After this week’s webinar, I have had to consider the way I am discussing my work, and how much that I am projecting onto the work, which can distract from the reading of it.
We looked at critical perspectives to locate my practice:
- Community is the shared space and activities that provide many with meaning. Eli Durst has said “Many People need a sense of secular purpose” (Zoo, 2019).*
- Robert Putnam discusses a decline in ‘social capital’ in his book ‘Bowling Alone.’ Traditional community groups have functioned to serve in providing the participants with the skills and knowledge to function within society. Civic engagement, for example, has decreased as education has risen over the past 30 years. People now have the skills to function within a society that historically would have been nurtured through clubs, organizations and associations (Putnam, 2000). †
- In Roland Barthes posthumous essays entitled ‘How to Live Together’ (Barthes, 1977)‡, he considered the individual and society in an attempt to ask the question on if it is possible to create a community where everyone lives according to their own rhythm, and yet respects the individual rhythms of others? (Reference, paper on barthes).
I continue to read ‘Bowling Alone’ which has inspired the concept of looking at the theme of community. It has been useful and provided me with a number of critical perspectives to consider moving forward. The writing is very much in the field of economics and everything is considered as such. I have come to realise that I need to expand my reading in this area and started to look at the work ‘How To live Together’ by Roland Barthes, where he considered the individual and society in an attempt to ask the question on if it is possible to create a community where everyone lives according to their own rhythm, and yet respects the individual rhythms of others?
During the Webinar, it was noted that my explanation of the work could be considered melancholic where the images did not read that way. This perception could be a factor in the way that I was applying the Social Capital theory in terms of the decline that Putnam discusses in his work. The reading of the images is correct as there is much positivity in the images that I shot and clearly show a strong sense of community. My emphasis on the decline is mostly a projection of the unprepared statements I was making regarding my work. An area of clear development as although, Putnam is right to assert the decline in social capital, however, my work is to look at what is replacing it. Is the traditional community in decline, or is it evolving. If it is evolving, what is replacing the traditions.
My work on the Carnival was also a look at Putnam’s Bonds, Bridges, and Linkages’ in that the carnival culture and community is mainly that of the established working class demographic of the somerset region which feels besieged by the gentrification of the area. Local traditions are very much perceived as under threat by the people moving to the area. The bridge between these two levels of social capital are not considerate or in dialogue with one another.
Suggested further reading after the webinar
- Charlotte Cotton – The Photograph as Contemporary art (Cotton, 2014)§
Work in Progress
I have been working on my sequencing of the work and now have updated my online gallery, hopefully ready for the portfolio submission.
The work has a new tighter edit that focuses on the ‘Adult Play’ and secular sense of purpose, which are concepts that I have come to this week through reading Alice Zoo’s review of Eli Durst’s new book ‘The Community.’
I feel my work now sits very well on my website and has a clear narrative running through the set. I asked peers to also have a look at the work and received very positive feedback on how it all works together. A critique however, was to consider the information That I am providing to the reader, and avoid generalised sweeping statements regarding my work.
- *Zoo, A. & Durst, E., 2019. The Community. The British Journal of Photography, Issue 7890, pp. 40-49.
- †Putnam, R., 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. 1 ed.
- ‡Barthes, R., 2018. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism). Translation Edition ed. New York: Columbia University Press.
- §Cotton, C., 2014. The Photograph as Contemporary Art (World of Art). 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson.
This is the last Carnival in North Petherton that I managed to attend before the end of the season. The plan here was to aim and shoot a range of night time portraits and environmental shots using the carnival carts as a background. As I arrived, there was a lot of setting up activity which proved very good to shoot.
Continuing to explore narrative, I have started to read through some film theory as it has been recognized as being able to utilize narrative much more effectively than photography. The key points from the book are the need to identify the cause and effect of the narrative that I am aiming to portray.
“A narrative does not consist of a random series of events, but a series of events related to one another in terms of cause and effect”(Buckland, n.d.) *
In film, the narrative is also categorized into three stages, as outlined by theorist Tzvetan Todorov (Buckland, n.d.) * :
- A state of Equilibrium
- The disruption of this equilibrium by an event
- The successful attempt to restore the equilibrium
Where the transition between the stages is referred to the narrative turning point and key events can change the direction of the narrative action.(Buckland, n.d.)
