Assignment 3 Brief

The brief for Assignment 3 was quite a technically detailed bit of information describing how the photographs should be taken in order to produce a set of photographs that tell a story visually. Despite this detail for the brief in this regard, it was still up to me which subject I chose to tell a story about and this was the part I struggled with. I had an idea in my head about gentrification in Deptford which I liked the sound of on the surface but I didn’t have much clue on how to carry out the brief concerning the story-telling aspect.

I posed this question to my tutor in these words:

Me: I have been struggling with Assignment 3 because I haven’t come up with many ideas for a strong story to tell. I listened to David Campbell’s podcast on Narrative and that helped somewhat but the problem I’m having is conceptualising a beginning, middle and end (or a theme, complications to the theme and a resolution). One idea I’ve had which seems stronger than the others is to document gentrification in the Deptford area. Here, the theme would be examples of gentrification in Deptford, the complications would be that there is still poverty evident as well as high-rise buildings being built rapidly which don’t necessarily conform to the middle-class image. The resolution or non-resolution could be a sense of the new being mixed with the old. My visual strategy would be a kind of late photography but with the inclusion of people to help give identity to the place. Do you feel this sounds like a strong story outline which I can adapt as I get further along with the assignment?

 

My tutor responded with very helpful suggestions which I felt I could take forward with me throughout the rest of the course. His response was:

Tutor: If you’re having trouble pre-conceptualising the assignment why not just start shooting gentrification in Deptford and see what comes up? You already mention this strategy yourself, but I would go a step further and say you don’t necessarily need to plan anything, such as including people or taking a ‘late photography’ style, you can locate the themes in the work as you look at it and organise it at home. In a sense it’s post-conceptualisation, but what matters more is that you’re open to something entirely new. Of course it’s more risky, but (I suggest) much more interesting!

 

I have to admit I have had a tendency to overthink exactly how I would take photographs in past projects before I took them and this approach sounded fresh and more productive as I could continue to conceptualise after I had taken some photos. My tutor’s response was very helpful and made me think about just photographing my area with a mind to gentrification while keeping an eye out for any themes that may develop. I immediately started photographing in Deptford and took some photographs I wouldn’t have without the suggestion.

Example of My Exploring Deptford While Keeping an Eye Out for Possible Themes I
Example of My Exploring Deptford While Keeping an Eye Out for Possible Themes I

I mentioned to my tutor I had listened to David Campbell’s podcast on Narrative and a positive result of listening to the podcast was that, combined with my tutor’s comments and elements of the course, I started to look at Deptford with new eyes as can be seen in my post: Imaginary Documents.

Example of My Exploring Deptford While Keeping an Eye Out for Possible Themes II
Example of My Exploring Deptford While Keeping an Eye Out for Possible Themes II

Going back to the rest of the brief, the requisites were that 10 photographs were to be produced and they should be taken at a place local to myself. Through these 10 photos I should tell a story of my choice. However, not one that is a day-in-the-life exercise but a story with the theme laid out, complications to the theme and then a resolution or non-resolution, depending on the nature of the story. Although it was stated I should use a variety of compositions and viewpoints, I should still maintain a visual consistency so shoot in a similar style throughout. Therefore there was quite a lot of detail and components making up this brief but the part that stood out to me was to tell a story visually.

Imaginary Documents

Wandering around Deptford for my upcoming Assignment 3, I realised I wasn’t going to have a story suddenly jump out at me from the blue; I had to make the story arise. This was due to the apparent bleakness of much of Deptford apart from the high street. It was what my eyes showed me and was obvious too in the snapshots I was producing. This bleak appearance was however, a blessing in disguise as it made me start actively thinking for the first time what stories I could begin to put together and therefore what imaginary set of documents I could construe.

At first I was a bit tentative about creating an at least partly fictional story as most of what I had learnt about documentary photography so far seemed to veer towards the factual. I decided actually, after all, a lot of documentary is constructed on the most basic level of selection and framing anyway. Therefore, how much of what is selected and framed by the photographer is objective, factual documentary and how much of it is subjective?

