Study Hangout – 6th May 2018

Today I attended a very informative and for me productive study hangout comprised of three attendees. We were myself, Bryn and Anne and it was informative because we were all at similar stages of the Documentary module although Bryn and Anne were slightly ahead so I could gain some insight into how they were preparing for assessment and finalising their blogs.

We talked in depth concerning each others assignments; particularly Assignment 5 which I have nearly completed and Bryn and Anne had completed and were reworking/amending. I mentioned I was now much more comfortable with the direction my Assignment 5 was heading and was nearly complete.

Both Bryn and Anne were feeling positive about their Assignment 5’s; Bryn’s assignment Experiencing Space consisted of taking on the self-initiated task of completing a project within a one-day time frame. He’d prepared extensively for this one day so that he could document his experiential and contemplative visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to see the work of James Turrell’s Deer Shelter Skyspace (2018). I liked the way the whole integration of photography and behind the scenes video worked together to form Bryn’s experience of the day. In terms of the photography I liked the progression from day to night and how it transformed the Skyspace. Here Bryn’s choice of black and white for me accentuated the interesting compositions he found in the Skyspace.

Anne had been completing her Assignment 5 Accident on the Line which was based in the Gloucester Docks as well as reworking other assignments and posts. She was pleased with the eventual outcome and I felt she had produced a well-researched and intriguing project which provided a very different perspective on the docks she is familiar with. Anne did have to make several decisions on the production of her book but it seemed she was satisfied with these decisions in her final version of the book.

In terms of preparing for assessment, Bryn and Anne’s approaches contrasted somewhat. On the one hand Bryn was a fan of letting the assessors see how his study workflow had developed from Assignment 1 all the way to Assignment 5. He felt Assignment 5 and the work leading up to it was a much more cohesive way of working but wanted it to be obvious how much it had come on as his ideas and methods for conceptualisation and research had matured. On the other hand Anne also wanted to the development to be obvious but had a different style of making this apparent. Here she reworked certain posts or exercises or assignments and kept the original so it was possible to compare and contrast the original with the rework to see how it had improved. Of course Bryn reworked some assignments also and kept the originals so they shared some aspects of reworking style. For my own preparation I could foresee myself working in a hybrid of both these styles. I would be reworking the assignments in separate blog posts while keeping the originals like Anne. Meanwhile I would be leaving the exercises and research so the development in how I documented my experience of the Documentary course was obvious.

While talking about my Assignment 5 so far, one of the points we brought up was the issue of ethics surrounding photographing strangers. Bryn was quite adamant about not photographing strangers as a matter of principle unless they were a small figure used for scale appreciation within a landscape. The other occasion he would be okay with photographing people would be if he had their permission and was on a commissioned project. Anne was of the same opinion concerning the latter occasion; she would always ask a person their permission for a portrait and basically do the opposite of someone like Bruce Gilden. This prompted an interesting comparison of the styles and ethics of Bruce Gilden, Sebastião Salgado and Martin Parr. On one side of the fence there was the work of Bruce Gilden, who obviously doesn’t care about ethics when photographing people. Also his style is very crass, often making people appear less beautiful than they look ordinarily. Martin Parr followed close behind in regards to ethics and style although he works in a less brash way. His work has often been a kind of caricature of British life and so for me there was more vindication for photographing like this. On the other side of the fence was Sebastião Salgado’s photography which aims to bring out humanistic sides to people in his photographs and he works closely with the people in the photographs to produce the photographs he does.

© Martin Parr (1985) Holidaymakers Queuing for Ice Creams - The Last Resort
© Martin Parr (1985) Holidaymakers Queuing for Ice Creams – The Last Resort

I discussed with Anne and Bryn during this debate about these three photographers that I sometimes felt intrusive when producing my Assignment 5 as I had photographed strangers without their permission. My saving graces though were that the tourists were either from a middle distance so that they appeared relatively distant in the frame or the smartphones they were holding to take their photos/selfies were covering their faces. Therefore I felt quite comfortable with the ethical side to my project even though the style of photography was closest to Martin Parr out of the three photographers mentioned above.

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