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.
|Date of Supervision Meeting||23/02/21|
|Start time of Meeting||12:30|
|Length of Meeting in minutes||35 minutes|
|Meeting Notes & Action Points||Positive feedback received for my project proposal and there were a number of suggestions for practitioners and guest lecturers to look at in relation to archive and the family album:|
– Pat Martin: most recent edition of Foam magazine
– Tom Seymour: Guest Lecture on sharing work
– Diana Markosia
– Jacque Derrida – Archive Fever
– Zoe Leonard – Fictional Archive
– Sophie Calle – in relation to unreliable narrators
– Sara Davidman
I was encouraged to review a number of the guest lectures and also consider how I might position myself in relation to working with archive and family albums. I also intend to start reaching out to other practitioners to gain feedback on my concepts.
|Date of Next Proposed Meeting||16/03/21|
If the above video does not work for any reason, the presentation can be viewed on YouTube via this link: https://youtu.be/RRGlhPCRaNo
I’ve written well over 35 blog posts for this module so felt it would be a good idea to signpost some key blog posts that underpin my ideas and research throughout Sustainable Prospects.
In the below link, I have created a contents page of all of the posts created for Sustainable Prospects that also includes notes to summarise content and highlight key themes of research and ideas:
After working through a series of versions and some additional justification (Fig: 1) I have settled with a version of my WIPP, which I believe takes on board feedback and also is true to the project that I aiming to present (Fig: 2).
More space to breath.
Key feedback was that my images were too packed in (Fig: 3), so I have sought to space things out so that they can be viewed in isolation and also some together (Fig: 4). This latest iteration continues the linear journey story structure but it is now laid out in a way that the reader can take in at a more subtle pace. I have also created my WIPP in 8×10 format to consider the 6×7 negative’s 5:4 ratio, which feels much more balanced than trying to place my images onto a standard ‘A’ size page.
Statement of Intent
I have now included some text to start the sequence off:
‘More lonely ere’ is a body of work inspired by Robert Frost’s poetry.
Located inside the M25 but not London and within the boundary of Hertfordshire but not the pastoral idyllic of the Home Counties.
This is a between place.
The project is a journey through a separated existence of individual rhythm to evaluate the idea of home and sanctuary; it forges a new relationship with spaces and the people I share them with.Figure 5: Phil Hill (December, 2020) WIPP opening statement.
The text is a way to frame the project and set the reader off on the journey. I wanted to leave it fairly ambiguous so not to over explain, which has been a challenge of mine. I have placed references to the process, for example:
- The title ‘More lonely ere’ translates to ‘More lonely before’ (ere being an old term for ‘before in time’), which suggests that by going on the journey the reader/narrator is less lonely than at the start.
- Inspired by Robert Frost’s poetry – not specifically stating the poem ‘Desert Places’ where the title is from (1936: 44). Giving the reader something to discover, should they want.
- Located inside the M25 but not London and within the boundary of Hertfordshire but not the pastoral idyllic of the Home Counties. This is a between place – I purposefully left Watford out of the statement of intent to continue the ambiguity and discovery for the reader. There is enough information of the location of the place and I aimed to provide a sense of its ‘in between status’
- The last part refers to the personal connection to place that is part of the exploration. The idea of individual rhythm is one that I research from the Roland Barthes’ book ‘How to Live Together’ (Barthes, 2012) in which he considers the way that society lives in the same spaces but according to an ‘idiorrythm’ where we work, eat, sleep in the same towns and cities but rarely interact.
In this latest iteration, I have added a contact sheet of images at the end (Fig: 6) in a similar way to how Jack Latham did in ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ (Fig: 7), which adds some contextualising information for the images. Jane Hilton discussed this in relation to her book ‘Precious’ (Fig: 8), noting that she intended for the reader of the book to have to work for the information about each of the people she photographed (Hilton in Smith, 2016). I have discussed the need to not over explain my reasoning for the narrative structure yet felt that a certain amount of contextualisation once the sequence has been viewed without any text would be an interesting way of creating further intrigue into my process of putting the work together. Here I have attempted to include elements of the narrative structure and also further references to the poem of Robert Frost and the Edgelands that I photographed. I hope that some text would also bring the series further together in the way that I am creating titles for the images based on characterisations of the people and the place.
This WIPP submission has become one of the most contrived and constructed sequences of images that I have created. The evolution from the way that I consider photographed and what they can do has fundamentally changed over the course of this module. One of the biggest takeaways for me, is in the use of narrative structure to construct my stories. This is a key element in the development of my work that I fully intend to carry forward into the FMP.
Barthes, R., 2012. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of some Everyday Spaces. Translation ed. New York: Columbia University Press.
Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.
Hilton, J., 2013. Precious. 1 ed. London: Thames and Hudson.
Hilton, J., 2016. A Small Voice Podcast: Episode 35 [Interview] (April 2016).