Having said all of this, I selected a story which very much had its roots in the notion of this bleakness in Deptford which in my mind was quite factual. I thought I would contrast this with the hubbub of the market on Deptford High Street on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday.

As I was having the realisation that most documents are on some level subjective and so pulling a story from it was acceptable, I came across some text in my course. This text effectively mirrored what I was thinking but was written more eloquently. Here Jose Navarro, the course author, wrote:

Traditional thinking documentary photography supports the idea that the photographic document is evidence of something that happened out there, something that occurred without being choreographed or prompted by the photographer. Which is precisely what Mohamed Bourouissa doesn’t do. – Navarro (2012)

'la main' - périphérique - Mohamed Bourouissa (2005-2009)
‘la main’ – périphérique – Mohamed Bourouissa (2005-2009)

Bourouissa’s work intrigued me because it featured a style where a story was ‘pulled’ from reality but was done in such a way that it was difficult to tell whether the scenes had been staged. The work I looked at was: périphérique (2005-2009) and in particular la main (the hand) and la rencontre (the encounter); a couple of a series of edgy, unrestful images where the viewer was unsure of the authenticity of the scenes. I looked at these for a while and I’m still not sure whether they were staged or not. This was because it was hard to imagine the photographs being taken without being staged but the actor’s faces were so convincing and the snapshot framing was so dysfunctional that the scenes were believable.

I envisaged a landscape/documentary approach for photographing Deptford, which would mainly rely on found scenes. This would function quite differently as the scenes wouldn’t be staged but as a set I would be creating a narrative within which these found scenes fit in.

'la rencontre' - périphérique - Mohamed Bourouissa (2005-2009)
‘la rencontre’ – périphérique – Mohamed Bourouissa (2005-2009)

One other realisation about tendencies for my own documentary practice was that I invariably seemed to want to try to create single-image narratives. Whether this was down to Assignment 2 – Documentary where I was asked to try to produce single-image narratives I was not sure. Either way I realised I was attempting to complete the assignments in single shots rather than thinking about how multiple photographs could relate to one another.

One possible solution I could foresee would be to focus on creating numerous images which, while quite possibly not depicting single-image narratives, when edited down and then put together produce a more telling narrative than singularly. Bourouissa’s series: périphérique (2005-2009) certainly worked as single-image narratives and together as a series, proving that both approaches could exist in tandem. However, I wanted to concentrate on looking at how multiple photographs could relate to one another in a series.

References:

Bourouissa, M. (2005-2009). périphérique [online] mohamedbourouissa.com Available at: http://www.mohamedbourouissa.com/peripherique/ [Accessed 17 Aug. 2017]

Navarro, J. (2012). OCA Documentary Course.

Study Hangout (30/7/2017)

Today I attended a study hangout with some of my fellow students to discuss our respective progression on the course and ideas about documentary. It has been around the 6th time I’ve attended a study hangout and I have found each one useful and rewarding. The first few I got to know my fellow students on the course and learn how to use the features of the Google Hangouts environment. Once we got through the technicalities of the hangouts the discussions quickly became a lot more in depth with questions like ethics of documentary genre and authenticity of the documentary genre being raised.

Topics discussed in this hangout were typically quite in depth and included Bryn discussing how the presentation of images in spaces other than the conventional (and for documentary at least ethically questionable) ‘white cube’ might be implemented. Bryn suggested a kind of real-time presentation where the work was interactively changed. I envisaged the body of images being on a smartphone for example where there was an update of the image by the author to the work which in turn changed on the smartphones of those people viewing the body of work.

Also concerning authorship of images, Michael another of the regular attendees at the hangouts, was planning on exploring issues of authorship of images when the photographer may not have much, if any intention of using their work in the context it was eventually displayed in.

