For A1, I have developed and advanced the methodology I used and found successful for DI&C A5 – primarily walking, investigating, thinking and then then developing an idea to a conclusion. I have used the assignment brief as inspiration to experiment with using film for the first time in many years (the images from the assignment are made using a 35mm Pentax K1000, but I also experimented using a medium format Holga.) Using these cameras forced me to limit the amount of photographs taken and I was left with a much smaller selection size than I am used to. This was an interesting exercise in itself, forcing myself to be more selective while having less choice for my final selection meant I could scrutinise the images closer.
Instead of walking and photographing without an agenda, which is my normal approach, I identified 7 sites to photograph for the project. These were based on memories of newspaper reports about incidents/notable occurrences that happened there. My inspiration was the divide between the dramatic descriptions of events compared to the banal, everyday nature of the sites most of the time.
The images are black and white 35mm exposures. The photographs have no further adjustments or cropping made to them. This decision to do this was driven partly by the fact that there was something authentic about the aesthetic of the images that I liked and another way to limit my workflow. Of course this notion that photographs shot on film they have a stronger indexical relationship with reality is a fetishism on my part and I suspect my enjoyment of the process has clouded my critical judgement. However, I did find focusing solely on selection rather than other forms of manipulation liberating as it helped me focus clearly on the choices I was making.
I always intended to incorporate text taken from the newspaper articles that provided inspiration for the project into the images somehow. I experimented with different ways of doing this (see here and here) before deciding on an approach that was much bolder than I had envisaged. In the final images, the text is the dominant feature with the image partially obscured behind it. This means the images need close examination to make out the scenes photographed, which, when identified are in conflict with the dramatic text. This tension was my main reason for choosing this style of presentation – it is not subtle, but that is the also the point. I would normally present work that is much more understated than this, again, making something more direct and confrontational was another way to push me out of my comfort zone. The black and white aesthetic of the photographs has connotations of the conventions of documentary realism. I chose a large, bold font for the text and coloured this red to suggest the words originate from tabloid newspapers. Selecting the multiply blend mode in Photoshop subtly blends the words with the image behind them to bring them closer together as one entity.
For the statement that accompanies the images, I have tried to be clear and concise in my explanation while alluding to semiotics and how text and image interact with each other, and can be read both separately and together to create a third meaning. I also make reference to notions of the truth value of the photographic image and the problematic nature of accepting this blindly. Despite this I am unsatisfied with the statement, I struggled to articulate clearly what I wanted to communicate. Practicing this is something I need to do more of, I did find the process of trying to describe my intentions helped with my own, personal understanding of the project. I am also unhappy with the title which is too prescriptive for my liking. After some brainstorming trying to come up with alternatives, nothing seemed to work any better which is why I decided to stick with Hidden Stanley – perhaps using this is a working title through my experiments with the project is the problem?
As detailed here, the work of Karen Knorr, Tom Hunter and John Kippin were influences for this project. The style of Barbara Kruger is also something that came to mind, but this was only after I had decided on my final output. I am increasingly interested in Kippin’s practice and need to do some further research as the themes he is concerned with such as the fallacy of photographic realism and truth and power relationships in both photography and the world are ones that resonate with me. There is also a complexity that I admire about his work which is both full of meaning, some of which is difficult to read or even contradictory, but also aesthetically pleasing. Kippin’s work with text is also fascinating, and I suspect this is something that I will want to experiment with further.
Barthes’ Rhetoric of the Image and the notions of anchorage and relay were also on my mind, especially the idea of the interplay between text and image creating a third meaning. (See here) Rather than fixing meaning and leading the reader toward a preferred reading, the text adds to the ambiguity of the photographs, creating more questions than answers and suggesting another Barthesian idea – the polysemous nature of the photograph.
Looking ahead to A2:
Firstly, I need to comment on why it has taken so long to bring this assignment to realisation. The photographs were taken some months ago and I have been clear about how I wanted to proceed with them for some time, and yet, it seemed important to establish a theme for my BoW before I submitted this. I am unsure how much this is me trying to rationalise not submitting earlier and how much is genuine, but, I do know that I have struggled to think of a theme for both BoW and CS, and without knowing the direction I am heading in I have found it difficult to bring this assignment to completion. My strategy from the beginning of level 3 has been to read, think and practice with the belief that a way forward and theme would develop. I feel this is now starting to happen (I am going to focus on the topic of consumption and consumerism) but I am surprised at how difficult it has been, and how long it has taken, to get to this point. The important conversation I want to have with this submission is not about the work itself but how to move my BoW forward. Although I now have a subject to pursue, this is still very broad and I will need to do a great deal more experimenting and thinking before I reach the final form of the project. As far as A2 goes, my plan is to develop the methodology I have used here and photograph empty retail sites using my Holga camera – I need to have a quick turn around on this project and build momentum which I can then use to help me progress with the course.