker: ‘cutting a photographs can feel like cutting through flesh’. The Guardian, 27th May 2014. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/australia-culture-blog/2014/mar/27/john-stezaker-sydney-biennale [accessed 1st July 2018]