Sunday, 7 October 2012

End of the module notes

People and Place module notes:

On Assignments:

The first assignment I found the easiest. Mark was willing and well versed – he has sat many times before. The idea of a continuing portrait is an intriguing idea, though whether a close member of the family is a good idea I’m not sure. There are pro’s and cons and the discussion of which is not for the here and now.
The biggest issue that I have had is the choice of a mono treatment for the original set. This rather stymied further updates if it needed to be consistent, though not from a capability to reproduce the mono treatment; rather the mono work held back the possibility of introducing colour and when my tutor suggested additional shots I felt that the need for colour rather jarred. There is a colour shot that I have included for assessment - I'm dubious about how this will be received.

Assignment two, was a journey that I wouldn’t want to make again! I started with a very clear understanding of what I wanted to do, what I wanted to portray, how I was going to do it, what and how the narrative was going to be delivered. I spent hours and hours of work collecting the material, working on the images – ensuring consistency of as much of the aesthetic as possible. The report from my tutor wasn’t damning, but it is clear to me that I hadn’t managed to get the message over in the way that I had envisaged it to have been communicated. This notion of communication, was the underpinning structure that I wanted to overlay, by using conversation as a core motif. But as my tutor noted that not only was my notion of conversation not delivered with any consistency, but also that some of the images were overly complex. I can still see what it was that I tried to deliver with each of the images, but I can see that just because I knew it, it doesn’t mean that anyone can/could read it. To that end I have included for assessment, the original set and some replacement images that better express the notion of conversation.
My abiding feeling about how this assignment went, other than the conversation narrative that seemed to elude me, was about how the photographer needs to actively construct the image. I can still see the construction of narrative that I implied into some of the shots I used in the assignment, but I can see that I didn’t make it obvious to the viewer. The construction that I conceived in my mind – at the time I took the images - needed to be able to be physically made as well. The point that my tutor made about simplifying the image was well made and to do that I would have needed to cross the boundary from “taking” to “making”; to interfere with the elements in front of the lens to make the job of reading the image more straightforward.
I had decided to increase the pressure on myself by limiting the time to capture the images to two performances – I had decided to research and plan all the shots through the rehearsal period of a number of weeks. This process mitigated against what I had intended, I knew the play extremely well and I had a various number of themes in my head that, I as assembled the assignment, I assumed my viewer would be able to read them as I had “written” them. This, of course, meant that not only did I not have the opportunity to retake the images, but that I had to mine a set of images that had an overlay of one kind of end result, when I now needed to provide a set which had a slightly different, and probably more coherent, narrative. Overall I was quite disturbed by this process and wondered about my ability to create the kind of work I would be required to deliver as I move forward in the course. I also questioned my use of monochrome, an aesthetic that I feel very comfortable in, and decided that I would revert to colour until such time as either the course determines that it is required or I feel compelled by the work to work in that medium. I have included for assessment the original images and the replacement images suggested in part by my tutor.

Assignment three: I decided to link the “buildings in use” to performance and spent some time researching a number of key buildings in Oxford. I was surprised to be allowed access to these public buildings and I spent a good deal of time at these buildings – I had already been a regular visitor to most of them previously. I was relatively pleased with how this work progressed, I had tried to weave in the presence of people with the buildings. In some cases these people were physically present, at other times they were there in spirit. The final set of images I am reasonably happy with. It is interesting that my tutor was happier with the latter of the images – I suspect this may be to do with my becoming at ease with the assignment as much as understanding what I was trying to achieve. Again, for assessment, I have included the original images and the suggestions from my tutor.

Assignment four: The subject of the funeral directors was an idea that came to me as an apposite subject within a course entitled “People and Place”. The negotiation with the owner and the subsequent field trips to the premises all went without many issues and the end result produced some images that I am quite proud of. I had ideas before I went in, about how I remembered the time when I went through the process when my father died and I am wondering whether this “coloured” my view of the assignment – but I thought that it would have been unlikely that whatever the assignment I would most likely have a predetermined perspective. My tutor suggested a couple of changes to the set of images from the full set that I provided. This assignment went very well for me.

Assignment five: This assignment went very well from the time I had the idea to document the nuclear bunker, which came to me after both seeing it just prior to the study weekend at Leeds and also hearing/seeing Jesse Alexander’s presentation of his work on a nuclear bunker. I decided that I would also record the voices of previous volunteers about how they had manned the bunker during it’s operational time. This audio in used in a video that I included as part of my on-line blog, and the accompanying posts where I wrote about the bunker contained a polemic regarding my feelings on the bunker and the volunteers. I think it is clear the point that I wanted to make and it is another assignment that I enjoyed completing. My tutor didn’t feel any need to question the set of photographs I produced for this assignment – for which I feel very happy and satisfied.

On photographers and photography.

I knew a lot of photographers before I started this course, but the photographers I have found through this course, from independent research, from my tutor, from the study visits and from fellow students have been a revelation. I have written about many in my blog – I have invested in too many books – and discussed with various people the work of these photographers. I have not always liked, nor maybe understood, some of these photographers. It is this last statement that troubles me most at the moment – a need for comprehension of work that still eludes me; especially of photographers who have been elevated to the rank of “high status”; of those that I have struggled with are the likes of Struth and Gursky whose clarity of line is generally very clear whereas the work of Fransesca Woodman and Duane Michels impels me into the frame. I have an inkling that my genre will be documentary which on the one hand I find strange considering those attractions, but I suppose on the other hand these types of artist have a very strong sense of narrative in their work – despite, or because of, the “obscurance” of clarity of line.

On photography – it is clear that I need to simplify my imagery, to engage with my viewer more easily – and to do that I need to carefully decide how the construction of my images needs to be carefully considered. The frame that I make is something that should be under my control as much as the decision on shutter speed etc. the contents and juxtaposition of the elements within that frame are mine to arrange according to how I want to write the image. I suspect that is the greatest distance I have made on this module.


  1. Very well thought through evaluation John and I've gained a lot from following you through this module.

  2. Thanks Catherine. I'm hoping to deliver the assessment this week. The prints are in order, the notes are done - all I have to do is pull them together and have the nerve to present it! Thanks for your encouragement along the way - it helped!