Communities and Communication

“Community is a part of the proximate, everyday world, more immediate than the far away society yet larger than the family and primary group, that gives meaning and purpose to one’s life and that also diminishes one’s sense of vulnerability and of being adrift  or alone in an anonymous world”

(Keller, 1988: 5).

Community was at the core of my research project. I have since spent time researching the impact of the way that I photograph and now developed an approach into narrative and narrative structure. I started this module reading the work of Ferdinand Tonnies, who defines two key areas of community, that of Gemienschaft and Gesselschaft (Tönnies, 2001). These consider the way that we make our connections through personal, emotional and family (Gemeinschaft), and those formed from the way that we interact and operate within a civil and societal function.

Tonnies Gesselschaft is valuable in linking to the Roland Barthes’ idea of the iddiorryhtmic communities that live together but as an individualistic society (2012). Suzanne Keller uses Tonnies concept to analyse the way that American society has effectively diverged from the personal connections formed in smaller communities:

“the present search for community harks back to the nineteenth century when, in the face of rapid urbanisation, one idea of community was dying and no other had yet emerged to its place. This led human beings to construct an ideal (because lost) past or to design an ideal (because unrealised) future”

(1988: 167)

The idealised community is what interests me the most as there exists a disconnect in the way that we perceive the past, which is usually socially abstract from the realities that they are based on. Both Alec Soth and Eli Durst have used the idea of a perceived community in their work, which also utilises black and white photography as a tool to highlight Keller’s constructed ideal and also the way that photography creates those constructions (Fig: 1&2).

Figure 1: Alec Soth (2015) from ‘Songbook’
Figure 2: Eli Durst (2020) From ‘The Community’
Community Paper Submission

In continuing to develop my research and writing activities and into communityh, I was forwarded an opportunity to submit an abstract to the next ‘Communities and Communication: International Interdisciplinary Conference & Festival’ in April of next year, which would be online via Staffordshire University. I felt that it was a good opportunity to test my research into community and submit an abstract to involve myself in the process of discussing my ideas and work on the topic. Even if this is not successful, I find the process valuable as the act of writing about my project in a concise way really consolidates the way that I have been approaching my project and the research around it.

I will use this to form my contextual statement for my WIPP.

Bibliography

Barthes, R., 2012. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of some Everyday Spaces. Translation ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

Keller, S., 1988. The American Dream of Community: An unfinished Agenda. Sociological Forum, 3(2), pp. 167-183.

Tönnies, F., 2001. Community and Civil Society. Translation ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Audiences

Who is my work for? At the start of this module, I took a look at some other practitioners to see where they sit on the Art and Commerce spectrum (Fig: 1). It is worth revisiting this now that my WIPP is coming to a conclusion.


Figure 1: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Art and Commerce task.

My work has steadily evolved from the fairly glossy editorial illustration of text to my current practice. Peers have commented on the poetic nature of my images and Colin has also mentioned the romanticism inherent in the images that I am making. The work is moving more towards a more concept based practice of longer form projects. This evolution of my work creates new opportunities to share it however, it also creates a challenge in navigating a world that I am not used to.

Figure 2: Out of Place Books (2020) Publications produced by Out of Place
Figure 3: Phil Hill & Out of Place (2020) Placeholder cover.
Figure 4: Phil Hill & Out of Place (2020) Initial sequence spread.

Have aimed to share my work with established publications interested in narrative based photography. A positive outcome from this was through small book publisher, I will be producing a small book based on my images of Watford over the coming weeks with ‘Out of Place Books’ (Fig: 2,3&4). The values of Out of Place really align and resonate with the goals of my work and the narrative journey that I set out to construct in my exploration of place: ‘Out of Place Books’ specialise in “exploring ideas about place; how we understand and experience our environments and how we define them” (Neophytou, 2020). They produce a number of publications about places throughout the year and promote them to an established based of people interested in photography of spaces and learning about environment. This creates a great opportunity to raise my own profile and showcase my current practice to a targeted audience interested in my work.

Figure 5: BBC (2020) ‘In Pictures’ page showing Taylor Wessing winner Alys Tomlinson.