There is also omniscient narration where the camera will be be removed completely and be controlled by someone outside of the narrative, in the case of film this is the director, however in photography this could well be the photographer.
In order to further this exploration, I think it would be important to identify whether this form of narrative is used within photography, and the photo project. I will continue my research by looking at a range of photography books. Further to this visual study, I feel it is vital to better understand the semiotic theory that underpins the narrative of a photographic narrative. To that end, I intend to read ‘Image, Music, Text’ (Barthes, 1990)† and later ‘Mythologies’ (Barthes et al., 2009)‡ by Roland Barthes that look at this in more depth.
Narrative in art is defined as a sequence of related events, and historically where narrative is depicted in art, the reader of the image is to have assumed knowledge of the narrative present (Tate, 2019).§ I feel that a narrative in the literary sense does not always apply to a series of photographs, and also by sequencing images in a chronological fashion may reduce the impact of how some of them may be read. Aesthetic placement of the images may function well with photography, however may reduce the effect of the overall narrative by considering the images only for their technical and aesthetic qualities rather than the context that they provide, as discussed in the essay ‘Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning’ (Walker, 1997)¶ where this can have a huge impact on the way images are read together. In film, this is idea is supported by ‘The Kuleshov Effect’ explores by theorist Lev Kuleshov who analysed the effects of the juxtaposition of film shots and how they are put together (Fig. 1) will have an impact on how the reader will attach meaning and emotion (Elementsofcinema.com, 2019).#
In order to create an effective narrative of my work, I will need to carefully consider the juxtaposition of my images in terms of the connotated coding that they represent when placed together. This will be more than merely the aesthetics and creating a pleasing juxtaposition and sequencing of events. The narrative in this case becomes an idea, or overall emotive presence of the work and how it is being presented to the reader.
Looking at Photobooks
At the recent Jack Latham talk and exhibition of his work ‘Sugar Paper Theories,’ (Latham, 2016)** held at the Royal Photographic Society, Curator Dr Mark Rawlinson (Fig. 3) highlighted the difference between the images and placement of them in the exhibition from the book and how there is a tendency to read through a book in a linear way. The exhibitions role was to change the narrative of the work in order to keep you as the reader guessing and exploring the work in the search for ‘Clues’ (Rawlinson, 2019).††
Pieter Hugo – Kin
Hugo provides a deeply coded journey through his homeland in the book ‘Kin’ (Hugo, 2015)‡‡ all of the images are very emotive and challenge you to consider the colonial gaze through the use of nudes and classic portraits throughout this book. Hugo writes of South Africa being a complex and problematic country and his own exploration has created more questions than it answers. I believe that the juxtaposition of the images within the book really start to challenge you and underpin this notion. The use of different page sizes shows a kind of hierarchy to the placement of the portraits over other elements of Hugo’s work in the way they partially obscure the view of the image underneath (Fig. 4), forcing you to consider the first image before moving forward. This is a kind of juxtaposition that prioritises one image over another.
Hugo’s images in Kin do not form a chronological account of this story, but support my point of the overall meaning in the work.
Matt Henry – Short Stories
A more overt use of narrative, even with the title relating to the way the reader is supposed to look at this work is Matt Henry’s ‘Short Stories’ (Fig. 6) which is a series of related tableaux images on the theme of Nixon era America. Each short set tells a short narrative as if a still from a movie, which is very much what Henry is aiming to present with his work of clear Americana. The relation of the narrative is clear in this book even through the use of smaller details and portraits of the work (Henry, 2015).
- *Buckland, W. (n.d.). Film studies. John Murray Learning, p.32.
- †Barthes, R. (1990). Image, music, text. London: Fontana.
- ‡Barthes, R., Lavers, A., Badmington, N. and Reynolds, S. (2009). Mythologies. London: Vintage books.
- §Tate. (2019). Narrative – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/n/narrative [Accessed 21 Nov. 2019].
- ¶Walker, J. and Evans, J. (1997). Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning in The Camerawork essays: context and meaning in photography. London: Rivers Oram Press, pp.52 – 63.