Finally we discussed the use of advertising in modern society and how prevalent it is and how potentially invasive it can be. Pulling it back into the documentary practice we speculated how billboards for example could include typical subconscious directives and how the notion of this concept could be flipped on its head so that something totally unexpected was shown on the billboard instead.

 

For myself we conversed about how my Assignment 3 was going. Since the hangout and because of some interactions with my tutor as well I would say I’m a bit clearer on where it is heading. My plan initially was to show the story of gentrification in my local area. The theme would be examples of gentrification in Deptford, the complications would be that there is still poverty evident as well as high-rise buildings being built rapidly which don’t necessarily conform to the middle-class image. The resolution or non-resolution could be a sense of the new being mixed with the old.

I still have intentions of doing this but not necessarily in the way I had envisaged before these interactions with fellow students and tutor. For example instead of attempting to formulate a clear set plan of photographs of gentrification in Deptford, I would start photographing the area anyway and see if any potential other themes arise from the shooting experience. Then I could start to describe the process of gentrification there while implementing any new ideas I might have gathered from the practise of photographing in the area. Lastly, I liked the idea of challenging the accepted advertising billboards’ manipulative techniques and replacing them with something more constructive.

Insight Into Assignment 2 – Documentary – Ephemerality of the Image

I have received feedback from my tutor regarding Assignment 2 – Documentary – Ephemerality of the Image, which I found very helpful. Some points my tutor picked up on in my assignment were the fact I appeared to be gripping on to the picture frame in the final shot as well as the photos inside the frame being attached quite strongly.

I would like to have said I was intentionally holding onto the photo frame very firmly so as to symbolise my subconscious wish to hang on to the photograph in its conventional printed form. Practically, I was holding onto the frame firmly because it was quite heavy and I had to maintain a firm grip in order to keep it upright! Also the photographs were printed and hung firmly onto the frame so that they wouldn’t easily fall off and to make the grid structure of 4×2 obvious. It could also be said symbolically the printed photograph is ‘hanging on’ to its existence in the ephemeral world of today and so they were clinging on to their place in the frame.

So although I must admit I wasn’t aware how firmly I’d attached the photos to the frame or my gripping onto the frame with my hand, these points observed by my tutor which I now see in my work, pointed to powerful and pertinent questions surrounding the printed photograph and its place in today’s society. Questions like: are photographs even printed that much nowadays and if so do we cling onto them in the more traditional sense (in a picture frame)? Whether my frame with the 4×2 grid of prints inside worked best rephotographed on a blog or simply to be seen in the flesh hanging up somewhere is another point of consideration. On reflection I would suggest it would work hung up in a dark environment in reality as well as displayed on the blog because the dark surroundings in both cases symbolise effectively the highly transient environment the photograph now finds itself in. However, I would be inclined to say rephotographing it for the blog format worked slightly better as it was more in keeping with how my intended target audience would be likely to view the image(s).

'The Nature of Photographs' - Stephen Shore (2007) - Front Cover
‘The Nature of Photographs’ – Stephen Shore (2007) – Front Cover

One other observation my tutor made was asking whether I had been influenced by the front cover of Stephen Shore’s (2007) ‘The Nature of Photographs’ primer in creating my project – ‘Ephemerality of the Image’? I had in fact seen the cover for Stephen Shore’s (2007) ‘The Nature of Photographs’ before but had since forgotten about it! However I think it has a very similar aesthetic and message to my assignment. Coincidentally Shore himself seemed to be gripping onto the photograph quite firmly, perhaps to signify the same message as me; that the photograph is quite frail in its physical form. This is all the more true in the even more ephemeral world of the image today than back in 2007.

References:

Shore, S. (2007). The Nature of Photographs. 2nd ed. London: Phaidon.

