I made the decision to attend two portfolio reviews at this year’s symposium, although I would have loved to have done more, but owning to other commitments I was able to make the two. Wendy suggested that it would be good idea to have my work reviewed by Mariama Attah, as she may find interest in the family archive subject matter that I have been exploring. For my other review, I chose Hannah-Katrina Jedroz, who I felt had a strong practice involving self-initiated projects and explores themes such as place and identity.
It had been a long while since having my work reviewed at a portfolio session. I was slightly apprehensive of the prospect as my project is very new and maybe the focus of the critique may have been on the un-polished nature of the work. However, I found it to be really valuable in terms of advice and feedback on the work. I had some challenges to the way that I am approaching certain areas, which I think was right to point out.
This was a useful review in terms of the commercial applications for our projects. Jedrosz gave great advice to all of the participants, which I also made good notes on. Man of the things that she mentioned I was already aware of, but it is really valuable to have this confirmed and recapped on to ensure that I am always aiming to follow it.
- It is important to think about the audience for the work early on as this provides a way of focussing the work.
- Mixing up compositional elements of the images is useful in order to continually surprise the viewer of the work whilst looking through your sequence – If they are all the same then the sequence may become stale
- Make sure that when you photograph a subject that you photograph lots. Move around in the space and make a great deal of variation in the imagery that you are creating.
- This will give you a ‘Box of treats’ to select from when editing the work.
- In a commercial sense – is the work ‘click bait’ enough?
- Establish the ‘rules’ of the project – giving a structure to follow.
- Have a look at the worl of photography. What are the pictures that ‘stop’ me – Referencing Barthes’ ‘punctum’
Feedback on my work
I was curious to understand if there would be any interest in my project, which is quite a personal story, to a wider audience. Jedrosz was very positive in her feedback, stating that there is always interest in a photography project that has an in-built intrigue – ‘Audiences love a mystery.’
My ideas behind narrative structure was also well received and Jedroz commented that the images that I am using felt symbolically good for the project.
An important takeaway was that I really need to show the work to people often and not necessarily aim to solve everything myself. It would be a good idea to find people that would be able to support the development of the project in the same sort of position that a producer might inhabit if this was a moving film work. Identifying collaborators would be useful to talk through the project and ensure that I was sticking to the fundamentals. Collaboration over competition.
An observation that I made earlier on in the MA was to aim not to over explain my images. Many times I have waffled on about what my project is, forgetting the ownership that the reader has on my work – and that I need to remain open to this. Ambiguity, especially for this current work will be really vital to its success.
Attah’s advice and opinion was really valuable again. I found a lot to make notes on during everyone’s presentations.
- The design of a book could also take in elements of referencing of the project within its design – for example, different paper weight/stocks, layering
- How could you use elements of current trends in visual culture – sometimes playful images are able to articulate bigger ideas/subjects.
- It is really important to consider the ethical questions of the work. How much are my subject’s collaborating in the work? Are they collaborators or subjects?
Attah mentioned the idea of ‘Epigenetics’ during the sessions and how we all inherit ‘trauma’ from previous generations. Although this wasn’t feedback on my work, I really resonated with the idea in relation to my topics and this is something that I want to look at closely.
Crucially, Attah questioned the reasons why I was discussing class in relation to this work when effectively, I have benefitted from a social mobility. I wonder if there are elements of me aiming to portray an element of wanting to create authenticity in the work by overtly referencing my class background. Perhaps, I do not need to do this so obviously as ideas of being from a working class background would naturally come through in the exploration of my work. This was one of the biggest takeaways for me as I think that I am trying to shoehorn too many ideas into one body of work when these ideas may present themselves naturally. It may still be important to find a position on this however, but for now the focus should be on the archive and the connection to family.
My project should continue to focus on the way that narrative structure can play its role. Ideas of mystery and intrigue in the investigation will also create an interesting project that will resonate. I aim to continue researching the idea of evidence and perhaps bring in elements of detection and investigation. The underlying concepts of family and connection will also continue and my own class would naturally come through the work without the need to overtly reference it.