- #Elementsofcinema.com. (2019). The Kuleshov Experiment | Basics of Film Editing. [online] Available at: http://www.elementsofcinema.com/editing/kuleshov-effect.html [Accessed 21 Nov. 2019].
- **Latham, J., Gudjonsson, G. and Russell, R. (2016). Sugar paper theories. 2nd ed. London: Here Press.
- ††Sugar Paper Theories: Gallery Tour (2019) [Exhibition]. Royal Photographic Society, Bristol. 16 November, 2019.
- ‡‡Hugo, P. (2015). Kin. 1st ed. New York: Aperture.
- §§Henry, M. (2015). Short stories. 1st ed. Heidelberg: Kehrer Verlag.
After the webinar, I have a clear sense that I need to develop my narrative and sequencing skills in order to better translate my project into a coherent series. If my aim is to present the work without the information initially, then it is important to get a clear sequence of the images to tell the story I am trying to communicate. The amount of images is crucial, too. I have so far put together 20 images in my gallery, however others have many more. I need to consider how many images will make an effective narrative and how many would ultimately start to reduce the impact of the work.
The feedback, although positive, narrative was a key area to look at. People liked the display of the work and the minimal gallery and page. I am happy with this, although there are some areas I would like to develop given the time to do so. For example, the native WordPress slider has a grey background that I am unable to change without looking into detail the CSS coding to change it (I will have a go at this at some point!). The page of my gallery also features a number of tags and keywords, which function for SEO purposes but do not provide a clean looking design. Overall, these are niggles and can be looked at over the period of the course.
To start looking at narrative, I have returned to Lewis Bush’s article ‘Photographic Storytelling: A Poverty of Theory’ (Bush, 2019)* discussing how photography overlooks the power of narrative in photography and often misunderstood by photographers.
In the article, Bush also states that Narrative and story are different but often confused.
“One Story can spawn many narratives”(Bush, 2019)
It is clear that the sequencing of my work will have a fundamental impact on how it might be read, which leads me back to the ‘Authors’ vs ‘Readers’ debate referenced in this weeks readings and Barthes ‘Death of the Author’ (Barthes, 1977)† It feels that the emphasis is still on the reader of the work, however I can still maintain the control of the initial experience of the work.
Looking to develop skills in Narrative, sequencing, and the edit of my work, I continue to explore Bush’s article, and looked at the discussing that Bush was having on Twitter. There are a number of reference by Bush to ‘Narratology’ which is the study of narrative structure and how this can inform our perception. The article also discusses the strength of cinema in employing photographic theory in creating a strong narrative. These are areas that will continue to explore.
I have identified some further reading:
- Relationships between Text, Narrative and Image – An Introduction
- Gérard Genette : Narratology / Signo – Applied Semiotics Theories
- Basics creative photography 02: Context and narrative
- Image, Music, Text: Roland Barthes
Overall, I am going to keep the style and layout of the gallery that I have presented, maintaining the link that I have set up, and now focus now on the sequencing and amount of images that I am presenting, supported by the information.
- *Bush, L. (2019). Photographic Storytelling: A Poverty of Theory. [online] Medium. Available at: https://witness.worldpressphoto.org/photographic-storytelling-a-poverty-of-theory-2def0ba48031 [Accessed 15 Nov. 2019].
- †Barthes, R. (1977) “The Death of the Author.” Image / Music / Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang.
Working on how my work is presented after reading the Kitchen from ‘Ways of Curating’* (Obrist and Raz̤ā, n.d.) and ‘Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning’† (Evans and John, 1997) I have started again to consider that context and how my work is read is somewhat out of my control. The readings reference the essay by Barthes ‘Death of the Author’‡ which also starts to place the most value on the ‘reader’ as opposed to the ‘author’ of the work. I have discussed Barthes’ essay before and although I do agree with this statement, I question his argument for completely removing knowledge of the author of a work as this is not something that can be easily done, and once known, it does change how the work is read.