Self-evaluation of Assignment 2 – Documentary

For me experimenting with another medium other than digital – in this case Instax film – was quite refreshing but the problem was how to take the basic Instax picture and use it to get my point across that the image nowadays is predominantly ephemeral. It took me a while to get used to the Instax film and camera for several reasons. Firstly the film itself used quite a high ISO exclusively (800 to be exact) which was good for lower light but in daylight often struggled to achieve a correctly exposed image. Therefore I found I had to wait for cloud cover or else accept part of the image would be overexposed. Secondly the dynamic range of the film was quite low so the lighting had to be quite even or otherwise the parted of the image would be underexposed while others would be overexposed. In the end I didn’t mind these traits as I felt they added some character to the images and the main subjects were still visible on the photographs. Thirdly, the camera always let out a flash burst, presumably for people shots in dark places where the camera was anticipated to be used. I had to be aware of getting to close to the subject or else the flash would overexpose it. Lastly the film was instant so I only had one shot for certain changing scenes as the film took roughly two minutes to develop before I judge whether the exposure setting had been correct. Once I had gotten accustomed to using the Instax camera I found this last point quite liberating as I was experienced with taking lots of shots from different angles of the same scene in quick succession.

I got my point across that the image nowadays is predominantly ephemeral by making the Instax photographs appear inside an encompassing photograph taken with my DSLR. I chose to use a DSLR for the high image quality and to isolate effectively the Instax photograph from the rest of the encompassing photograph. The effect of this was that while the Instax photograph was undeniably indexical to the scene it reappeared in, things had since changed and so the viewer had to question the meaning of such changes on the overall photograph. I feel I used well people’s natural curiosity to see what the Instax photograph contained by mostly placing it in the middle of the encompassing photograph to draw the eye into the photograph. This is how I would suggest my images worked best at telling a narrative as the encompassing photograph had obviously changed since the Instax photograph was taken so the narrative was clear. In this way the 8 images worked as single-image narratives but also as a whole when put together. I felt technically I could have used a smaller aperture setting on some of the encompassing photograph shots as it wasn’t immediately clear what had since changed.

I was particularly pleased with the way that I managed to present the images when put together in a visually striking manner. Although the brief had simply advised the work to be presented on a blog, I elaborated on this aspect of the brief well and it made the project more coherent. As well as this the Instagram style grid inside an empty picture frame pointed back to the ephemeral manner of the images. I thought the concept of ephemerality of the image was quite complexly visualised in my photographs and so therefore it was important to have a clear rationale and in the blog post with the images, which I felt I achieved. This was further expanded on in the post: Rationale for Assignment 2 – Documentary – Ephemerality of the Image. I thought the images on the whole worked better in black and white because it separated form from content so it was clearer to the viewer what the focus of the photographs were. Also the black and white medium for me reinforced the ‘truth’ factor behind the images as black and white photographs have been accepted as fact for a long time compared to colour.

I would say the project was creative but the picture-in-picture idea was perhaps an obvious and overly direct way of representing my abstract concept. Having said this I felt it was well implemented, especially as I was influenced by the Droste effect in my presentation of my work as a whole. A big plus was the development of my idea – from experimenting with fleeting encounters in ‘Containment’, to the beginnings of taking an instant photo of people who then hold the instant photo and are rephotographed. This culminated with the development of this idea by adapting it to the instant photo showing an altered scene compared to the encompassing photograph.

In terms of context I would suggest I could have researched more concerning similar artists who used pictures-in-picutres as I tended to rely on my assertions derived from Maartje van den Heuvel (2005)’s ‘Mirror of Visual Culture’ essay. Also if I had managed to complete more exercises leading up to the assignment I might have been better prepared for it; so wouldn’t have had to experiment and alter the project quite so much. However, the work i did complete, particularly van den Heuvel’s essay helped me get to a project I was eventually quite satisfied with.

References:

Van Den Heuvel (2005). Mirror of Visual Culture. Documentary Now! [online] Available at: https://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/oca-content/key-resources/res-files/heuvel_discussingdocumentary.pdf [Accessed 3/3/2017].