Considering the feedback that I have received for the first iteration of my WIPP (Fig: 1), I wanted to create a title for the work that lends a certain ambiguity to the reading. As the work is in part inspired by the Robert Frost Poem, I looked again at how Bryan Schutmaat titled his work ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’ (Fig: 2), which was inspired by the poetry of Richard Hugo. His title is taken from a line in the poem ‘Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg’: “Hatred of the various grays the mountain sends, hatred of the mill, The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls who leave each year for Butte” (1992). Hugo’s poem uses the idea of ‘degrees of gray’ to paint a picture of the ebb and flow of human relationships, which relates to Hugo’s own personal experiences prior to writing this poem (Potts, 2012). For Schutmaat, this is a translation into the relationship between the people and the landscape in his photo series.
A Desert Place vs Between Stars
Initially, I thought about titling this series ‘A Desert Place’ in a direct reference to the poem however, this could be quite obvious so instead I have considered the metaphor within the poem to see if any connections to my work can be made. A phrase that jumps out at me immediately is “Between stars – on stars where no human race is” (Frost, 1936, p. 44). Frost uses this line as a way of contrasting a vastness of space with the narrators own internal desert, which aims to create a kind of hope of putting one’s own personal challenges into a kind of perspective. According to analysis by Li Wang, this comparison “serves to aggrandise the speaker and the importance of his own personal desert” (2013, p. 2095). I can use the line ‘between stars’ as a way of emphasising the in-between nature of my images, or rurality of them. It also references the idea of connection to place.
More lonely ere
Another line from Frost’s poem is: “And lonely as it is, that loneliness Will be more lonely ere” (1936, p. 44). The word ere is a preposition meaning ‘before in time’ and I quite like the idea of naming the series ‘more lonely ere,’ to create a sense of the connection that I am attempting to explore with the sequence. This again is a way of placing me into the series and also an attempt of putting emphasis on the reader being the protagonist on the journey. As Wang also notes:
“It is an archaic word. As we have known that Frost’s language is so simple and ordinary that the common readers can understand it. But this only archaic word appears here to remind us of focusing on what the adjacent sentences want to emphasize. It emphasizes the intensification of mood. The implied rebirth in the necessary melting of the snow and the re-emergence of the field as a real thing is an unassimilated lump of hope”(2013, p. 2096)
I believe that this provides the best link between the poem, the metaphor and my images. Ultimately, my journey story is an intensification of mood from ‘the call’ at the start through ‘the journey’ and ‘the ordeals,’ toward a resolution and ‘the goal.’ Within the bleakness of some of the images that I am presenting, my aim is that is some kind of hope still, represented in the end of the sequence, and the goal (Fig: 3). The idea of ‘more lonely ere‘ essentially translates to ‘more lonely before,’ as to suggest that the act of completing the journey provides hope for a better relationship with place.
I have taken further inspiration from Robert Frost and used the cover from the book ‘A Further Range’ where ‘Desert Places’ is published as inspiration (Fig: 4). Initially, I sought to emulate the cover but found that I need to develop this further and as I evolved the title, I aim to do the same with the cover. The basic referenced elements are there and I have change the colour to a green as a further reference to rurality and also included a three star symbol between the title and my name to visually represent the in-between element of the title (Fig: 5).
Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.
Hugo, R., 1992. Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo.. Re-Issue ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Potts, M., 2012. On Richard Hugo’s, “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg”. [Online]
Available at: https://michaelpotts.livejournal.com/8861.html [Accessed 26 11 2020].
Schutmaat, B., 2014. Grays the Mountain Send. [Online]Available at: http://www.bryanschutmaat.com/grays [Accessed 26, November, 2020].
Wang, L., 2013. An Artistic Analysis on Robert Frost’s Desert Places. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 3(11), pp. 2092-2097.
Figure 1: Phil Hill (September, November, 2020) Initial Work in Progress development
Figure 2: Phil Hill (September – November, 2020) Initial Work in Progress Portfolio development – PDF.
I have asked my peer group to give some feedback on my current iteration of my work in progress portfolio (Fig 1&2).
What I have found is that I am still trying to explain and add as much information as I can into the justification of the work. As a result, both Tim and Ross struggled with the ‘Journey’ concept in my work because I led with this explanation, which might have suggested that this is what the work is about when in fact the journey narrative is just the frame. Colin had suggested to me that I construct my story structure and then disregard it for the presentation, or at least keep it to myself. The structure is mine to disseminate as appropriate. Clearly, there are challenges to giving too many of the ‘secrets’ of my narrative construction away. This was supported somewhat, when I shared the same work with Kim and one of my work colleagues Ryan. I kept my justification very simple by stating: the work was inspired by the poem ‘Desert Places’ and an exploration of connection to place. Both of them were much more receptive to the work. My aim is to really consider the statement of intent for the work and see how it adds to the reading of the work, whilst supporting what I want others to see in it.
It’s tricky as I’m not familiar with the classic journey system for it. I think if that is important for you then you have to stick with it but I think there’s a better edit in there purely aesthetically if you were to mix the images in a different way. I think if they were all landscape format I would get almost a film still and maybe connect that in an easier way to the idea of the story. I find the mix of landscape and portrait more confusing if I am trying to think about it in that form but it’s the first time I’ve looked.