With that said, I have looked at presenting my work as minimal as possible on my website. Previously, I was utilising the mosaic format (Fig. 1), where the work is shown in full and on quite a busy page, together with any supporting information I felt should accompany the images. After considering the readings, and conducting some research into how other photographers are presenting their images online, I have made the decision to present the work in the form of a slider (Fig. 2), where the images are viewed individually (or in the case of my series ‘Four Prefectures of Japan’ which I have since edited into a slider, a juxtaposition of images). The information is initially hidden on the page and can be revealed as an option to the reader (Fig. 3 & 4). This, I hope, will allow viewers of my work time to assimilate it and form their own narratives before they consider the information and background to the work. That said, I still maintain a control of the work in the form of the sequencing and the display. Once the information has also been taken into consideration, the images may also change their meaning to the viewer and creating an enhanced experience.
Considering the work of others
Zed Nelson displays a lot of content on his website from his various projects. I looked in particular at how the project ‘Love Me’ is displayed (Fig. 5). There are 50 images in this gallery and are displayed individually with a click through button. There is a caption to accompany the work, together with a link to additional material such as the book, the information, and the thumbnails. The work here is presented well, however Nelson’s website is quite complicated to navigate with a lot of clicks and inconsistent with the menus. The overall feel of the site is good however with the images presented on a white background.
The work here is presented on a white background with a clean menu to the left of the images providing a good navigation through the work and the site. When a project is clicked on, the work is first presented all together, serving the function of the thumbnails (Fig 5). When an image is selected (Fig. 6), you are able to view the images one at a time and click through at your own pace. El Tantawy’s information is hidden with a button to click and view the written justification of the work. El Tantawy’s work is very much open to interpretation, and this I feel lends itself very well to that notion of the ‘reader.’
Audio and images
I spent some time collecting audio at some of the events that I have been photographing. I want to experiment and create some kind of experiential part to my work that gives a sense of the spectacle that these Carnivals present. To explore this further, I created a quick gallery (Low Resolution) of the abstract light images that I took in Frome and added the raw audio as an option to click and listen to whilst the images are transitioning through the set. The audio is an option to enhance the experience of viewing the images.
Exploring PDF presentation
As a hangover from my freelance days, I have also started to experiment with creating a PDF version of the project as a kind of book dummy/zine. I have created these in the past when I would use a PDF to promote my commercial practice. As another way to present the work, it is quite useful to start experimenting with different typeface and design elements.
I looked at how I could represent the work using design and created a series of experiments, playing with the typeface and the colours of the carnival.
As we are expected to produce a simplified PDF of the images presented in the work in progress gallery, I am not sure if I will include these design element. Moving forward though I aim to continue exploring this as a promotional tool for the work.
- *Obrist, H. and Raz̤ā, A. (n.d.). Ways of curating. London: Penguin, pp.81-87.
- †Evans, J. and John, W. (1997). The Camerawork essays. London: Rivers Oram, pp.52-63.
- ‡Barthes, R. (1977) “The Death of the Author.” Image / Music / Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang.
- §Hill, P. (2019). Polo Hipster, Western Australia. | Phil Hill Photography. [online] Phil Hill Photography. Available at: https://www.philhillphotography.com/portfolio/polo-hipster-western-australia/ [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
- ¶Nelson, Z. (2019). Zed Nelson – photographer. [online] Zednelson.com. Available at: https://www.zednelson.com/?LoveMe [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
- #El Tantawy, L. (2019). [online] Lauraeltantawy.com. Available at: http://www.lauraeltantawy.com/ [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
I enjoyed producing the images for the micro project. It was a complete departure from what I have been shooting for my current work in progress portfolio, focusing on an abstract series of images as opposed to the location portraits I have been photographing.
Where I feel that the images could have been improved was how distracted with the production of the oral presentation I have been and not taken the care and time over the images that might have done if I was completely focused on it in the same way that I am for my main practice and project. The feedback received for the set has been generally good and I had much encouragement to continue the series and create something with the minimal nature of the water image. Sequencing was the main area of development that I should consider. This is an area that I feel needs much refinement over the whole of the MA as selecting and editing my work has never been my strong point. I feel that when presenting my wider project ideas it may become crucial to seek the support from my peers and tutors.