Displaying My Images on a Blog

One aspect of my brief I had been given and I was quite interested in addressing was that the images had to appear on a blog. This interested me because I felt there was room for creativity in the brief requirement, especially in regards to my theme. I wasn’t sure whether I was perhaps reading too much into the fact I had been asked to display the images on a blog but I decided I would respond to this part of the brief in a creative manner. As my theme (ephemerality of the image) dealt with the image changing, the manner in which it appeared was quite important. A blog is one way virtual images are displayed amongst others in social media. Social media is the predominant way images are viewed nowadays and so relevant to my theme as it is also constantly changing. I felt there was some way to display my imaged creatively on the blog although I could not pinpoint which way until after I had taken most of the 8 images for the assignment.

I imagined initially the images appearing on a kind of 4×2 grid with each image clickable on the grid. I soon realised this wasn’t possible (at least with my version of WordPress). However, I thought up workarounds and in the meantime performed a quick search on the internet regarding creative ways to display images on a blog. Although I didn’t come across any answers which directly responded to my question, I sort of came across one web page article linking another which was a different yet better outcome than I had been hoping for. The website linking the other was by Martha Palk. (Palk et al., 2016) had helpfully listed 10 Creative Ways to Display Your Photos and the one that caught my attention was the ‘Instagram style’ option. (Palk et al., 2016) also credited and linked the source so I went onto the article I was interested in.

The website I was linked to was littleinspiration.com and I found to my delight it listed materials needed and instructions on how to make a way of displaying your Instagram photos. The reason it caught my attention was that when I saw the first two pictures of the Instagram ‘empty frame’ containing the Instagram photos, my mind started whirling with possibilities for displaying the 8 photos I’d taken for the assignment. I could feasibly make a grid of 4×2 for the 8 photos for inside a frame as detailed on http://littleinspiration.com/2013/04/instagram-project-how-to-display-your-instagram-pictures.html (accessed 27th April 2017). Although this wouldn’t be displayed on a blog directly I could then photograph the frame and its contents and display this on my blog. The idea was to highlight one of the 8 photographs displayed inside the frame using Photoshop by darkening the rest of them. The photo highlighted I would then link to the full resolution equivalent of that photo. After that I would repeat the process with the 7 remaining images in the frame until all 8 photos linked back to their respective equivalents. These would all be presented in a list on a blog post. Finally I would put up the frame photograph with the grid in it without alteration.

References:

Palk, M., Tailor, S., Tailor, S. and Copleston, S. (2016). 10 Creative Ways to Display Your Photos | The House Shop Blog. [online] Thehouseshop.com. Available at: https://www.thehouseshop.com/property-blog/10-creative-ways-to-display-your-photos/6662/ [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Little Inspiration. (2013). Instagram Project: How To Display Your Instagram Pictures. [online] Available at: http://littleinspiration.com/2013/04/instagram-project-how-to-display-your-instagram-pictures.html [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Ephemerality of the Image

By including a picture within a picture where the original has since changed in the encompassing picture, I have been creating simulacra – copies without originals. The locations (in London) are still recognisable as the same from picture-in-picture to encompassing picture but the place has in some way been altered. These alterations vary in my chosen location; from people being present in the picture-in-picture and then absent in the encompassing picture or street art having been washed away over night. The inclusion of my hand symbolises my relation to the photos and the location they were photographed in. I have chosen to display the images produced as one grid – utilising the Droste effect to further get my point across that nowadays the image is largely ephemeral. This is due to the prevalence of social media which drives the high consumption and quick turnover of image based material like photographs by other people.

Highlight of Photograph 1
Highlight of Photograph 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlight of Photograph 3
Highlight of Photograph 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlight of Photograph 5
Highlight of Photograph 6

 

 

Highlight of Photograph 7
Highlight of Photograph 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the thumbnail has been clicked on the highlighted picture within the picture frame it will link to a high resolution image which is the corresponding image. I have linked the images like this so the viewer can get a more detailed view of each image as well as the bigger picture. Lastly I have linked the unaltered bigger picture to a high resolution version of itself.

The Bigger Picture – Ephemerality of the Image