The past few weeks have been quite tumultuous for the project. Many ups and downs. It has been a good time to reflect on the progress and consider ways in which I can move forward to a resolution.
I have collected together a great deal of material for the project, which creates the problem of editing. When I see that lots of the images are important, the job of sequencing and pairing down becomes a real challenge. I sought some feedback from my peers and also Cemre who have been very useful is getting me to think about the work in preparation to sequence it.
Ross pointed out the way that the still life objects suggest that I am in the process of unpacking everything as I ‘discover it,’ which is not something that I though of myself but makes sense in the way that I have been approaching these objects. He also noted that some of the images, in particular the house, feels like a scene of crime image (which has since become poignant to the project) and suggesting of something that has happened. Since receiving this feedback from Ross, my project has shifted in this direction owing to new information coming to light – that I intend to elaborate on once I have fully processed it.
Ross seemed to like the way that I was using the text and how it does not point to a particular narrator, which has been the point of the work and I am happy that he had this reading of it. He did point out that there are some consistency issues with the text and this is something others have also suggested to me. A clear area to develop is in the way that these pieces of text come across for the narrative. Colin made the point that I must be the one who is reliable so that I can be unreliable, and it will be in these details in which that will start to make sense.
The captions seemed to be where I am getting the most comments within terms of how the images are being read. When I started looking at the archive, I made the conscious decision to log everything in a database and describe each artifact in what could be seen visually – essentially all of the denoted elements of the photographs. I then added to these descriptions with accompanying information inside square brackets, which are used to add extra information not by the author. This is an extra level of confusion when both the image, the caption, and the brackets are made by me the author of the work. Initially, my intention with the caption was to create the distance suggested by Wayne C. Booth but I am starting to realise that there are better ways of doing this.
As soon as I started to introduce some of the quotes collected along the way, this approach has become a little inconsistent with the rest of the work – too matter of fact. The other challenge I am finding is the literal descriptions are being read in a way that starts to create negative associations or placing judgement on the subject. Ross made special note of this as he pointed out the portrait of my brother (fig: 1) might come across as too judgmental with the inclusion of the caption about his shift work. I was aiming to make connections to ideas of class within the wider body of work but now realise that I really don’t have to do so in an overt way. In our last meeting, Colin also suggested that the sequencing of the quotes will be important to the narrative of the project and I should start to focus on this aspect of it.
I made a point of speaking with Cemre, who support me on the surfaces and strategies module, she also has great experience producing books. Her feedback was also focussed on the way that I had been using text and how inconsistent it is when looking through the project. As usual, I have a huge amount of ideas that I am unwilling to let go off and as a result the whole project suffers. Cemre made the useful observation that at the moment the project is far too loose, and it was important to get things back under control. It would be important to come to the work as if I was starting it from scratch. The issue with creating early sequences of the work, as I have been doing all along, is that I may lose some important connections with the work by hanging on to image sequences that are actually not really helping the project as a whole. It is vitally important that I go back to the beginning of this and work on the narrative much more. Between colin, Ross, and Cemre I should focus on working on the way that the text elements fit together before sequencing the images. And of course, the all important ‘living with the work’ comment was made, so I am going to get all of the images on a wall to work through the sequence again.
As I had started working with a book designer, I spoke with Cemre about this process. It was noted that it would be good to get a handle on the sequence and narrative before I meet again with the designer. This was very useful as I had been presenting a patchwork of loose ideas before this. However, I will need to conder how flexible this project will need to be even after I have a dummy designed. On a recent interview with Bryan Schutmaat and Matthew Genitempo (Smith, et al., 2021) they discuss that it is important to have a great set of images that don’t necessarily have to be too structured in terms of the presentation as the publisher will always want to bring something to the outcome of the book. This of course is if I chose to continue pursuing publishers over self-publishing.
A useful takeaway from my discussion with Cemre is that the book will exist longer than other forms of dissemination and I really need to consider this and what it will bring to the project.
I also spoke with Drew who was able to provide some useful insight into the project and how I might start tackling the sequence and narrative. One of the main points of feedback he made was in the way that I need to find something within the process that is valuable to the sequence. If there is no real conclusion it becomes about what I discovered along the way. My project is very much about the journey and not the outcome so this is an area to now focus on.
Crucially, in our discussion Drew reminded me of Barthes’ ‘Image-Music-Text’ chapter on ‘Structural Analysis of Narrative’ (1977: 79-124), which breaks down the process of how a narrative is structured. Although Barthes is referring to literature, there are useful elements to consider in putting together a photographic narrative that I am aiming to apply. For example, it is important to consider what each of my images is saying in terms of what I want to say. Barthes points out: “having described the flower, the botanist is not to get involved in describing the bouquet” (p. 83), which is to suggest that I am effectively shutting down discourse by overly describing within my captions. Each image becomes a sentence in the story and some of the images would be consider longer sentences than others. Time to break down the images into these elements and then bring them back together.
Barthes, R., 1977. Image, Music, Text. Translation edition ed. London: Fontana.
Smith, B., Genitempo, M. & Schutmaat, B., 2021. 155 – Matthew Genitempo & Bryan Schutmaat. [Online]
Available at: https://bensmithphoto.com/asmallvoice/genitempo-and-schutmaat