As Pierre Bourdieu (1997-73) points out 'any work of art reflects the personality of it's creator, so I have begun to really appreciate this comment as I look back and reflect on my work in progress.
I recall a webinar early on in this module when I was considering the switch from my 'City in Motion' project to the world of Still Life. The UK had gone into a third lockdown and my immediate plans to photograph movement in a busy city centre location were all but wiped out overnight. However this also came at a time when I had begun to question the context and intent of this project and the lockdown merely served as the catalyst to make the change.
A lecture by Dr Steph Cosgrove on Still Life resonated with me and felty like a new direction I could take my practice in. However I had doubts that this could itself lack context and intent and if I was not careful just become a series of photographs of flora, fauna and food. I distinctly remember this webinar when I had voiced these concerns and a number of peers and my tutor had challenged my fears. They had emphasised the pictures may be still life, but they would be my still life with my style and creativity injected into them. Looking at my current work in progress I am happy to say that this has been borne out, and as Bourdieu stated my work does indeed reflect my personality.
Prolong - Steve Rabone 2021
As we now come to the business end of the Informing Contexts module I am starting to pull together my Critical Review, a 2000 word assessment of my work to date. It is vital that this review and the accompanying work in progress reflects the learning outcomes and I have therefore set out the rest of this article to reflect on these.
Technical & Visual Skills
The last 3 months has been an exciting time for my creativity and is perhaps the first time I have really worked on a body of work in such a proactive way.
From establishing a clear intent and plan as to how I wanted to produce my work I deliberately started planning and sketching out my shots days, if not weeks in advance such as the image opposite being the start of the 'Prolong' image that is seen above.
This book of creative ideas has quickly filled up with still many ideas to come. This process has been a far cry from my earlier endeavours where I was more inclined to react to situations, capturing the decisive moment as Cartier- Bresson would call it.
I have also explored a new technique (for me) of light sculpturing where the photograph is taken on a long exposure with the scene slowly lit by a torch rather than static or flash. The technique has enabled me to produce vibrant images, many set against a dark background with the small aperture giving lots of detail in the image.
Visual Communication & Decision Making
The concept of taking macro shots of the same scene from different vantage points was also established early on and whilst I trialled a grid of four images, felt the triptych, had a more powerful effect when viewed ahead of the main image. These macro shots are not cropped images of the wider shot and therefore had to be taken at the same sitting with a different camera and lens. This again pushed my new found style of planning the images as it would be difficult to capture these photos at a later date from the main photo.
The triptychs are accompanied by a line of prose or poetry and this has become as important to me as the actual taking of the photos. These words are all personal and put together either at the time of shooting or during the edit. Their inclusion is to guide and slow the viewer down. I want them to reflect on the words and triptych before viewing the main image.
Their creation has however also had an effect on me and as Jeff Wall states 'take away the verbal description, you get into the pure picture, you then have to relate to it as a pure poem'. These words that I am writing are the pure poem that comes when I look and create these images.
Critical Contextualisation of Practice
My work has been borne from an original intent to explore what a photograph is and the relationship it has to the compositional qualities and intent of a painting. I have explored the work of the masters such as Caravaggio and Contan and likewise been inspired by the current works of Ori Gersht and Sharon Core. The dark backgrounds and vibrant foregrounds are an obvious parallel to many of my images but it is also how Gersht and Core ensure we are left with no doubt that their works remain first and foremost a photograph we are looking at. As Susan Sontag notes the photograph is not only an image, as a painting is an interpretation of the real, it is also a trace of something directly stencilled of the real.
Professional Location of Practice
At the outset of this project I made two immediate decisions that have flowed through my work. The first was that the immediate dissemination of this work should come through a book. This enables me to control, to some extent, the order in which images are viewed. I am really keen that the words of poetry and triptych are seen first so that they take as much as possible from the main image that follows. The book also provides a natural base for the words of poetry.
In addition to the book, the other immediate way my work will be seen is via social media and I therefore took the decision to shoot all of my work in portrait orientation, many in 5/4 crop. As the dissemination of images across the likes of facebook and instagram continues to expand so does the way we consume and read images. The historical way of reading an image from left to right in a gallery has been largely replaced by the scrolling up from top to bottom as viewers swipe through their feed. It is in response to this that all of my images have this portrait orientation.
As highlighted at the outset this has been one of the first times I have produced a body of work in such a proactive way, the writing of a statement of intent to the extensive planning of each shot. As a result I have found myself slowing down, the almost daily desire to produce an image for social media, has been replaced by as much time thinking and planning my work as taking the photographs. It has been interesting to see how photographs that were planned, taken, edited and accompanied by poetry have not always made the final cut and my next post will cover this in more detail. Some of this is due to pure aesthetic reasons, for example the lighting does not look right compared to other shots in the portfolio, but also where the images become too obvious or literal, when I am trying to keep a level of ambiguity present in each one.
Written & Oral Communication Skills
I was really pleased with the feedback that I received from my Critical Review Presentation and confirmed to me that I was taking my practice in the right direction. The feedback also gave me confidence that my ideas and creativity were being appreciated and understood. I have now produced an early version of my proposed book that will accompany this work and have shared it with both peers on this course and wider afield. Feedback remains very good, and I was delighted by one early viewer who had said the images and words did make him stop and look more closely, as if he was stood in front of them in a gallery. This is and has always been my overriding aim with this work.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1990) Photography: A Middle Brow Art, Stanford: Stanford University Press Cork, Richard (1997) 'The Established Clubbed', The Times (16th September 1997)
Dr Steph Cosgrove, Still Life Lecture, Falmouth University February 2021
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1979). Henri Cartier-Bresson, photographer. Boston: New York Graphic Society.
Louisiana Channel (2015). Jeff Wall: Pictures Like Poems. Vimeo. Available at: https://vimeo.com/123074890 [Accessed 17 Apr. 2021].
Sontag, S. (2003). Regarding the pain of others. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Prolong - Steve Rabone - 2021
Prolong Sketch - Steve Rabone - 2021