As highlighted in my previous post the last couple of months have been a period of both reflection and action as I have taken a good look at my practice and decide where I want my current work to go. As discussed in previous blogs I want to show intent in my work and go beyond the descriptive. It can no longer just be about producing good quality, technically correct images, but there has to be meaning and context sitting behind them.
I was therefore delighted to be asked to share both my reflections and also my current work in progress with the BA Photography students from Falmouth University today. Whilst much of the preparation for this call was about putting my thoughts and images down on to a powerpoint slide show, the actual presentation and discussion with the students was even more useful for me in terms of both confirming and indeed challenging some of the decisions I have made over the last two months.
My presentation was split into three main areas, the first being a recap on where my practice sat at the end of 2020 and the completion of my Positions and Practice module. The Research Project at the time had a working title of 'A City In Motion' with an exploration of motion in photography through long and multiple exposures. Showing and discussing this work with the students reaffirmed my view that whilst these images are strong, from a technical point of view, they do lack something. I describe them as cold, almost lacking a soul. This was picked up by some of the delegates, seeing them as almost stock images rather telling a story or giving context to what was shown. For me just the experience of trying to give them context again during this discussion confirmed I have been right to change direction in terms of my Research Project.
The second part of the presentation focused on my initial experimentation with still life and the image opposite is a perfect example of this work. Using a classic composition I was able to force the edit, through noise reduction and lower clarity to create a more painterly effect to the image. This is 100% a digital image but working with this made me appreciate the work of the Dutch Masters from the 17th Century but also push the question of what is a photograph? Many of the students acknowledged the painterly look, some were even convinced it was a painting. I do really like this image and whilst I am keen to explore this type and style going forward I do not think it will be the ultimate direction that I want to take the practice. A photograph that looks like a painting has a place but again without context or intent become just that, a photograph that looks like a painting.
It is therefore in the third part of my presentation that I intend to focus my immediate research on as I look to explore a more contemporary look and feel to my work, that are seen very much more as photographs, albeit with aesthetic applied where appropriate.
The image opposite is an example of this work and I was really pleased that a delegate on the call picked up the deliberate use of the brick / concrete to denote the presence of 'man' in the image which is very deliberate in a number of these images. I feel the emphasise on the texture of the man made materials juxtaposes well with the natural elements of the fruit and flowers. I am however also keen to build more of a message and intent to my work and for example this photograph is titled 'Envy' and I saw this being represented by the 'lowly' and common orange at the base of the 'plinth' looking up with envy at the more highly regarded avocado.
Discussing the multiple meanings that can be taken from images Roland Barthes states 'Anchorage occurs when text is used to focus on one of these meanings, or at least to direct the viewer through the maze of possible meanings' and as part of my Research Project I am looking into how I can introduce this into my work.
As mentioned the above image has the title 'Envy' which could be sufficient to lead the viewer in the direction that I want them to go. However I am also really interested to consider using words, prose or poetry in some form to give the viewer both a further clue to the images meaning but also a more immersive experience when seeing the work. These words will come from me, and generally are what I am thinking either at the point of composing the shot or actually taking the image. The above photograph has the words before it, “Who should I envy, what station in life do they assume, that grieves me ?”
This is a new concept for me and one that I am perhaps less confident with compared to taking images. I therefore really valued the honest feedback that the students gave me. There are clearly benefits and negatives of including text and words with photography. For example some viewers may interpret the image in a very different way to what the photographer intended, but is that necessarily a bad thing ? As discussed with the students today I do intend to keep exploring this side of the project and will try images both with and without text. However I was delighted that my phrases were well received and this has given me a lot of confidence to continue creating them alongside my images.
There is also the positioning of this text and controlling when the viewer sees this in relation to the photograph and the students were again able to give me ideas and thoughts to consider. I am exploring the possible publication of this project via a zine and I will certainly be looking at whether the phrase sits alongside the image or on a preceding page within the publication. I was also struck by one comment that suggested joining the phrases together as a longer piece of prose. I had not considered this but this may help pull the overall project together as a whole and so I will also look into this. It may also help guide what the next images should include.
As highlighted at the outset the presentation to the BA students was extremely beneificial to me personally giving me both confidence to carry on with this research project but also food for thought in how I can develop it further. I hope my talk may have given the students also both confidence and ideas for their own studies going forward.
Barthes, R. and Heath, S. (2009). Image, music, text. New York, Ny Hill And Wang [Ca. Page 38-41
Steve Rabone - Mortality 2021
Steve Rabone - Raw Wine 2020
Steve Rabone - Envy 2021