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 Spaceconsisted 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.
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.
On 10/12 2017 Bryn, Anne and myself attended a study hangout.
We talked in detail about our respective critical reviews. Anne was quite pleased with her feedback for hers as it was quite positive with some changes necessary, thankfully not as many as she’d feared.
I admitted I was partly stuck with my essay but was awaiting a response from my tutor regarding some questions I’d come to realise were bugging me about my writing and investigation into aesthetics in photography.
I have since received an email from my tutor regarding my questions about my critical review which I found very helpful and have commenced writing the critical review, while taking into account suggestions based upon my questions my tutor had made.
Bryn communicated that he had read up quite a bit some of the primary resources from the course which was helping to inform his critical review and was starting to look at secondary sources to further back up these readings. Also he discussed how he might include in his essay something about how it was desirable to have a larger project to work on and have continuation with instead of having to constantly reinvent the wheel for each project. Hiroshi Sugimoto has this large project continuation in his Seascapes project which he works on in combination with shorter projects which Bryn admired.
Bryn asked Anne whether she might go back to the Gloucester Docks again for Assignment 5 so that her projects had a continued theme and she said may consider it. Also Anne described her interactive exhibition for the Somerset exhibition of OCA students which sounded very interesting. Here she asked exhibition-goers to reorder a set of photographs into the ‘right’ order that she had in mind and take a photograph of their perceived ‘right’ order and put that photograph in a guest book to document their participation.
Bryn asked Anne if she might consider doing something interactive in the Gloucester Docks similar to this and she said it was a possibility.
Lastly I talked about my ideas for Assignment 5 with Bryn which concern tourism in the city I live in of London. Here I would basically be taking a spoof tourist role, documenting my experience in the city from the perspective of a tourist in London, with myself falling for the usual tourist traps and hotspots/landmarks that a usual tourist would but with twists in the photos used to document this act. The twists would be present in order for the viewer to be able to discern it was a spoof tourist role I was taking.
Today I attended a study hangout with Anne, Bryn and Michael. We talked about very in depth subjects surrounding the ethics of photography including authentication of photographs as documents, subjectivity in photography related to the myth of objectivity, the death of the author and manipulation of the message. We related these in depth subjects with photography artists; the most prominent of these artists being Sebastião Salgado, closely followed by Don McCullin and then Martin Parr. Michael introduced us to the work of Simon Norfolk briefly who I aim to look at more closely as his work at first glance looked very interesting. I was not sure why our conversation was so theoretical but it may have been something to do with 75% of us having commenced work on the critical review or having just submitted it!
My opinions on the listed subjects were that it is very difficult to authenticate documents like photographs 100% as the viewer can usually interpret the evidence of photography being an indexical medium differently. This is even if supporting documents like text or (to a lesser degree) geotagging are included. I felt objectivity is a myth yet it is still possible to shoot in an objective style. Ultimately all photography is subjective (as even objective photography has its own aesthetic) but I would suggest some photography is more subjective than others. Relating to the death of the author, my stance was that this is true nowadays much more with the proliferation of images and ways of sharing them. Now it is not about who took the photograph but what the photograph depicts. The message of any photograph can be manipulated by means of supporting documents and other context like the photographer’s oeuvre.
We talked about the contrast in transparency of message between Salgado and McCullin where McCullin was very decisive in why he took photographs of war while Salgado’s reasoning seems more layered and less clear. We touched upon how my own critical review was going and I divulged that maybe the topic I’d chosen was proving to be too broad and therefore lacking direction. Finding relevant quotes and supporting work or photographs to back up my particular argument seemed like a way of tackling this.
Today I attended a study hangout with Miriam and Leonie.
It was good to hear their progress and we were at similar stages in the course although Leonie had almost finished Assignment 5. Miriam and I were starting the critical review for Assignment 4. I discussed my ideas for Assignment 4 with the group – the idea of beauty in documentary and whether a really aesthetically-pleasing photograph takes away from the meaning a photograph may be trying to convey. The responses from Leonie and Miriam were very interesting for me, with Leonie comparing the work of Tim Hetherington and Don McCullin’s American soldiers photographs saying that one was rendered completely differently from the other in regards to beauty. Looking at the two photographs side by side I could definitely relate to this observation.
I used the work of Sebastiaou Salgado as an example of aesthetic beauty with the potential for displacing meaning because his photographs have been typically so beautiful. Miriam countered this point by saying one of Sebastiaou Salgado’s photographs – that of a gold mine (The hell of Serra Pelada mines, 1980s, was the photograph I think she was referring to) means she no longer buys gold but only fair-trade; the photo by Sebastiaou Salgado had made such an impression on her. This could make the case that beauty captures the viewer’s attention with the possibility for meaning to be discovered afterwards in the same image, which should be something to consider when writing my critical review.
Lastly we discussed juggling things like work with the course and how it affects the flow of our studying. Also what our plans were after competing the documentary module and how often it would be helpful to liaise with our tutors in order to improve assignments.
Overall I found the study hangout to be very helpful as always but in particular it did give me some more points of consideration for my critical review.
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.