At the moment, the images sit somewhere in the experiment category, as I know that they are created with simple liquids, I do not feel that there is enough depth to the set in order to take it any further as it stands. That said, during the webinar with my peers and Paul, some other photographers and artists who work in a similar way were suggested to me and I could now start to see how a project with these images may develop. I do feel that given the time, I would like to explore the concept and see where it could lead with a style and type of photography that I have never done before.
I have been working fairly consistently on my research project, continuing to shoot carnivals. Salisbury on 24/10, and have reflected on these images here.
Work In progress portfolio
To support the practice I am also working my way through ‘Bowling alone.’ I am finding this book on the subject very much based on the economics of the subject and how it ultimately impacts the productivity of a society. Interestingly, I do find that our world tends to be defined the economics of it and the capitalist nature of our culture. Putnam also notes that civic engagement has decreased as education has risen over the past 30 years (as written in 2000). People now have the skills to function within a society that historically would have been nurtured through clubs, organizations and associations. I am also interested in Putnam’s reference to social philosophy and will look into this side of things to support my project.*
- *Putnma, R. (2000). Bowling Alone. New York: Simon & Schuster, p.60.
Salisbury Carnival 24/10
I photographed Salisbury Carnival with the intention of capturing some of the big carts that are at their most spectacular when lit up at night. Unfortunately, the weather meant that many of the participants of this carnival stayed away and it was raining heavily during the time that I was shooting at the event. Of the images I did manage to capture, I am wondering how these will fit into the wider narrative of the project so far. The night shooting meant that I had to light the subject and this meant that I had some strong shadows to deal with which are a departure from the other portraits that I have been shooting.
I was fairly happy with the shot of the girl by the lorry and could see how more in this sort of style could work with the rest of the images.
Middlesbrough Dance Group 29/10
As an experiment into other ways of representing communities, I decided to take a studio kit on location whilst in Middlesbrough last week. These images are of a group of retirees who come together in Middlesbrough Library to a dance class in an attempt to combat the loneliness of this time.
Consider how professions of photography are viewed by non-photographers and the general public.
Drawing on my personal and professional experience, I have found that photography has been considered an ‘easy’ profession and requires little work to perfect. I have, for example, been asked to photograph at friend’s and relative’s weddings, despite not being a wedding photographer, as I am well known for being a photographer. Interestingly, in many of the approaches to shoot these events, there was a tendency to add the comments ‘When I searched for photographers, they all charge too much, would you do it instead, Phil?’ Although never malicious, the comments primarily de-value my images, financial reasons being the primary motivation for asking me to do it, regardless or whether I could actually deliver a good job. The other issue I have always found with asking me to shoot these events for friends and relatives, once agreed, is I stop being a guest at the wedding and am in a sense now an ‘employee’ of the event without an acknowledgement of that fact.
Another interesting exchange I have experienced was from a series of images that I shot in Kenya that highlighted a kind of pollution known as ‘Acid Mine Drainage’ (Fig. 1). I was contacted by a South American website who wanted to use my image. I raised a standard usage license and the reply I received was an angry “What! I can’t believe you sent me an Invoice” with the rest of the email outlining his annoyance of being asked to pay for this kind of content, and then questioning how much I cared about environmental issues. Images from this set, have been used for a book cover, Science Photo Library, and on the BBC illustrating Acid pollution, and illegal Gold mining that was happening on the site who had no issue at all in paying for the images.
Considering this from another viewpoint, Simon Norfolk discussed in his Small Voice podcast interview† about how photography in certain circles is very self-congratulatory, and the obsession with turning grand socio-documentary projects into photo books only to be viewed by the 100 or so other, predominantly white middle-class, photographers that buy it. This esoteric approach to photography can only exacerbate the issue of a wider audience understanding what photography is and the value of it.
Do you think this has any impact upon how you conduct yourself as a photographer, or influences your practice in any other way?