It also provides a valuable testing bed for future opportunities of ways to promote my work to new audiences through publication. My relationship with the photobook has also evolved during the MA. Initially, I was skeptical of the scope of such books, owing to limited runs and niche demographics willing to consume them. However, I feel that it is important to stop considering the book as an end of itself and more as a means to move on to other ways of disseminating the work. The right photobook creates a platform, a certain gravitas and opportunity use it as a foot in the door to other ways broaden the audience. For example, BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ platform (2020) regularly runs photo images from photographers who have books and exhibitions releasing (Fig: 5). This creates a valuable opportunity to further the reach of a limited audience platform, such as a photobook, by placing in front of a larger media audience online.

Figure 6: Awoiska van der Molen (2020) publication for the work ‘The Living Mountain’
Figure 7: Annet Gelink Gallery (2020) Gallery home page.

Early on in the module, I also discussed the work of Awoiska van der Molen. Her work features regularly in publications and also exhibition (Fig: 6) and is also an area that I could see development towards. Additionally, van der Molen is represented by the Annet Gelink Gallery in Amsterdam (Fig: 7) that provides other avenue for work to be viewed and disseminated. A gallery would also create that kind of gravitas seen from the photobook, to build further audiences and opportunities for maintaining practice. This is an area I would need to investigate further as I am not familiar with the gallery system however, there are clear steps to take before even being considered for such opportunities. My small publication will still be a world away from this kind of profile.

Bibliography

BBC, 2020. In Pictures. [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in_pictures
[Accessed 3 December 2020].

Neophytou, C., 2020. Out of Place Books. [Online]Available at: https://www.outofplacebooks.com/ [Accessed 03 December 2020].

Professional Practice Developments

With the aim of developing my professional practice, and after the content from week 7, I have started to consider ways that I can improve the way that I am sending my work out to potential publishers, editors etc.

Key Takeaways from the presentation
  • Embedding images into email: Makes great deal of sense as editors will receive many emails per day, so reducing the amount of work it takes to get to those images is fundamental to getting my work seen
  • Portfolio: Having a physical portfolio is important as many people who see digital work all day appreciate the tangible qualities of print. What I personally like about a physical portfolio (a box of prints anyway) is the way that it allows the viewer to arrange and sequence work as they see fit, which allows a much more personal viewing experience. I have a box and sleeves, but have not updated the images within it. Something that I aim to update soon. The only caveat or course is the limit to face-to-face meetings that are happening now however, there is still potential to send portfolios for review if this is preferred.
  • Treatment: Not something that I have truly considered however, there is much potential to create a ‘treatment’ that highlights my unique visual language when writing proposals, for example.
  • Language: During the presentation Amy Simmons mentioned how using the language that is in a brief when creating responses and treatments. Something that I feel that I have been aware of but not sure, if I really capitalise on it. Considering this, I think it would be useful apply this tip when grant writing, which would really show consideration for their values. It would also be useful when writing pitches to publishers.

Much of the content within the presentation, I already knew, or at least was reminded of from my former practice as a freelancer. I have not been applying much of the tips to my recent sharing of the work, which linked to the amount of time that I used to do this regularly. The presentation was an important reminder to ensure that I am following some of the more effective ways of getting work in front of potential clients.

Keeping things a secret

Many of the photographer interviews that I listen to refer to certain projects and work, which is under wraps for the time being, or secretive until they are published. During Anna’s live lecture, she also mentioned that publications such as the New York Times would not publish anything that has already appeared on Instagram or personal websites. I have been quite keen to place everything that I have been photographing online, yet this could actually be detrimental to the success if my work – especially as I would also include a link to my website. My audience online is modest however, making the work freely available for public consumption would have an undermining impact on its monetary value, for both publishers and myself; whether or not my copyright is respected. Instead, it would be beneficial to share bodies of work after I have explored other avenues. This would retain its exclusivity and potentially monetary value. Ultimately, the work will end up online; it is just a question of timing.

On this note, I am going to pause the sharing of my work on Instagram and instead present it to potential clients in the first instance. I am also going to archive some of the images that I have shared recently to support the re-packaging and sharing of my carnival work and see how this affects its potential for publication.

Bibliography

Simmons, A., 2017. Week 7: Commercial Commissions with Amy Simmons, Falmouth: Falmouth University.