I am less drawn to the abstract images and the close up images personally. I prefer the more formal images that you create where there is a clear structure to either the portrait of the image of the object, tree, car, wall etc. I like that more topographic approach in your work.
I think the link to paths throughout do suggest at a journey but I find some of the images a bit confusing. The opening image is the only image taken inside, or I think it’s inside? The image of the hand with flower, although I really like it, seems out of place as well. I’m less drawn to the images where you are looking down as well as like I Said, I think your work is really strong when it has a formal gaze.
- I attempted to justify the Journey structure first, which has created a challenge to the reading as Ross is attempting to resolve the sequence solely on this piece if information. This is quite valuable in the way that I will need to approach the statement of intent for the body of work.
- I agree with Ross on The image of my Dad holding the Dandelion (Fig: 3). When showing the sequence to Colin he felt the same. I really enjoy this image but it does feel out of place in this sequence. I was keen to hang on to it because of the reference across Edgelands (Farley & Symmonds Roberts, 2011, p. 141) and one of the metaphors in ‘Desert Places’ (Frost, 1936, p. 44) however, the image is clearly aesthetically different to the rest of the sequence.
- Ross did also mention that I might want to consider taking an image from each section and building it up, which is something that I might consider moving forward.
I have more questions than answers when looking at this.
- This comment is actually great. Exactly what I want from my sequence. Using the journey structure I hope that the sequence encourages the reader to explore and investigate. I am not aiming to answer anything with the work, only present a narrative version, or ‘truth.’
Presented in this way, I do struggle a bit to take it all in. The individual images are great, really strong, but the question is it’s about how it all comes together.
Your first image, the one of the looking through the window, of me is the standout image. And great that it sets us off on a journey of the hero. Through the piece we meet experience the various encounters, and people who aid or distract the hero on the journey. But are they a distraction, to our own experience of what the hero is going through.
I like how you have structured the narrative in the screen shot, through the phrases. The ‘Call to Action’ etc., as I then can see more of what you are trying to achieve and how you have thought about it.
The questions that pop into my mind are:
Too many different sizes to the images – does this lessen their impact
What if you removed 90% of the portraits. What would you feel
The ‘Goal’ completes the journey started out by the first image
Is the ‘Journey’ happening too soon. Are we not going out from urban into countryside as the goal.
This has made me think that there are images of ‘paths’ and that there are images where the path is ‘blocked’ and therefore our journey through the piece is about us, through the hero, finding a path from inside to outside, and the goal.
- As with Ross, I went to a great length in explaining the way that I structured the sequence. This is a clear identification of the need to withhold some information from the reader to illicit a more receptive response from the work. For Tim, I even presented him with the structure infographic (Fig: 4), which then feels as though took over from other aspect of what I am aiming to do with this work.
- There is some work to do on the structure as some of the images in the different sections may not be working. If both Ross and Tim are saying similar things here then it is important not to dismiss the feedback because of the way that I described it – this is only part of what I need to resolve here.
Colin was responsive to the way that I have created my first sequence. There are clearly areas that need development and I am continuing to work with the series on my wall to make adjustments and edits to the work. A key area to consider from my tutorial was to continue working on the narrative to narrow it down a bit more – Think of a direction and build it into the narrative.
I consider the journey story as a frame and not necessarily to be followed in the strictest sense as it may lead to quite a ‘closed’ linear sequence that leaves little room for ambiguity and multiple reading. This felt confirmed by me aiming to justify my WIPP iteration by explaining this structure process. I am also not aiming to answer any questions with this work – raising some, more likely. I like a level of ambiguity in the work as it acknowledges that the reading of the work is not mine to control, I only aim to lead the reader on a poetic journey through the landscape.
Referring to the journey structure, the idea of defined elements of the structure, for example ‘the call,’ the helpers,’ ‘the hero’s companions’ do not necessarily relate to the embodiment of a lead character or person at all. These can be an idea, or particular imagery that suggests a means of viewing the narrative. Christopher Booker suggests as much when discussing the idea of ‘Overcoming the Monster’ (2004, pp. 31-50), in which stories will create language to paint a picture of “immense menace and evil” (p. 37) over actual embodiments of what we might consider a monster. The same can be said for any of the structural elements that I am applying to my sequence. Instead they should be represented by a visual language that I create through the edit of the work.
If I were to be pressed on the idea of a protagonist however, this is potentially a story told in the first person, in which the viewer becomes the person journeying through the landscape. Ultimately, I am going to use Colin’s suggestion and build this up using the structure and the trope and then remove it to the bare minimum so that the reader is required to look for it. Of course, when questioned about the work, I can build up the picture of the narrative once again.
Booker, C., 2004. The Seven Basic Plots. London: Bloomsbury Continuum.
Farley, P. & Symmonds Roberts, M., 2011. Edgelands – Journeys into England’s true Wilderness. London: Vintage.
Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.