Continuing from above. That being said, starting my carnival project, I have found that on approach of the subjects, they assumed a cliche pose, presumably for the local press photographers that were also marauding in the background (Discussed in my week 2 reflection). This actually gave me the opportunity to ‘Break the ice’ and then re-position the subject to capture the images I was looking for. I have questioned the representation my subjects, however after continued discussion, I feel that there is an amount of conditioning that needed to be removed from the ‘performance’ of the subject, allowing me to capture something more. People seem to have an assumed idea of what a photographer is, through the photographers that they have most contact with such as school, wedding, local press, all of which are looking for a particular type of image and pose. It is therefore important to try and work past this, and capture a more authentic image.
Think about and describe how you have responded to changes in technology in your own practice.
Social media and the internet continues to shape and accentuate this kind of social conditioning, especially as we are more frequently served the same kind of images and information of via algorithms and artificial intelligence learning of our behaviour online. This has been highlighted through instagram accounts such as Insta Repeat (Fig. 2).
Week 3 webinar reflection 10/10/19
I am pleased with the images that I have shot so far for this project, despite some technical issues. After adding an edit of the work on this week’s forum, I have received a positive response for my work, especially the portraits which come out as the strongest part of this project. I was given Photographers, such as, Margaret Mitchell§ to look at and found her work to be really useful in Identifying ways in which I can develop the work. Margaret has a real sense of the locations and environments in her work, which really helps to contextualise it. Paul also suggested that I look at clémentine schneidermann’s¶ work, and the series she did ‘I called her Lisa Marie’ (Fig. 3 & 4) which again serves to really place the surreal elements of these Elvis Presley fans in a Welsh setting.
After discussing the work on the forum, I decided to experiment with putting some of the images together in a variety of diptych layouts to see how this might change the way the individual images are viewed (Fig. 5). It was suggested that I might look at also creating triptych layouts of the work. Although these were well received during the crit, the way that I have been approaching this project so far is to separate environments, the details, and the portraits. The feedback has highlighted the need to bring some of those elements together where possible. In a sense, this would be useful when viewing each of the images in isolation of one another.
Michelle also followed up with this feedback:
Great to see the access you have and the ease with which you are able to work with them. It may be helpful now to consider what narrative you want to explore and whether you can combine the positioning of the figure within the urban and rural landscape to illustrate something about the individuality of these people? Alec Soth/Anna Fox/Katie Grannan/Lauren Greenfeld all good possible sources of research.Michelle Sank**
Clearly an area that I should be focusing on for future shoots. I also need to consider the narrative that I intend to portray. This is an area that I feel needs much development. I have approached the project so far with a basic knowledge of ‘Social Capital’ and continue to read Robert Putnam’s book ‘Bowling Alone’†† on this subject to hopefully begin informing and developing the narrative this way. Paul has also suggested that I read Peter Kropotkin’s book ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution’‡‡ which considers the idea of collaboration within societies. A potential area for the narrative to work with my images might be through the lack of communication between newer elements of my home town of Frome moving in and ‘Gentrifying’ the area without thought or consideration of the people who have lived there for generations, the same people who are involved with the carnivals.
- *Ryan, P. and Hill, P. (2014). Environmental and low temperature geochemistry. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, p.Cover.
- †Smith, B. and Norfolk, S. (2019). A Small Voice Podcast – 107 – Simon Norfolk. [online] Ben Smith. Available at: https://bensmithphoto.com/asmallvoice/simon-norfolk [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
- ‡Instagram.com. (2019). Insta Repeat (@insta_repeat) • Instagram photos and videos. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/insta_repeat/?hl=en [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
- §Mitchell, M. (2019). In This Place — Margaret Mitchell. [online] Margaret Mitchell. Available at: https://margaretmitchell.co.uk/in-this-place [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].
- ¶Schneidermann, C. (2019). I Called Her Lisa-Marie. [online] Chosecommune.com. Available at: https://www.chosecommune.com/book/icalledherlisamarie/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
- #Schneidermann, C. (2019). I Called Her Lisa-Marie. [online] Chosecommune.com. Available at: https://www.chosecommune.com/book/icalledherlisamarie/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
- **Sank M. (2019) Week Three Webinar: Work in Progress. Falmouth Flexible
- ††Putnam, R. (2007). Bowling alone. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
- ‡‡Kropotkin, P. (2016). Mutual aid. [Charlestown, SC.]: [Createspace, Inc.].